Kane keeps Hawks alive in 2OT

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It’s hard to beat the champs.

The phrase has swirled around the minds of anyone following the St. Louis Blues over the past couple weeks. Drawing the defending Stanley Cup champions in round one of the playoffs isn’t supposed to be easy. But with a 3-1 series lead entering Game 5 at home, after all the adversity that has been thrown at them, the Blues were in position to finish the Chicago Blackhawks once and for all Thursday night at Scottrade.

But it’s hard to beat the champs.

In a game that began Thursday night—but didn’t conclude until early Friday morning—the Blues battled into a fifth period of play, only to lose on a gut-wrenching fluke. As Brian Elliott attempted to play a loose puck in the crease in double overtime, his stick got stuck in the skate of Jay Bouwmeester. Patrick Kane had time to skate around the back of the net and score the puck to prolong his team’s season.

The tough finish left Ken Hitchcock with little to say to his team.

“Plane’s at three, let’s get playin’,” Hitchcock said was the message to his team following the loss. “We knew this was gonna be difficult. We knew this was gonna be hard. We knew it was gonna be a challenge and we just gotta find another way to make them crack some more.”

For such a compelling game, the first period was a dud. It saw only 10 total shots as both sides went through an acclimation period to start. No penalties were called, and action was limited.

The second period was another story.

Chicago got the better of St. Louis during the middle twenty minutes, outscoring them 3-1. After each side killed a penalty early in the frame, the Blues got another man-advantage midway through the period.

What appeared to be an opportunity for the Blues turned into a lead for the Blackhawks. After Chicago turned away a St. Louis drive, the puck ended up on the stick of Marian Hossa in a two-on-one opposite Duncan Keith. Hossa handled it himself, clanging the puck off the near post and in for the game’s first goal.

Fortunately for the Blues, they still had over a minute remaining on the power play.

Jaden Schwartz ensured it was time well spent, offering an immediate response to the Blackhawks’ goal. Schwartz received a cross-ice pass from Alex Pietrangelo and slapped it past Crawford from the left circle. Just 57 seconds elapsed between goals.

The game remained tied for less than three minutes. With under five to go in the period, Artemi Panarin whirled a shot by Brian Elliott, but the puck bounced off the far post and came to rest centimeters from the goal line. Artem Anisimov was there waiting for the rebound, and flipped the puck into the open right side of the net, giving the Blackhawks a 2-1 lead.

The Blues had played from behind with success numerous times in this series. In Game 5, their resilience after surrendering a shorthanded goal was quickly apparent. But to end the second period, the Blues allowed a devastating goal that would make the task of clinching the series much tougher.

The Blackhawks won a face-off with under ten ticks on the clock. Patrick Kane dug it out of the corner and whisked the puck to Panarin. The Hawks’ electrifying rookie one-timed a goal by Elliott’s right hip, with the clocked showing a mere 0.4 seconds when the lamp was lit. The Blues ability to dispatch the rival Blackhawks in five was suddenly looking bleak.

“Well, they get to play too,” Ken Hitchcock said of the Blackhawks’ second period success. “They won some board battles and they were having a high sense of desperation.”

The Blues’ second period performance offered little reason for optimism heading into the third. But the Blues had climbed back from unimaginable depths in the series already. They needed two in the third to keep the game alive. 

And as they had done all series, all season, the Blues fought back from adversity: They tied the game.

The first goal was Robby Fabbri’s. He had been everywhere for St. Louis throughout the game, and with close quarters in front of the Chicago net, Fabbri found the back of the goal. The rookie has played a significant role in the success of the Blues this season, and

“Especially on this stage,” Pietrangelo said regarding Fabbri’s impressive play of late. “Ever since the playoffs started, he’s been playing great. We’re going to need more of that, he’s a big part of our team, a big part of our offense.”

With the deficit at one, ‘The Captain’ stepped up next. David Backes orchestrated a masterful redirection off a shot sent in by Pietrangelo. His soft touch slid the puck gracefully through the crease, tying the game and sending Scottrade into a frenzy. Pietrangelo’s assist was his third of the game, as he aided on each of the Blues regulation goals.

With a tie score and a clean slate, anything was possible in the final five minutes of regulation. Though with both teams playing with such desperation, that nobody scored in the final minutes of regulation came as no surprise.

Chicago was caught with six skaters with 4:14 to play, giving the Blues a chance at the lead. However, the ensuing power play featured sloppy play from the Blues, as their energy was perhaps too high off the game-tying goal moments earlier. They were unable to capitalize on the opportunity, and the third period ended in a 3-3 tie.

The first overtime was an intense whirlwind of emotions for the standing-room only crowd at Scottrade. The Blues puck possession was solid in the extra period, but when it comes to overtime hockey, it only takes one shot to win the game.

The Blues learned that the hard way in the second overtime. Kane’s goal was mentioned only once during postgame interviews. Though it ended the game, it certainly didn’t define it, as the Blues did enough to deserve a fate better than losing on such a random series of events. Yet, that’s often the nature of overtime hockey in the postseason.

“He was opportunistic, obviously, on the overtime goal,” Hitchcock said of Kane’s game-winner. What more could he have said?

“We played a hell of a hockey game.”

The Blues felt they did enough to win the game and series. Because it wasn’t enough, they will have to rebound and regroup once more. They’ll get two cracks at the Blackhawks, with a potential Game 7 to be played Monday night back in St. Louis. The team doesn’t plan on it coming down to that, though.

“It’s gonna be fun here to win it in Chicago, that’s the game plan right now,” Pietrangelo said. “Their backs are still against the wall.” 

Though the Blues are up 3-2 in the series, they know finishing the job won’t be easy.

It’s hard to beat the champs.



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