Steen goal lifts Blues past Blackhawks in third overtime

News-DemocratApril 18, 2014 

— ST. LOUIS -- The longest playoff overtime game in St. Louis Blues franchise history ended 26 seconds into the third overtime Thursday on a goal by Alexander Steen.

Steen's goal gave the Blues a 4-3 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks and a 1-0 lead in their best-of-seven first-round playoff series.

"Steener's not going to miss it from the ladies tee," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said of a shot from just a few feet away that beat Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford. "He's not going to miss that."

Steen's goal sent everyone home after 100 minutes, 26 seconds of scintillating playoff hockey --and also ended the Blues' six-game losing streak.

Before Thursday, the longest playoff overtime game for the Blues was a 4-3 victory over Detroit on April 7, 1984. That game lasted 97 minutes, 7 seconds and the Blues won it on a goal by Mark Reeds.

Steen, who scored an overtime game-winner against the Kings last season in Game 1 of the opening round, did it this time in the third OT.

David Backes tracked down a loose puck behind the net and dropped it back to Steve Ott, who flipped it back to Steen.

"Unbelievable play, great play," said Steen, whose goal came at 11:34 p.m. "You kind of had a peek right before (Ott) came in, I felt like he knew I was coming...both Backes and him made great plays on that goal."

The entertaining contest included a combined 94 shots, including 52 by the Blues, and numerous hits and skirmishes and large and small battles throughout the night.

"Win, lose or draw, what happened in the third period was we finally saw our team," Hitchcock said. "Regardless of what happened tonight, to be able to see our team look like that inteh third epriod was a good sign for us."

The Blackhawks got three goals on seven shots during a wild first period Thursday and tried to make a one-goal lead stand up the rest of the way.

It did until Jaden Schwartz helped force a turnover in the corner against Chicago defenseman Johnny Oduya, then whisked a backhander past Corey Crawford with 1 minute, 45 seconds remaining in regulation.

That tied it 3-3 as a standing-room-only crowd of 19,423 exploded in a frenzy of noise.

It was the first career playoff goal by Schwartz, known for his opportunistic playmaking.

"He's stripped so many people of pucks," Hitchcock said. "Fall asleep and he's going to catch you every time. He did it five or six times again tonight."

Blues goalie Ryan Miller allowed three goals on seven shots in the first period, then tightened up considerably after that. He stopped the final 35 shots he saw and 39 of 42 overall.

However, one of the biggest saves of the night was made by Blues center Maxim Lapierre on a shot by Kris Versteeg near the end of the first overtime.

Lapierre wound up behind Miller and managed to get his leg on the shot.

"Lappy bailed me out, I got caught following (Jonathan) Toews on the first play," Miller said. "He was right there to make a save, that's how these kind of games go. You get lucky in a few situations and then you've got to battle through the rest. It was just nice to come out at the end of this with a win."

Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester suffered what some felt might have been an apparent injury during the first overtime, but Hitchcock said after the game that it was "dehydration." Bouwmeester returned for the start of the third overtime period and was on the ice for the game-winning goal.

Bouwmeester's absence left the Blues with only five defensemen for a huge chunk of the overtime sessions. Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo played a career-high 44 minutes, 8 seconds and Steen was on the ice for 35:33.

"The adrenaline keeps you going there for a while," Pietrangelo said. "At some point you've got to start thinking not to get caught out there. We did a pretty good job of keeping the shifts short there."

And what were the players doing to keep their energy levels up during the marathon game?

"Gatorade, water, anything you could get," Pietrangelo said. "Apples, strawberries, bananas ... I had some oatmeal after the first (OT)."

The Blues were forced to kill off another Chicago power play in the second overtime, then the Blackhawks killed off one by the Blues.

Miller helped force a third OT when he stopped Chicago's Patrick Sharp late in the second overtime.

Roy and Lapierre each beat Crawford during regulation on shots that hit the goalpost or crossbar. Lapierre rang one off the post with 12:37 remaining in the third period, but Schwartz's goal gave the Blues new life.

The Blues outshot the Blackhawks 14-6 in the third period, limiting the defending Stanley Cup champs to only 21 shots through the end of regulation.

Two of the Blues' six playoff games against the Kings last season also reached overtime with each team winning once.

The Blues won three of the five regular-season meetings against the 'Hawks, but two games between the bitter rivals reached a shootout.

"The rivalry has really grown over the last couple years," Steen said. "We haven't played each other in the playoffs and the games that we've had, there usually seems to be a fight or two in the stands and a fight or two on the ice.

"Should be a good series."

It was a big night for the fourth line as Adam Cracknell scored the first goal and Lapierre and Chris Porter kept making their presence felt. Porter and Vladimir Tarasenko each had a team-high seven shots while Steen and Kevin Shattenkirk had six each.

Cracknell's first playoff goal ended the Blues' scoreless streak from the regular season at 148 minutes, 39 seconds when his hard work in front paid off.

Pietrangelo dived to keep the puck in and Cracknell pounced on the rebound of a backhand shot by Porter 4:40 into the opening period.

A stoked Cracknell celebrated on his knees while pumping his fists. It was his first NHL goal since April 4, 2013, also against Chicago.

The Blackhawks were reeling a bit early under heavy pressure, but scored three times on seven shots in the first period against Miller.

A shot by Oduya got under Miller's leg pad for Chicago's first goal. Versteeg set up the Blackhawks' next goal on the power play from behind the net as he found Brent Seabrook streaking toward the net.

Seabrook's shot appeared to deflect in off the stick of Blues defenseman Roman Polak.

Despite missing the final 15 regular-season games with a right hand injury, Tarasenko netted his first playoff goal with 4:08 remaining in the first period.

Set up by Kevin Shattenkirk in the slot, Tarasenko fired off a quick snap shot that eluded Crawford to tie it 2-2.

Patrick Kane put the 'Hawks back on top with a breakaway goal that came with 1:36 remaining in the opening period, set up by Jonathan Toews.

"I didn't set up the breakaway on Kane very well, as you might have seen," Miller said. "I thought I could get him in a situation where I'd give myself an advantage and it totally backfired."

Early in the second period, the Blues endured back-to-back turnovers. The second came after Ryan Reaves' stick broke, but Miller turned away Patrick Sharp after the 'Hawks forward was in all alone.

Back-to-back Blues turnovers, the second of which came when Ryan Reaves broke his stick, nearly resulted in another Chicago goal. This time Miller turned away Patrick Sharp after Sharp broke in alone.

Crawford held on to the one-goal lead thanks to a pair of sparkling saves in the second period.

He made a sprawling stop to rob Tarasenko, then handled another tough chance on a shot by Ott late in the period.

Hitchcock was excited to see the way the Blues seemed to put the debris of the six-game losing streak behind them.

"I think the players were going to put a lot into this because they didn't want this season to just kind of wilt away," he said. "They're going to put up a fight here and whatever happens, happens. That's a great team over there, but we're going to put up a fight."

Contact reporter Norm Sanders at 239-2454, or follow him on Twitter: @NormSanders

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