Collective effort by Blues making a difference

News-DemocratApril 19, 2014 

— Like a swarm of bees who can take down a larger foes, the St. Louis Blues realize they must cooperate to succeed.

While they have plenty of top-level talent and some potential stars in their lineup, the Blues rely on a collective approach to beat teams.

They got help from all regions of their roster in Thursday's 4-3 triple overtime win over Chicago in the the opener of their NHL Western Conference first-round playoff series.

There were the first career playoff goals by Vladimir Tarasenko, Adam Cracknell and Jaden Schwartz and some big stops by goaltender Ryan Miller.

Schwartz's goal came with 1:45 remaining in regulation and forced overtime, while Cracknell's goal broke a 35-game drought.

A strong performance by the fourth line included a game-saving shot block by Maxim Lapierre. Veteran winger Steve Ott, elevated to a spot on the top line because of T.J. Oshie's injury, set up Alexander Steen's game-winning goal that ended a six-game losing streak.

Add in a career-high 44 minutes, 8 seconds of playing time by defenseman Alex Pietrangelo and 33 minutes or more each from Schwartz, Steen, Kevin Shattenkirk and captain David Backes.

"That's how we're built, each guy doing their part," Backes said. "It's going to be maybe a different guy putting the puck in the net every night, but it's going to take contributions from everybody."

After battling the Blackhawks for 100 minutes, 26 seconds Thursday in a game that reached triple overtime, fatigue could be a factor in Game 2 at 2 p.m. Saturday.

"They're probably fixing things in their room, we're fixing things in our room --and expect it to be another war tomorrow afternoon," Backes said Friday.

The Blues have won five straight playoffs games over the Blackhawks and nine of the last 10, but Game 1 was the longest in Blues' history.

"Once it gets to two and three overtime, both teams have poured a ton into that game," Backes said.

Chicago got three goals in a span of 7 minutes, 10 seconds during the first period Thursday, then was blanked the rest of the way by Miller.

Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester suffered dehydration in Game 1 and he and his teammates did whatever they could to maintain energy.

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

How did Pietrangelo feel a day later?

"I feel good," said Pietrangelo, whose 44-plus minutes of ice time was the fourth-most in Blues history behind Chris Pronger (51:10, 48:22) and Al MacInnis (45:28). "I'm alive, I'm awake. Legs are a little bit stiff today, but I feel no different than a normal game -- even though it felt like we played two games."

How did Backes, who was in a walking boot cast with a foot injury just days ago, manage to keep sending himself out for 57 shifts? Only Steen had more with 59.

"You just had to dive on your mental strength of keep pushing, keep pushing, the next opportunity could be the difference in the game," Backes said. "Eventually that did come true. It's not an easy thing.

"You talk about a 65-minute game and normally you're toast after that. Add another 35 minutes onto that, it was a great battle. We got some reward out of that and it gives some justification for all the effort we put in."

Backes spoke as if trying to relive the grind of the night before.

"First overtime you've still got that adrenalin flow going, you're legs are still somewhat there," he said. "The second overtime it's almost survival mode where you're pumping fluids in, Pedialyte, all sorts of fruit, carbs ...

"For the third overtime, it's no holds barred, whatever you can do. The trainers were great with providing the Gatorade and electrolytes and cold ice towels to put on your head to try to cool the jets down."

The Blackhawks will not be intimidated.

They trailed Detroit 3-1 in the Western Conference semifinals last season on the way to winning the Stanley Cup. They knocked off Boston in the finals after losing two of the first three games.

"We're in good shape and we're ready to go," Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford said. "We have that hunger. A little bitter taste, I think we had a chance to win that hockey game being up in the third period.

"Had a couple opportunities, a bunch of opportunities in overtime. We're ready to go for Game 2."

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

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