The St. Louis Blues faced plenty of adversity throughout their final games of the regular season, dropping six straight as a number of players were sidelined with injuries.
The Blackhawks expected the Blues to come out with a fight in Game 1 of their first-round series, and they did, as they opened the scoring early and forced the game into overtime with less than two minutes to play.
Thursday's game featured a hard-fought battle throughout all 100+ minutes of play, but it was the Blues who came out with the final "knockout punch" to win it in triple overtime.
"They seem to have a lot of breakaways, we seem to have a lot of 3-on-2's," Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock told reporters following his team's 4-3 victory. "Just because there was so much being put into the game on both sides, I think both teams realize that a knockout punch was gonna be needed, and both teams put a lot into this game."
Despite the success the Blues saw throughout the majority of the regular season, they've been viewed as a bit of an underdog in this series after their late-season struggles.
But on Thursday they returned all their injured players aside from T.J. Oshie and Patrik Berglund, and their efforts against the Blackhawks showed that they're putting those previous issues aside and starting with a clean slate in this series.
It was that late-game goal from Jaden Schwartz that gave the Blues even more momentum heading into overtime.
"I think, from our standpoint, we needed to at least get the game into overtime," Hitchcock continued. "And by doing that, I think it engaged us, I think it engaged our fans and in believing that we're a good team because of everything that's happened."
The playoffs are an entirely different beast compared to the regular season. The Blues aren't worrying about what happened in the past; instead they're focused solely on this series with the Blackhawks. And their not going out without a fight.
"I think sometimes people don't look at who's in and out of the lineup," Hitchcock said. "They look at the crest on the sweater and, you know, we've had such a good year. I think the players really put a lot into this because they didn't want this season to just kind of wilt away. So they're gonna put up a fight here."