The Chicago Blackhawks got off to a hot start, but they were bitten by the aggressive St. Louis Blues and the injury bug as they dropped a 3-2 decision on Saturday night.
Patrick Sharp picked up a power play goal for the Blackhawks in the first period, and Kris Versteeg added a third period tally, but it wasn’t enough as the Blues used three unanswered goals to grab a divisional victory on home ice.
Just 16 seconds into the game, the Blackhawks drew a power play when Patrick Kane was hooked on a drive to the net by Jay Bouwmeester. Barrett Jackman was whistled a few moments later for roughing up Andrew Shaw behind the net, and with a 5-on-3 advantage the Hawks grabbed the lead. Holding the puck in the face-off dot, Kane fired a pass to Sharp, whose backdoor shot got past Brian Elliott to give Chicago a 1-0 lead.
The Blackhawks couldn’t cash in on a couple more opportunities on the man-advantage, and the Blues seized the momentum. They generated a power play chance when Trevor van Riemsdyk was whistled, but it wasn’t until an even strength shift with eight minutes to go in the first that they tied things up. Alex Pietrangelo pushed a pass to the middle of the ice, but it bounced off of TJ Oshie’s skate. Jaden Schwartz picked up the loose puck and feathered a shot toward the goal, and with Antti Raanta screened by David Backes, the shot trickled in and tied the game at 1-1.
A successful penalty kill, spearheaded by Raanta making five saves, finished up the first period for the Hawks, and they carried that momentum over into the second stanza. Brent Seabrook had the best chance of all on a shot from just inside the face-off dot, and Andrew Shaw’s wrap-around chance off the rebound nearly gave Chicago the lead. Marcus Kruger deflected a Seabrook shot a few moments later, but it whizzed by the post and wide of the cage.
Those missed opportunities came back to bite the Blackhawks late in the period as the Blues used an aggressive net-crashing strategy to seize the lead. Maxim Lapierre got a good chance in close on Raanta, but the goaltender made the save. With the puck bouncing around in the crease, Ryan Reaves got a stick on it and pushed it just across the goal line. The ruling on the ice was initially no goal, and the Chicago feed of the game didn’t have an angle showing the puck crossing the line, but a St. Louis TV angle did, and the NHL war room in Toronto awarded the goal, and the lead, to the Blues.
With the shock still wearing off after the ruling, the Hawks conceded another goal with just five seconds left in the period. Pietrangelo fired in a shot on Raanta during a sustained push by the Blues, and when the goaltender coughed up a huge rebound, Dmitrij Jaskin fired home a one-timer to make it a 3-1 contest through two periods.
With their lines shuffled up once again, the Blackhawks came out of the gate firing to start the third period, and they cashed in just two and a half minutes in. On an aggressive 3-on-3 rush to the net, Sharp slid a pass across the ice to a wide open Versteeg, and the forward didn’t miss as he beat Elliott and made it a 3-2 game.
A few minutes later, the mood went from one of optimism to one of concern for the Blackhawks as Daniel Carcillo left the game with an apparent knee injury. Replays showed his knee buckling when Oshie attempted a hip-check in the offensive zone, and Carcillo had to leave the ice and head to the dressing room.
Over the remaining 10 minutes of the game, the Blackhawks had a few decent chances, but they couldn’t sustain possession enough to tie things up. Richards had a quasi-breakaway late in the game, but Elliott was able to push away the backhanded shot attempt. Even a late power play wasn’t enough for Chicago however, as they were forced out to the perimeter by the aggressive Blues’ penalty killers and were held without a quality scoring chance.
The Blackhawks will look to bounce back from the loss when they head home to Chicago on Sunday for a date with the Ottawa Senators. The game will start at 6:00pm and will air on WGN.