Three unanswered Blues goals in the third period–two from Russian sniper Vladimir Tarasenko–shot down the Blackhawks’ chance to take two points away from Busch Stadium.

The Blackhawks, who now have lost five of their last six games, now remain atop the division and conference with 51 points. They’re closely followed by the Wild (50) and, now, the Blues (45). They’re now 1-4 in outdoor games.

Coach Joel Quennville talked about the breakdown Monday.

Here we’re in a 1-1 game, had a couple decent looks on the power play, had a good forecheck and had the puck and it’s in our net and a quick transition on the third one. So it wasn’t like we weren’t in the game, Corey [Crawford] kept us in the game as well, but it certainly, it was disappointing that you’re there, you’re looking to get a point, and hopefully, you can get two.

After Saturday’s practice, Blackhawks Captain Jonathan Toews emphasized the importance of an early lead as the team strives to maintain first in the division with a quickly-creeping Wild team on their tails.

“We need those points. We know coming into St. Louis that they play well with their fans. We’ll be ready. We’ll try to get a good start and get the lead. We’d much rather start hard and play with a lead.”

That’s exactly what they did. Unfortunately, things didn’t go so well on the follow-through. The Blues scored once in the otherwise tight second period, but added another three goals to finish the third.

At 1:02 into the game, Michal Kempny scored (his second NHL goal in as many games and the second-fastest in outdoor game history) with a hard one-timer from the left point, served by Artemi Panarin and Duncan Keith and screened by Artem Anisimov.

 

 

kempny-goal

 

Blues Coach Ken Hitchcock told media before the game that he was less interested in puck possession time and more focused on chip-ins and a physical presence against the Hawks.  However, the Blues closed outshot the Hawks 35-23. Then, they definitely showed their physicality by outhitting the Hawks 25-18, including a dangerous boarding by Robby Fabbri as the Blackhawks lost sight of their play.

At 7:45 into the second, Patrik Berglund scored the game-tying goal, assisted by Jay Bouwmeester and Alexander Steen.

 

 

 

“I thought it was a close game there, 1-1. We did a lot of good things and tried to make different plays,” Keith said.

In the third period, though, the game took a drastic turn.

A heartbreaking defensive blip gave Tarasenko the go-ahead goal.

 

 


Set in prime position to stop the goal, Niklas Hjalmarsson instead took Tarasenko’s shot off his foot and past Crawford.

“I thought we played really good the first period. We came out good today, had a decent second, then we got away from the gameplan a little bit–and I scored a goal in our own net.”

Fabbri assisted on the goal at 12:05 in the third.

“We kind of had a breakdown,” Keith said. “He played it smart, Hjammer [Hjalmarsson] did. Those things just happen.

“We got away from our game and from keeping it simple. It comes down to sticking to the game plan.”

Just under two minutes later, Tarasenko went top-shelf across the net on a play set up by Lehtera and Fabbri.

 

 


And, finally, Alexander Steen sealed the game for the Blues with a long-toss empty-netter with 1:14 remaining.

 

 


After all the concerns over weather and ice conditions, coaches and players said the ice was great.

“The ice surface was really good,” Hjalmarsson said. “It’s probably better than the last game in Carolina.”

Hitchcock was pleased with all aspects of the game:

I felt we played great today. I thought we ground on them hard, I thought we did a great job in getting pucks deep. I thought we managed the game really well. I thought we played really well. This is the same way we played against Philadelphia, and the way we played for the first half of the game against Nashville. I thought we played a really smart, sound hockey game and, quite frankly, deserved to win.

And, of course, Tarasenko, who tallied two in 1:35, was ecstatic after his first Winter Classic experience:

“I don’t think you can rank this more. It was just different. A different experience than what we have, maybe once in a lifetime, and there is no way to rank it.

“It’s just to say that it’s really cool and I was really happy to win tonight, especially to make all our Blues fans happy here.”

The Blackhawks are focused on moving forward, and anxiously awaiting Marian Hossa‘s return to the lineup–with Keith and Hjalmarsson, among others, praising the veteran’s presence on and off the ice. They said Hossa has great offensive and defensive puck control and is a leader in the locker room.

“We all know how big a part he is of this team. He’s played as good [this year] as any season even if he’s getting up there,” Hjalmarsson said. “It’ll be a big boost for us when he comes back.”

As for dropping the recent slump, the team agrees it’s about getting back to their own style of play.

From Hjalmarsson:

“This is a veteran group. We know what it takes to win games. We’re not too down. We need to do some small things. I think we’ll be back on the winning track.”

Hossa has been skating in Chicago and will likely return to the lineup soon.

The Blackhawks host the Buffalo Sabres at 7:30 p.m. CT Thursday.

Carly Mullady grew up needing to know more about icing than its deliciousness on cupcakes. She's the lone daughter of four children, with a father who was among the last cut from the Midwest tryouts for the 1980 Miracle on Ice Olympic team. And she knows very little matches the thrill that happens from puck-drop to handshakes. A rink didn’t return to her hometown until she was gone, but she’s been able to see two younger brothers on the ice. She's their feistiest fan. Her other hockey loyalty lies with the Blackhawks--whether it's meant seeing games for $8 with student IDs when the Madhouse didn’t have much of a temper at all, or dancing to Chelsea Dagger at standing room only--there’s something magical about a roaring anthem, the Indianhead sweater, and the Original Six. A former journalist and current editor, she carries a penchant for excitement (and maybe even fighting) with a resume that includes working for Chicago-area newspapers, and television, including The Jerry Springer Show, as well as NBCUniversal in New York. After East Coast living and a return to the Chicago area, the new Mrs. is giving Graceland a go with her Southern Gent, who now shares her adoration of the game, and their rescue dog, Doc Holliday. Other interests include Cubs, Bears, Illini, Crimson Tide, Pumpkin Spice Lattes, baking a mean pineapple upside-down cake, Kate Spade accessories, and a properly coordinated cardigan for every ensemble.

1 COMMENT

Leave a Reply