Sunday, April 17, 2016

Blues rally past Blackhawks with two goals in third

St. Louis reclaims home ice with 3-2 victory 
with Game 3 victory; Elliott big with 44 saves

CHICAGO -- Blues coach Ken Hitchcock talked about the need to keep it a 5-on-5 game against the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference First Round for the them to have a good chance in the series.

Despite a good start to the game, the Blues began to hurt themselves with penalties.

They were able to withstand the pressure of the Hawks early and only trail by a goal and give their goalie a chance to keep them in the game and reclaim home ice advantage.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Jaden Schwartz (17) jumps into the arms of teammate Alexander Steen
after scoring in the third period of the Blues' 3-2 win at Chicago.

Patrik Berglund tied it in the third and Jaden Schwartz's power play goal with 6 minutes 38 seconds remaining in regulation helped the Blues rally past the Blackhawks 3-2 in Game 3 of the best-of-7 series on Sunday afternoon at United Center in a game that marked the return of Steve Ott, who missed the past 57 games with hamstring tears and a bout with Colitis.

Game 4 will be played Tuesday at 8:30 p.m.

It was the Blues' first postseason victory at United Center since April 23, 2002 when Pavol Demitra scored the lone goal and Brent Johnson had the shutout in a 1-0 victory in Game 4 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals. 

The Blues had to kill three Chicago power plays in the game's first six minutes, and to come away only down 1-0 in that span and be able to withstand any sort of knockout punch was a credit to the Blues and Brian Elliott, who set a career-high with 44 playoff saves, including 23 in the second period.

Colton Parayko scored is first playoff goal, and the Blues went 2-for-3 on the power play to grab back home ice.

"I don't know if you can call settling into this game the way these two teams go at each other," Hitchcock said. "I don't know if there's anything settling in. 

"The whole thing, every game's been up for grabs. Probably every game's been like that, no quit in either team. We've just either way got to find a way to not take penalties or not get calls against us early because we're dealing with fire right now. It's 12-6 or 12-5 (actually 12-8). We're dealing with fire, so we've either got to find a way to even out the penalties so we're not on our heels. They get a lot of momentum off the power play and they got a lot early in the game because of it."

Kyle Brodziak somehow came away with two extra minutes on a roughing penalty when he and Viktor Svedberg became engaged in a wrestling match.

"I don't really know. I don't know what the ref's explanation was for it," Brodziak said. "We just had a battle in front of the net. I felt like he got his hands in my face, so I started throwing back. We wrestled to the ground, the ref started saying, 'That's enough.' I felt like I quit when he said that. I found out when I got to the box I had four. Unfortunately the got a goal on that power play."

Seabrook made the Blues pay with a slap shot from the blue line for a power play goal and a 1-0 Blackhawks lead 2:18 into the game.

"First shot of the game, you never want to give that one up," Elliott said, who would make the final 32 saves. "We got some tough calls right away. After that, we killed them off and we did a great job of them. Like you said, it definitely kind of settles you in. You're down one and then you've got to come back. Now the rest is kind of up to your teammates and they did a good job coming back."

Jay Bouwmeester was in the box for back-to-back penalties, one for hooking then was called two minutes for interference playing the puck before he was completely out of the box, basically the same play that Jonathan Toews got away with in Game 2, but the Blues were able to kill both those penalties.

"Obviously not the start we wanted, but I think we did do a good job of it," Berglund said. "When we got through it, we just kept playing. We bounced back and I think it was a really tight game and both teams plyed some good hockey. Today we came out on top."

The Blues finally got a power play and Parayko cashed in with his first career playoff goal seven seconds after Svedberg was called for high-sticking Tarasenko at 12:11. Parayko's one-timer from the left circle took a slight deflection off Tomas Fleischmann's stick past Corey Crawford, who made 33 saves, on the near side.

"It was a beautiful pass by 'Petro,'" Parayko said of Alex Pietrangelo. "He set me up on a tee pretty much.

"... Obviously the series has been really tight. The first game was 1-0, the second game a one-goal game, the third one a one-goal game. Whenever you can get on the board, and you want to do it early, it's a positive."

The Blues couldn't survive the opening moments of a period again when Anisimov's changeup shot from the slot following a turned over puck eluded Elliott 1:04 into the second.

Paul Stastny won a faceoff back to Parayko, but he was stripped by Artemi Panarin, who fed Anisimov in the slot.

Andrew Ladd nearly gave the Hawks a 3-1 lead but his shot from the left circle beat Elliott but hit both goal posts with 6:15 remaining in the second.

The Blackhawks fired off 24 shots in the second period, but Elliott, who became the first Blues goalie with 44 playoff saves since Curtis Joseph had 47 against the Dallas Stars in a 4-2 loss on April 20, 1994, stood tall.

