The Chicago Blackhawks came into Sunday’s game with the St. Louis Blues facing an uphill battle, but two goals by Marian Hossa closed the team’s seven-game road trip in style with a 4-2 victory.
Corey Crawford made 25 saves in the game, and Marcus Kruger and Bryan Bickell each added goals as the Blackhawks won their second game in a row and cut into the Blues’ edge in the Central Division race.
The Blues got off to a great start on offense, dominating puck possession and racking up shots on goal left and right, but it was Chicago that ended up drawing first blood. After a great play by Duncan Keith on the back end to steal the puck and push it up ice, Kruger carried it into the offensive zone and ripped a quick wrist shot past Brian Elliott to give the Hawks a 1-0 lead.
As the period wore on, the Blues continued to generate scoring opportunities, but Crawford and the Blackhawks repelled them all. Chris Butler had the best chance of all as he snapped in a shot on the rush, and TJ Oshie was there in the crease to whack away at the loose puck, but Crawford stood firm along the near post and prevented the shot from going in.
The Blues got a power play late in the first, and even as it carried over into the second period they couldn’t quite get anything going as they were unable to score. The failure didn’t seem to quell their momentum however, and they soon scored to tie the game. With the Blackhawks’ defense scrambling around following a Johnny Oduya pinch, Vladimir Tarasenko got free at center ice and scored a gorgeous breakaway goal to tie things up at 1-1.
Just four and a half minutes later, the Blackhawks scored again to take the lead back. Their speed game up the ice once again came in handy on this one, as David Rundblad broke into the zone and fired in a low, hard shot at Elliott. The goaltender made the save, but Bickell picked up the rebound and lifted a wrist shot over Elliott’s glove to make it a 2-1 game.
Undeterred, the Blues scored again a minute and a half later to tie things up. David Backes made a really good play to draw defenders as he feathered a pass to Oshie in the middle, but Crawford made the save. The puck trickled out away from a gaggle of Blackhawks’ defenders however, and Backes was there to pounce on the rebound and forced a shot just inside of Crawford’s skate to knot the game at 2-2.
The second period ended with both teams failing to get back on the scoreboard, and as the third period began, the Blues continued to generate chances. Alex Steen had the best one of the bunch as he skated in past the Hawks’ defense, but Crawford sealed off the edge of the net and prevented the shot from getting home.
His efforts were rewarded a few minutes later as the Hawks scored a power play marker. With Jay Bouwmeester in the box, the Hawks used some tic-tac-toe passing from Bickell, Brad Richards, and Brandon Saad to move the puck up ice. Saad pushed a perfectly timed pass to the middle of the ice as he broke into the offensive zone, and Hossa did the rest as he one-timed a wrist shot past Elliott to make it a 3-2 game with just under nine minutes to go in the contest.
The Hawks got one more big save out of Crawford as he denied a one-timer by Steen late, and Hossa finished things off as he scored an empty net goal to give Chicago a much-needed victory.