Ty Conklin and the Blues defense just could not stop the Blackhawk onslaught Tuesday night, despite an early third period comeback.
The Blackhawks, who came in to the game with a 13-11-2 record, opened up the scoring Tuesday when forward Jeremy Morin swarmed Blues’ defenseman Nikita Nikitin behind his net, forcing a sloppy pass that was cut off by Patrick Sharp of Chicago. He slid it to Tomas Kopecky, who cannot be loved by many as he is also a former Red Wing. He blasted it past Conklin for the 1-0 lead at 4:38 of the first period.
That wasn’t the only offense in the first though. St. Louis had an answer for the Hawks, when David Backes carried the puck into the offensive zone and slid it to line-mate Vladimir Sobotka. With an extreme amount of patience, Sobotka carried it low and threw it in front, as Patrik Berglund was there to bang in the pass for his sixth of the season and the 1-1 tie at 16:59.
Chicago wasn’t done though. With just .56 left in the first, Blues defenseman Barret Jackman got caught up ice and left Alex Pietrangelo alone on a 2-on-1. Kopecky went wide and drew Pietrangelo over, who played it right with taking away the passing lane. But Sharp, the veteran goal-scorer, carried the puck in deep and head-faked Conklin to slide it into the partially-open net to take the 2-1 lead into the locker room. It was Sharp’s 16th of the season.
The most disturbing part of the game was when the ghost of Roman Turek appeared on the ice. Okay, he’s not dead, but you know what I’m saying. On the power-play, Jeremy Morin shot the puck in and it took a strange bounce of the top of the glass. Ty Conklin was behind the net to cradle the puck, but it bounced in front of the net to a waiting Troy Brouwer, who poked it into the open cage for his fifth of the season and the 3-1 Blackhawks lead at 2:46 of the second period.
It wouldn’t be the only Blackhawk power-play goal though. Patrick Kane found captain Jonathan Toews at the side of the net. The young goal-scorer walked it in front and found a hole in Conklin’s pads to give the Blackhawks a 4-1 lead. Not a spectacular goal, but Toews will take it for his tenth of the season.
The Blackhawks kept making the Blues look silly. At 11:07 of the second, Viktor Stalberg circled the net while the Blues stood still. Patrick Kane parked in front of Conklin and put in an easy goal, as Blues defensemen Erik Johnson and Eric Brewer seemed to forget that there was a game going on. It was also Kane’s tenth of the season.
The Blues captain did make up for his mistake though. There was a delayed call coming against the Blackhawks, and the Blues maintained possession in the Hawks’ offensive zone. Brewer received the puck from Vladimir Sobotka at the point and took a wrist shot through multiple bodies in front and beat Blackhawks goaltender Corey Crawford top-shelf for his third of the season.
The second period ended with the Blackhawks dominating the Blues on the scoreboard, 5-2. Shots were fairly even at 15-14 Blackhawks.
Alex Pietrangelo had the right idea to start the third; get a quick goal and get the game closer. Vladimir Sobotka got his third point of the night as he glided the puck to teammate Patrik Berglund, who let it go past to his waiting teammate Pietrangelo. The 20-year old wound up and took a hard shot that blew past every player between him and the net, beating Crawford over his right shoulder to cut the lead to 5-3 with 16:43 left to play in regulation. Backes also received an assist on the goal, giving him his third assist of the night on Pietrangelo’s second goal of the season.
The Blues were not done there. Erik Johnson skated the puck up the middle and got the puck to the wing to a waiting Brad Boyes. Boyes threw it to the net, where Alex Steen and Johnson jammed away at the puck. After a mad scramble, Boyes found it and blew it past Crawford for his sixth of the season at 6:02. It cut the Blackhawks’ lead to just one goal.
On yet another Blues defensive breakdown, Dave Bolland broke free from the pack and came in on Conklin. The veteran net-minder did his job; he followed Bolland as he went left-to-right and shot it in close. Conklin sprawled across the crease to make a huge toe-save and to keep the Blackhawks’ lead at one with about 13:00 left.
But the shady Blues defensive play cost them yet another goal late in the third. Stalberg got a shot from the left face-off circle that eluded Conklin and rang off the post. The puck bounced to the other side of the net, where Patrick Kane stuffed it into the empty net for his second of the game and his eleventh of the season. Eric Brewer stood next to Kane and watched the play unfold. He may as well have been sitting in the stands and cheering for Kane to get the goal.
The Blues Captain continued his horrible play just a few minutes later, after Andy McDonald took a 2:00 boarding penalty. A shot from Duncan Keith at the point got through the slot, as Tomas Kopecky was there to slide it in front to a streaking Jonathan Toews, who tapped in his second of the game and eleventh of the season. Brewer watched as he stood between the two Blackhawks in front, but did nothing to help his goaltender.
Alex Pietrangelo did not give up after the two goals though. He took yet another hard shot from the point that found a deflection off of David Backes’ stick to make it 7-5 to give the Blues a fighting chance. Sadly, that was all the Blues could muster. Head Coach Davis Payne seemed happy with the Blues' attempt at a comeback, but was realistic in thinking that the Blues played a great overall game.
"Even with the deficit we were going to continue to allow the system to work," Payne said after the loss. "We were a little more aggressive on the walls, but beyond that it was plays going to the net. We got some tips. We got some traffic and it gave us a chance. We obviously needed to play a little bit longer before we gave up that sixth one."Conklin, who did not have his best night, made 17 saves on 24 shots and his counterpart, Corey Crawford, made 21 saves on 26 shots.
The Blues will take the ice tomorrow night in St. Louis, who will be looking to snap their three-game losing streak. They will be welcoming in Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals to Scottrade Center. Puck drop will be at 7:00. Tickets are still available for the contest.