The St. Louis Blues found a way to stave off constant pressure from the high-powered Chicago Blackhawks offense to squeak out a shootout victory in Chicago. Blues’ backup goaltender Brian Elliot, who had been struggling mightily this season, made several great saves against the Hawks.
In the first period, the Hawks were possessing the puck throughout the frame, as Elliot stopped their several quality chances. However, it was the Blues’ Adam Cracknell, who took advantage of a Duncan Keith blowout, and found the back of the net first, with his first goal of the season on a slapshot to give the Blues a 1-0 lead at the end of the first period.
Although it was the Blues who had the lead on the scoreboard, it was the Blackhawks, who were playing visibly better on the ice, and that continued into the 2nd period. The Blues scoring chances from their top two lines were few and far between, thanks to the Hawks bottom two line, and their stellar play. That stellar play continued on the Penalty Kill, as they shut down the Blues’ Power Play, which with momentum on their side, lead to the Jonathan Toews equalizer. With the game tied, and the momentum at a game high, for the Hawks, they quickly took a 2-1 lead off a beautiful pass from Toews to Brandon Saad, snuck the puck into the net to give the Hawks a 2-1 lead.
In the closing minute of the 2nd period, the Blackhawks/Blues rivalry was felt all around the United Center, as Viktor Stalberg landed a hit on Blues’ defenseman, Barret Jackman, and as essentially jumped by Jackman’s defensive partner Roman Polak. With tensions at a game high, Jackman, with unusualy hockey etiquette started arguing with playes on the Blackhawks bench, most notably backup goaltender, Ray Emery, but ultimately nothing more came of it during the game, as the Hawks took a 2-1 lead into the 3rd period.
Early in the 3rd, Michal Rozsival turned the puck over to the Blues, which lead to an Adam Cracknell breakaway and he buried his 2nd goal of the night, and the season, tying the game at 2 goals apiece. Much like the Hawks in the 2nd period, the Blues rode the new found wave of momentum in the 3rd period, as minutes later, David Backes beat Corey Crawford to give the Blues a 3-2 lead. The Blues carried the lead until less than 5 minutes remaining in the game when Viktor Stalberg ended his 14 game goal drought to tie the game at 3. The tie would run through the end of regulation, and both teams were rewarded one point in the Western Conference standings.
The 5-minute overtime came and went, as the Hawks failed to capitalize on a 3 on one rush, and the game was headed to the shootout.
Up first in the shootout was Jonathan Toews, who found a way to beat Brian Elliot, however Chris Stewart answered with a goal of his own.
Brandon Saad was next for the Hawks, but was denied by Brian Elliot. Rookie Vladimir Tarasenko also failed to score for the Blues.
Corey Crawford had an up and down game. He made some nice saves on the night, but gave up some juicy rebounds and some soft goals. Especially in the shootout.
Brian Elliot certainly played beyond what the statistics say about him this season, as he got the Blues through several flurries of Blackhawk scoring chances.
Michal Handzus, making his second Blackhawks debut of his career had an excellent game. He ended the night a +1 and won 10 out fo 14 faceoffs on the night.
Jonathan Toews certainly played as if he was aware it was his own bobble head night, as he scored a goal and added an assist as well as a shootout goal.
Next up for the Blackhawks, is matinee on Saturday, as they take on the Nashville Predators. Puck drop is set for 2:00 PM Central Time.