David Backes’ only shot of the night wasn’t pretty, but it got the job done.
Backes banked a cross-ice pass attempt into the net off the skate of Chicago defenseman Trevor van Riemsdyk 9 minutes, 4 seconds into overtime Wednesday to lift the St. Louis Blues to a hyper-intense 1-0 victory in the playoff opener against the Blackhawks.
“You thank your lucky stars and say your prayers that night, because that was one that was answered,” said Backes, who was trying to set up teammate Alexander Steen across the ice. “We needed a great start to this series and 1-0, that’s a great start.”
Backes was at the left side of the net when he sent a puck toward the goal that sailed wide, then connected with the skate of van Riemsdyk and snaked its way through Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford.
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“There’s no such thing as a bad shot here,” Backes said after the Blues generated only 18 shots all night. “It was ugly, but it counts. It’s not a bad shot and if you don’t shoot it it’s not going in, my first one of the game found a way. I was able to throw it to the front and get a fortunate bounce.”
Blues goalie Brian Elliott turned aside 35 shots for his first career playoff shutout, though he also shared a shutout with Jaroslav Halak in 2012 against San Jose.
Backes’ goal capped an extremely intense scoreless duel as the Blues and Blackhawks played their fourth straight overtime playoff game at Scottrade Center dating back to 2014.
You thank your lucky stars and say your prayers that night, because that was one that was answered. We needed a great start to this series and 1-0, that’s a great start.
Blues captain David Backes on the game-winning goal
“He’s our captain and we look at him for a lot of leadership and for him to do a lot of the little things that at times are overlooked,” Blues winger Troy Brouwer said. “For him to get rewarded tonight and lead us in the first game, it’s a great feeling for us and a great feeling for him.”
Crawford didn’t have much chance to react to the deflection off the skate.
“That was tough,” Crawford said. “I kind of felt it hit the inside of my pad and from there i was just hoping that it died. It was a tough bounce but we’ve got to feel good about how we played out there.”
Blues coach Ken Hitchcock certainly wasn’t apologizing for the overtime shutout win, no matter what it took to escape with a victory.
“It’s a team win first of all, and any time you shut out a team, doesn’t matter how you did it,” Hitchcock said. “You’ve got to be happy with that,” “(Elliott) and Jake (Allen) have been the story of the season for us. For a 1-0 hockey game, it could have been 6-5. We missed a number of opportunities, they missed a number of opportunities.
“We didn’t hit the net on a number of our quality chances, and they missed the couple open nets, especially late in the game.”
A raucous sellout crowd of 19,241 welcomed the Blues back to playoff hockey at Scottrade Center on Wednesday for their first-round series against the defending Stanley Cup champions.
Making his first playoff start since 2013 against the Los Angeles Kings, Elliott stopped 28 shots through regulation to help send a scoreless game into overtime. Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford, making only his second start since March 14 because of an upper-body injury, turned away 16 Blues shots through three periods.
Game 2 is set for 7 p.m. Friday at Scottrade Center and the Blackhawks had to be feeling they deserved a better fate after outshooting the Blues 35-18.
“I think you just try and tell yourself you’ll get lucky or (get) that lucky bounce and throw pucks on net,” Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said. “It’s unfortunate we had a redirection off of our own guy’s foot, but it happens so we’ll try and control the things we can and unfortunately it didn’t go our way.”
The Blues and Blackhawks took their 2014 first-round playoff series opener into triple overtime before Alexander Steen scored the game-winner in a 4-3 victory. The Blues went on to the lose the series 4-2 with four of the six games going to overtime.
Tied 0-0 headed to the third period, both teams ratcheted up the physical play and the Blues dealt out several big hits. Robby Fabbri’s hit on Michael Rozsival sent Rozsival to the dressing room briefly and Brouwer had another big check on Chicago’s Viktor Svedberg.
The Blues had to kill three Blackhawks power-plays in the scoreless first period, including a 5-on-3 opportunity foe 36 seconds. An aggressive penalty-kill unit helped defuse the danger, with Kevin Shattenkirk and Colton Parayko blocking two shots each during the opening period.
Only a big save by Elliott kept things scoreless through two periods. Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews broke in a lone wth 12:56 remaining in the period and Elliott was able to steer the shot away from danger.
The Blackhawks outshot the Blues 11-4 in the first period and applied heavy pressure with the man advantage. Elliott came up big when he stopped a tough shot by Chicago rookie Artemi Panarin from the left side, later robbing Panarin again with 5:20 remaining in regulation.
The sellout crowd roared for the Blues’ penalty killers and the ovation got louder when Blues forward Scottie Upshall took his team out of a penalty-kill situation when he drew an interference penalty on Brent Seabrook.
While the Blues were generating a lot of pressure during four power plays through two periods, they came up 0-for-4 and kept shooting wide on many of their opportunities.
Blackhawks forward Andrew Ladd, who traveled to Chicago earlier in the day to be with his pregnant wife, returned back to St. Louis and was in the lineup.
The last time these Central Division rivals met in the playoffs, the Blues also had home-ice advantage and won the first two games at Scottrade Center.
That was quickly followed by four straight Blackhawks wins as the Blues were swept right out of the playoffs, with two of the Chicago wins coming in overtime.
The series was also memorable for Seabrook’s huge hit on Blues captain David Backes that led to a three-game suspension. Backes sat out two games.
Crawford has backstopped the Blackhawks to two of their previous three Stanley Cup championships and compiled a 1.98 goals-against average and .935 save percentage in the 2014 playoff series win over the Blues.
The Blackhawks are trying to become the first NHL to repeat as Stanley Cup champions since the Detroit Red Wings won back-to-back titles in 1997 and 1998.