The St. Louis Blues knew what they were up against heading into Game 3 of their opening-round playoff series against the Chicago Blackhawks.
They said that a win against the defending champions inside the United Center for a 3-0 series lead would require their best hockey of the postseason, especially considering the absence of captain David Backes.
After Monday's game, Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock said his team delivered just that, if not one of their best road games he's seen from from them. But it wasn't enough as St. Louis suffered a 2-0 shutout loss on Monday night.
"We poured a lot into today," Hitchcock said. "We really played well, we did a lot of things really well, it was one of the best road games I've ever seen us play. (The Blackhawks) are a good team, we knew this was going to be a long series, but we really played hard and we really played well and we really did a lot of the things that we needed to do to win the hockey game. But you have to give their goaltender credit, he was good, especially late."
Goaltending played a major factor on both ends of the ice throughout the night as Corey Crawford went on to make 34 saves for the Blackhawks.
Ryan Miller allowed just one goal on 25 shots as Jonathan Toews found the back of the net just over four minutes into the game. And although that goal set the Blues behind early, Hitchcock said it didn't get his team's confidence down one bit.
"We knew we were going to play well today," he continued. "We're really starting to gain our confidence back again and we're going to need every piece of it to beat this team. (Miller's) bailed us out so many times, here especially late it hockey games, that (allowing Toews' goal) wasn't a big deal. We knew we could weather any storm they were going to throw at us and keep going. I thought after that we really started to play."
The Blues' fight didn't slow down as the night progressed. In fact, it got even stronger in the final 20 minutes of the game as the visiting team came close a number of times to — once again — tying things up late in the matchup. It was apparent that their confidence wasn't lacking.
"I believe this team can score at any time. I think we just got into a situation today where it didn't work out," Miller said. "You saw a few pucks were laying there for rebounds, we tipped one just wide, a couple tips even scooted by the net. That's the game of hockey — a game of inches."
The final few minutes of Monday's game wasn't hurting for excitement, and it was Marcus Kruger who went on to score an empty-net insurance goal with only 19.2 seconds remaining to give the Blackhawks' their two-goal victory.
The Blues weren't happy about the final score, but they were confident in their game as they packed up their gear inside the visiting locker room. Now they'll take all the positives they can out of Monday night as they prepare for Game 4 on Wednesday.
"We were working hard and we got rewarded in the first two games," Miller said. "Tonight I thought we worked hard, we just didn't get that final reward. But you have to keep believing you're going to do it and keep moving forward, so just business as usual here."