CHICAGO, IL - MARCH 19: Duncan Keith #2 of the Chicago Blackhawks is pressurd by Vladimir Sobotka #17 of the St. Louis Blues at the United Center on March 19, 2014 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
The St. Louis Blues have had the Chicago Blackhawks’ number this season, but the Hawks got a measure of revenge on Wednesday night as they shut out the Blues by a score of 4-0 at the United Center.
Duncan Keith, Andrew Shaw, Marcus Kruger, and Ben Smith all picked up goals for the Blackhawks, and Corey Crawford made 23 saves in the shutout victory. The win was the 700th of Joel Quenneville’s coaching career, and also gave Michal Handzus a win in his 1000th career NHL game.
The Blues had the lion’s share of the early chances in the game, with TJ Oshie getting a great one on a wraparound attempt that Crawford was somehow able to keep out of the net. St. Louis ended up getting four of the first five shots on goal in the game, but the Blackhawks did show some good puck possession during that time as the game remained scoreless.
About eight minutes into the period, the Hawks started turning the tide in their favor. First it was Patrick Kane who made a nifty move through the offensive zone to draw some defensive attention, but when he passed the puck to Bryan Bickell, Miller was there to make a save on the quick wrist shot attempt. Patrick Sharp also had a good shot on the rush a few moments later, but Miller steered it aside with his blocker.
After an excellent penalty kill punctuated by solid efforts from Ben Smith and Jonathan Toews, the Hawks went right back to racking up scoring chances. The best one came on a shot from the corner that Marcus Kruger was able to get a stick on, but after it deflected off of Miller it hit the crossbar and caromed over the net.
Finally, the Blackhawks were able to take advantage of a late power play and got the game’s first goal as the first period neared its end. After some great puck movement, Kane darted down into the face-off circle, and Shaw rushed to the front of the net. With that screen, Kane fired a pass back to the point, where Keith unloaded on a slapshot that beat Miller on his blocker side to make it 1-0 Chicago late in the frame.
The second period got off to a good start for the Hawks as they continued to get some good offensive pressure, but the mood inside the United Center quickly turned sour near the middle portion of the period. After Sheldon Brookbank hit Brendan Morrow into the boards, the Blues winger ended up falling right on top of Kane’s left leg, and the Hawks winger dropped to the ice in pain. He skated off under his own power, but he did not return to the game after that.
The Blackhawks seemed dazed for a brief time by the injury, but they eventually snapped out of the funk and scored to extend their lead. With the team’s top line pounding away at a loose puck in front, Sharp eventually forced the puck out to the point. Nick Leddy blasted a slap shot from the blue line, and Shaw was able to get a stick on it and deflect it past Miller. The play stood on video review, and just like that the Blackhawks led the game 2-0.
In the closing seconds of the period, Johnny Oduya picked up a penalty with about 13 seconds left, but as the penalty carried over to the start of the third, the Hawks’ penalty kill continued to excel as they jumped passing lanes and blocked several shots as the Blues couldn’t figure out any way to deal with the pressure.
A few minutes after an initial push by the Blues, it was the Blackhawks who grabbed the all-important third goal in the game. Niklas Hjalmarsson tried to fire a stretch pass up the ice, but it ended up bouncing off of traffic. Nobody could pick the puck up though, and eventually it found its way onto the stick of Peter Regin. He made a nifty back-handed pass across the netmouth to Kruger, who slid it into the empty cage to extend the Chicago lead to three goals.
The Blackhawks weren’t done scoring yet though, and they took advantage of another power play to score again. Kris Versteeg made a nice backhanded pass out to the point, where Leddy wired a slap shot just wide of the net. Versteeg was in perfect position for the ricochet, and when he grabbed the puck behind the net, he quickly passed it to Smith, who flipped it in past Miller to give Chicago a 4-0 lead with about 12 minutes remaining in the game.
The Blues did get a few more scoring chances, and did get a late power play in the game, but they weren’t able to overcome the suffocating Chicago defense as they suffered their first regulation defeat against a Central Division opponent this season.
The Blackhawks won’t have much time to celebrate the victory over St. Louis, as they prepare to host the Carolina Hurricanes at the United Center on Friday night.