The St. Louis Blues were able to slip past the Chicago Blackhawks 4-3 in an instant triple-overtime classic at the Scottrade Center in the first game of their Stanley Cup Playoff series.
The Blackhawks came out firing on all cylinders, but it was the Blues that were able to turn the tide in the closing periods and emerge victorious after outshooting Chicago 52-42.
GOAL! GOAL! Alexander Steen with the winner in the third overtime! Blues beat the Blackhawks, 4-3, in an instant classic to open the series.— SportsCenter (@SportsCenter) April 18, 2014
St. Louis goalie Ryan Miller was shaky in the first period as he allowed all three of the Blackhawks' goals, but he regained composure quickly and silenced the Chicago sticks the rest of the way en route to 39 saves. Corey Crawford wasn't as lucky; his 48 saves mean little as he succumbed to the pressure in the third overtime period.
For the Blues, four different players pitched in with goals as the team's physicality and methodical, puck-control approach won out by night's end. Jonathan Toews touched on this aspect of the St. Louis approach after the game, per Chris Kuc of the Chicago Tribune:
#Blackhawks' Jonathan Toews on Blues' physicality: "It’s what we expected. I think we can work on returning the favor a little bit."— Chris Kuc (@ChrisKuc) April 18, 2014
It was apparent early on Chicago and St. Louis were destined for a thrilling offensive battle, with the Blues' Adam Cracknell getting the scoring started via a pretty display 4:40 into the affair, as captured by Pete Blackburn:
GIF: Adam Cracknell gets the first goal of the Blues-Blackhawks series http://t.co/5aLvgnsHao— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) April 18, 2014
The Blackhawks needed little time to respond, as Johnny Oduya and Brent Seabrook found the back of the net mere minutes apart, the latter on a power play as Kris Versteeg had the vision from behind the net to find Seabrook streaking into the circle.
Tom Musick of the Northwest Herald put it best:
Wow. Kris Versteeg with a perfect feed to Brent Seabrook for a power-play goal. That was pretty. #Blackhawks— Tom Musick (@tcmusick) April 18, 2014
Down 2-1, the Blues needed just over a minute to fire off a response via a pretty shot from Vladimir Tarasenko, who completes his comeback story with the goal.
Don't think the first period was over just yet. Patrick Kane had something to say about that, as a shot 18:24 into the period got past Miller to give the Blackhawks a 3-2 advantage. The breakaway was as pretty live as it was on the broadcast, per CSN Chicago's JJ Stankevitz:
Quite a bit of oohs and aahs from the U.S. Cellular Field crowd after Patrick Kane's breakaway goal is showed on the video board here.— JJ Stankevitz (@JJStankevitz) April 18, 2014
At that point, the first period was finally able to hear a final buzzer and the crowd had some time to catch its breath. Norm Sanders of the Belleville News-Democrat provided a historical twist on the happenings:
Get this—the second period went off without a hitch.
Miller found his composure in front of the net as the overall pace slowed.
Not to be outdone, Crawford had some heroics of his own in the not-so-dull period:
It's funny really, as Chicago surged early in the second period and never took the foot off the pedal.
It just didn't matter much:
No one scores in the second period & the Blackhawks still lead the Blues 3-2. Hawks outshot the Blues 8-2 on net in that period.— ESPN Chicago (@ESPNChiHawks) April 18, 2014
The third period was much of the same, as the Blackhawks were able to control the puck. Defense reigned supreme until the closing moments of the contest with the score still at the 3-2 mark.
An unlikely hero stepped up to save the Blues.
Jaden Schwartz, perhaps the most jaw-dropping storyline of all heading into the contest, was able to slip the puck past Crawford to knot things up with 1:45 left in regulation.
As NHL.com's Pete Jensen points out, it was quite the last-second performance from an unlikely name:
Want to become a fan favorite? Score goals & block shots in final minutes like Jaden Schwartz just did. #STLBlues have a keeper.— Pete Jensen (@NHLJensen) April 18, 2014
A name who, by all accounts, was going through an emotional toll to say the least, as illustrated by Jim Fuller of the New Haven Register:
There's nothing better than playoff hockey, especially when games are decided in sudden-death overtime. As fate would have it, this budding classic saw neither team take an advantage in the first overtime period. At the end of the first period through 80 minutes of action, the 'Hawks had a slight edge in the shots department, 37-36.
Then it happened—fatigue hit Chicago hard after the team's aggressive ways in regulation. Suddenly the tide shifted, even if neither team could finalize things in the second overtime period. Jeremy Rutherford of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch helps to explain:
This game is now the longest in #stlblues history.— Jeremy Rutherford (@jprutherford) April 18, 2014
The Blues' strong form continued in the third overtime session, and that goes twofold for Miller, who rebounded from his earlier sloppy play and kept his team in the game:
The third overtime period didn't last long.
Blues and Blackhawks know they don't need to play all 7 games tonight right?— Rob Pizzo (@robpizzo) April 18, 2014
Actually, 26 seconds to be exact, as Alexander Steen slipped one past Crawford after a sloppy rebound and a pretty assist from the duo of Steve Ott and David Backes.
Which team wins Game 2?
With the win, the Blues gain a serious semblance of momentum as they play host to the Blackhawks once again on Saturday at 3 p.m. ET. If St. Louis can bring its methodical style once more and control the puck from start to finish, it'll put Chicago in desperation mode as the 'Hawks return home for two games in front of friendly fans.
But that's the key for Chicago—force a series tie. Down 0-2 against these Blues is not ideal, regardless of whether or not they are headed home. If the team can remain aggressive and actually convert more of its shots to actual goals, this heartbreaker will be an afterthought by series' end.