ST. LOUIS – The Chicago Blackhawks were 105 seconds away from their first victory at Scotttrade Center this season. It was for their taking, but one the St. Louis Blues were willing to fight them for in those waning regulation moments.
Once again, the Blues found a way to force overtime. And once again, the Blues sent the Blackhawks out of their building frustrated.
Jaden Schwartz scored with 1:45 remaining in regulation and Alexander Steen scored the winner just 26 seconds into the third overtime as the Blues beat the Chicago Blackhawks 4-3 in Game 1 of their first-round series on Thursday night. The Blues take a 1-0 lead in the series, which will resume on Saturday with a 2 p.m. CT start.
The Blackhawks saw good things from Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews, who were playing their first game since suffering their respective injuries. Kane’s breakaway goal with 1:36 remaining in the first period gave the Blackhawks a 3-2 lead they would hold until Schwartz’s goal. Toews had two assists; Brent Seabrook had a power-play goal and an assist. Corey Crawford was also strong, stopping 48 of 52 shots.
But it was nevertheless a bitter pill to swallow for the Blackhawks, who looked to be reversing the last-minute losing trend in St. Louis that they started early in the regular season.
“Obviously you’re sitting there close,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “They get momentum scoring late (in regulation), but we were close to getting it done. It’s just like the last two games in this building this year.”
Losing any game hurts, especially in the postseason. Losing those lengthy games sting that much more. But the Blackhawks weren’t hanging their heads too low.
“It’s not fun to lose those ones. You go the length of a game like that, you want to find a way to win. It’s disappointing but this is a long series,” Toews said. “It was a tough game, but I think we were good at not giving up too many chances. When we did, they were pretty high-quality chances and that ended up hurting us. We had our share of our own to try to find a way to win.”
The Blackhawks certainly had their opportunities to either lengthen their lead in regulation or win it in overtime. Kris Versteeg’s extra-time shot was stopped not by Ryan Miller, but by Maxim Lapierre, who was behind Miller on that particular play. Patrick Sharp had a breakaway attempt late in the second overtime, but Miller grabbed it. Miller stopped 39 of 42 in the victory.
Still, the Blackhawks were optimistic entering that third overtime.
“We had some chances, especially in the first overtime,” said Kane, who added he felt “all right” in his first game in a month. “I think all of us thought we were going to go out and win it, especially in the third. But they made a nice play on the goal.”
Indeed, the Blues did everything right and the Blackhawks did a couple little things wrong as Steen won it for the Blues.
The Blues weren’t kidding when they said they put that late six-game losing streak behind them. Still, the Blackhawks have dealt with the ups and downs of the postseason before. They know they’ll have to put this one behind them quick. On Saturday, they’ll have to try once again to win a game here this season – or postseason.
“It stings right now, obviously,” Kane said. “The big thing for us is we have to realize it’s only one game. We have a quick turnaround with the afternoon game coming up; that’s the best part about it. We’ll try to figure out what we can do better and hopefully come back and win Game 2.”