Of course he did. 

Elliott's 2-1 with a 1.28 goals-against average and .963 save percentage in the series.

"They did a good job of kind of crashing the net ad creating traffic and stuff," Elliott said. "Our guys kind of battled and kept guys to the outside. Obviously kept the shooting lanes in my sight or view. It's tough to digest it right now because it's such an emotional game out there. 

"Sometimes those (Ladd's shot) go in, sometimes they go out. It was on our side tonight."

The "puck luck" was back on the Blues' side after having two video reviews go against them in a 3-2 loss in Game 2.

"You hope it does," Hitchcock said of the luck. "Berglund's shot was a great break for us because we had started a push and that goal really lifted our bench and I thought we started to play really well from there."

Berglund tied it up 5:15 into the third when Robby Fabbri, who had two assists for his first two playoff points, knocked down a Michal Rozsival dump-in, Kevin Shattenkirk made the outlet pass up the middle to Berglund, who came across the blue line and wristed a shot that caromed off Rozsival's right leg, bounded off the ice up and over Crawford's glove.

It left the crowd of 22,207 rather stunned.

"Yeah, I'm sure it was a lucky bounce," Berglund said. "It doesn't matter how they go in. They have to go in and it did. After that, we just kept going.

"... It was a good break to get that goal obviously to tie it up. After that, they made a call for the four-minute power play and the boys that were out there made a great play to 'Schwartzy' to make it 3-2. Then we held out in a good way and move onto the next game."

Patrick Kane, who picked up his third assist in the series on Seabrook's goal, received a double minor for high-sticking Pietrangelo, who had a cut next to his left eye.

Schwartz was able to capitalize when a quick-strike play between Vladimir Tarasenko and David Backes helped Schwartz whip a quick one-timer past Crawford in tight space for the Blues' first and only lead they needed.

"It's quick. They've got a good penalty kill," Schwartz said. "They've got smart players and good sticks. We talked about that play a little bit and it worked out nice. 'Vladi' did a nice job of faking the shot and Dave put it in my wheelhouse. It's nice to see that one go in, I just tried putting it on net.

"... We just stuck with it. I don't think we changed a whole lot. Crawford made some big saves early on. We kept battling, kept working. 'Bergy' had a good fortunate bounce there, put it on net, and we just had that positive feel going out in the third period. There was never a doubt that we couldn't win this game. It was nice to get rewarded and to stay with it."

Hitchcock said the Blues, who outshot the Blackhawks 14-12 in the third, turned the ice around a bit and forced Chicago to play more in their zone. Using the "STL Line" more and more, seemingly every other shift, helped that matter, and Hitchcock flipped Fabbri and Alexander Steen on lines.

"I just think we made some changes going into  the third period, got some momentum off of it, took advantage of it," Hitchcock said. "Yeah, we're trying ... as much pressure as Anisimov's line has on us, we're trying to put as much on them as we can (with the Lehtera line)."

Ott's return came as a little bit of a surprise, although he took the pregame skate in Game 2 and has hinted that he was close.

Ott finished with 13 shifts and 6:29 of ice time, which included a booming check of Seabrook in the Chicago zone.

(St. Louis Blues photo)
Goalie Brian Elliott (1) gets congratulated by teammate Scottie
Upshall after the Blues' 3-2 win over the Blackhawks in Game 3.
"It was a long time coming," Ott said. "It was emotional for me in the sense of the stuff I went through personally to be able to have a chance to play with this team. It made everything so worth it. This is such a great group of guys in here. You have a collective group that's not only helped me through my rehab and personal injury, but also to be supportive of each like they have been. It was an uplifting, whole experience.

"I was thinking a lot of things out there, the last little while, it couldn't have been a more solid game throughout the lineup, everyone contributed in his own way out there. Those are the type of team wins we all talk about."

Hitchcock finally caved in, in regards to Ott.

"He's been hounding forever. He just wore me down," Hitchcock joked. "I don't know what I can say. He's such a pain. I just said, 'Might as well go and play. I'm tired of you barking in my ear all the time.' So he played and I think he's going to have an impact in this series before she's done.

"He did good. He did exactly what he needed to do for a first game in four months. It's just amazing what he's done and what type of work he's put in to be a player in this series. He wants to be an impact guy and he can have a big impact on the series here."  

The Blues were the first team since the Los Angeles Kings in the 2014 Western Conference Final to beat the Blackhawks in regulation after Chicago held a lead after two periods. The Hawks were 70-0-4.

Crawford, who helped the Blackhawks beat the Blues in 2014 in six games, summed up with much respect what this series is all about. 

"Whatever’s happened in years before, they're not the same team," Crawford said of the Blues.

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