A terrific defensive battle ended with a tough goal in overtime and the St. Louis Blues escaped with a Game One victory.
David Backes banked a shot in off Trevor van Riemsdyk to win the game, but shots on goal were hard to come by the the home team. The Blues managed only 16 shots in regulation – two in the third period – but they got the one that mattered.
The Blues penalty kill was the story, handling four Blackhawks power plays in regulation and another only seven seconds into overtime. St. Louis had four power plays of their own, one that carried over to start the second period and another that carried into the third. But the Blackhawks improved power play was up to the task.
Three Blackhawks – Brent Seabrook (30:35), van Riemsdyk (28:12) and Niklas Hjalmarsson (28:11) – played heavy minutes on the blue line without Duncan Keith in the lineup. But they had to with the limited roster Chicago had to work with on the back end.
Viktor Svedberg, one of three rookie defensemen to dress for the Hawks, saw action with Keith finishing his suspension and had a rough night. He coughed up the puck on a number of occasions and getting leveled by Troy Brouwer. Eric Gustafsson skated 14:18 and saw a good amount of power play time (3:37).
Michal Rozsival and Hjalmarsson each had a tough time getting to the bench during the game. Hjalmarsson blocked a shot in the first period and struggled to stay on the ice during a first period penalty kill, and Rozsival got run over by Robby Fabbri and spent a few minutes in the room before returning. Hjalmarsson led Chicago with five blocked shots.
Andrew Ladd was credited with three shots on net a team-leading eight hits in his return to postseason hockey. Jonathan Toews led the Hawks with seven shots on net and Marian Hossa added five shots to four blocked shots as Chicago’s top line had a good, active night. There weren’t able to beat Brian Elliott, however.
Elliott had a terrific game, especially in the third period and overtime. He made 35 saves to secure the shutout, and was easily the best player in the game for St. Louis.
The Hawks’ high-flying second line was subdued as well. Patrick Kane (four shots on net) and Artemi Panarin (five) weren’t able to capitalize on a number of good chances, and Artem Anisimov was the Blackhawks best player at the dot; he won 10 of 18 faceoffs in the game.
Andrew Shaw returned from injury but there are obvious questions about his health. He skated only 13:30 and saw only 93 seconds of power play time.
Brandon Mashinter skated only 7:27 and took a brutal penalty at the end of the second period. Coach Joel Quenneville continues to run him out there, but his performance on Wednesday night could be enough for Quenneville to consider Richard Panik or Dale Weise in Game Two.
Crawford made 17 saves in 69:04 and looked more comfortable than he did in the regular season finale.
Game Two is Friday night, and Keith will return to the Blackhawks lineup.