The Chicago Blackhawks had an opportunity to move into first place in the Central Division on Sunday night, but they couldn’t solve St. Louis Blues goaltender Jake Allen as they lost a 2-1 heartbreaker on home ice.
Kris Versteeg scored the lone goal of the game for the Blackhawks, but it wasn’t enough as Allen stopped 38 shots en route to the victory. David Backes and Olli Jokinen scored goals for the Blues as they moved past the Nashville Predators for the top spot in the division.
The Blackhawks got off to a really nice start on the offensive side of things, with the fourth line putting some early pressure on the Blues, but Allen was up to the task. Teuvo Teravainen and Marcus Kruger each had good early scoring chances, but neither would go as the Blues kept the game scoreless.
That pressure eventually paid off for the Blackhawks late in the first period as they took the lead with about six minutes to go. Marian Hossa made the play happen as he jumped past the blue line to keep the puck in the zone, and he drove to the far side of the net. Allen cut over to stop him, and the Blues’ defense followed suit, but Hossa had other ideas as he fed a pass to a wide open Versteeg, who tapped in the easy shot to make it a 1-0 game.
The Blues pushed hard to end the first period, but Corey Crawford kept his team ahead as he stopped some chances in close. Jokinen had the best one as he picked up a loose puck near the blue paint, but Crawford made the save to keep the Blackhawks in front through the end of the first period.
Early in the second period, the teams exchanged penalties, and once Michal Rozsival was sent to the box, the Blues finally scored to tie things up. A shot from the point hit a couple different players on its way in toward the net, and when Jaden Schwartz picked it up, he fed a perfect pass across the ice to Backes, and the Blues’ captain fired it home to tie things up at 1-1.
Some great back and forth action occurred after the Blues’ goal, but both goaltenders stood strong. Patrick Sharp had a breakaway chance shortly after the tally, but Allen made the save. Paul Statsny was then denied by Crawford twice at the other end of the ice, and finally Schwartz was stopped by the Hawks’ goaltender as the game remained tied.
With less than five minutes remaining in the second period, the Blues took the lead. Ty Rattie was hit with a shot from the point, but Michal Rozsival wasn’t able to keep Jokinen corralled in front of him as the Blues’ veteran center popped home the rebound to give St. Louis a 2-1 lead.
The Blackhawks got a late power play to end the second period, but they weren’t able to get much in the way of scoring chances. Versteeg had a good one-timer shot from the middle of the slot, but the shot bounced off Allen and was cleared, leaving the Blues ahead through two periods of play.
The Blackhawks got off to a hot start in the third period, racking up six shots on goal in the first three minutes of the frame. Hossa and Jonathan Toews each had good scoring chances in that opening sequence, but Allen remained strong in net to keep the Blues in front.
Over the final half of the period, the Blackhawks continued to get scoring opportunities, but ultimately they fell just short. The Hawks totaled 12 shots on goal in the frame, but when the Blues were able to clear the puck out of the zone with about 12 seconds to go in the game, the Hawks couldn’t get back in and went down in defeat.
The Blackhawks will take the United Center ice on Tuesday night for the final time in the regular season as they take on the Minnesota Wild in a divisional showdown.