The Chicago Blackhawks were right there for just about all of their game against the St. Louis Blues on Thursday night. But a gaffe here and there proved costly against a Blues team that was more than happy to capitalize on them.
Viktor Stalberg scored with less than five minutes remaining in regulation, but Kevin Shattenkirk had the winner in the shootout as the Blues beat the Blackhawks 4-3 at the United Center. The Blackhawks remain atop the Western Conference, three points ahead of idle Anaheim.
Jonathan Toews had a goal and an assist of the Blackhawks, who had a 2-1 lead entering the third period. But the Blues fought back, adding a rare blemish to the Blackhawks’ strong record when leading after two periods (now 20-1-2). But while the Blackhawks had the lead, the Blues had a little more of the drive.
“It’s frustrating. A couple of mistakes, we give up a lead,” Bryan Bickell said. “We were happy to get the game-tying goal, but it was a tough one.”
Coach Joel Quenneville liked the way the Blackhawks played on Thursday, for the most part.
“Playing from behind, [the Blues] were probably taking more risks than in the first part of the game. If we take advantage and press more, hopefully we can get the odd-man breaks and catch them from trying to score. If we check better, we probably get more advantages offensively. Don’t think we gave up a ton. We only gave up three chances, and that was the difference.
“We won these games earlier on in the year, but they’re all comparable scores,” Quenneville continued. “We could’ve won in the shootout. We didn’t hurt ourselves as far as giving ourselves a chance. We had some god chances late in the game.”
Adam Cracknell scored his first two goals of the season for St. Louis, the first deflecting off Brent Seabrook’s stick and past Corey Crawford, the other a breakaway coming off a semi-whiffed Michal Rozsival pass at the other end.
Indeed, the Blackhawks had a chance to take two points in the shootout, and Marian Hossa had the go-ahead shot in Round 4. But Alex Steen equaled that and Shattenkirk scored the winner against Crawford, who’s usually good in the shootout.
“I just didn’t feel that great in the shootout,” said Crawford. “It was a weird game. I think we controlled most of it. Just kind of a couple bounces here and there and they tied it up again, then took the lead. The positive thing we were able to battle back and get a point out of it.”
Brian Elliott did his part in preventing the Blackhawks from getting more, stopping 33 of 36 in regulation and overtime.
Michal Handzus, in his Blackhawks debut, won 10 of 14 faceoffs and had three hits. He also got his chance at the shootout, with Elliott stopping his wrister.
It wasn’t so much the Blackhawks collapsing in the third as the Blues capitalizing on the few mistakes the Blackhawks made. Still, the mistakes, lapses, whatever have come in the third a bit too often lately. The Blackhawks want to keep that pressure going throughout.
“The first five or six minutes in the third we need to establish our game and not play on our heels,” Handzus said. “That’s the lesson learned: even with the lead, push forward. Don’t sit back.”