Blackhawks top Blues on Toews' OT breakaway
April 26, 2014INDIANA SPORTS PAGE
NHL PRESS RELEASE
ST. LOUIS -- The Chicago Blackhawks knew they'd have to win at least one game at Scottrade Center to have a chance to advance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. To get it, the Blackhawks figured they'd have to create at least one lucky break for themselves at a crucial moment.
Done and done, finally.
Duncan Keith's zone-clearing attempt sprung Jonathan Toews for a red-line-in breakaway goal in 7:36 into overtime that gave Chicago a 3-2 victory against the St. Louis Blues on Friday and a 3-2 lead in the best-of-7 Western Conference First Round series.
The Blackhawks have won three games in a row, including two straight in overtime, since blowing late leads and losing Games 1 and 2 in overtime. They have a chance to close out St. Louis in Game 6 on Sunday at United Center (3 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS).
"It just happened so fast," Toews said. "I jumped on the ice and got the puck and it just came right to me and it happened to go in. The celebration -- just wasn't sure if it was real or not, it happened so quick."
The Blues are in danger of having history repeat itself in eerily similar and depressing fashion. They took a 2-0 series lead with back-to-back home wins against the Los Angeles Kings in the first round last year, but dropped the next four games to lose the series.
Just like against the Blackhawks in this series, the Blues lost to the Kings 4-3 in Game 4 and 3-2 in overtime in Game 5. They lost 2-1 to L.A. in Game 6.
"What's pouting gonna do?" Blues forward Alexander Steen said. "You just get back on the horse. It's a game. You have to win four. They have three, we have two. Off to Chicago we go. See you there."
Chicago won in St. Louis for the first time since April 14, 2013 -- but for the fourth straight time at Scottrade Center, dating back to the regular season, the Blackhawks had a lead entering the third period and couldn't hold it.
The script was different this time.
Toews had just come on for a line change and was heading back toward the Blackhawks' zone when Keith flung the puck up the ice. It hit Andrew Shaw's shin pad and found Toews, who went in alone, deked to his backhand and got his shot around Blues goalie Ryan Miller (27 saves).
"I'm trying to get the puck out of the zone and all of a sudden it lands on his stick, couldn't believe it," Keith said. "So I was pretty happy seeing that. If we were to have a guy on the breakaway it would be him. He's pretty clutch when it comes to that. Nice goal."
Prior to Toews getting the puck, Blues defenseman Roman Polak went off for what turned out to be an ill-timed line change. Instead of having a right-side defenseman back with Toews, Jay Bouwmeester had to race onto the ice and couldn't catch up. Toews was also behind Jordan Leopold when he got the puck.
"It seems against a team that's got this type of finish you make a big error you pay for it," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "That's what happened in this series. We've played extremely hard, at times dominated, playing to our potential, playing to our structure, but when we make an error like on the first goal and on the third goal we pay for it. That's what's happening. We're paying for our mistakes. They've got people who know how to finish and they're making us pay for it."
Game 5 was the fourth overtime game of the series, marking only the fifth time in Stanley Cup Playoffs history that at least four of the first five games of a series have gone to overtime, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
"I don't see anything changing," Hitchcock he said. "We're going to have tremendous resolve, as will they. We're going to have to go earn a victory. We would have had to win two games anyway to win this series. Now we have to win them in Chicago and in our building, but it's very doable."
The Blues had chances to win Game 5 before Keith found Toews for the breakaway. They had several odd-man rushes in the third period, but capitalized on just one, defenseman Alex Pietrangelo's game-tying goal with 18:18 remaining in regulation off a 2-on-1 with forward Jaden Schwartz.
T.J. Oshie, who scored a game-tying goal at 11:04 of the second period, had a chance off a 2-on-1 roughly eight minutes after Pietrangelo scored, but Chicago goalie Corey Crawford (27 saves) got across to make a diving save.
Crawford also came out to challenge and make a save on defenseman Barret Jackman's slap shot from inside the right circle 6:49 into overtime.
There were other chances too, such as when Oshie misfired on an open look off a turnover from between the hash marks at 15:50 of the second period. Blackhawks forward Ben Smith scored his first goal of the series 90 seconds later to give Chicago a 2-1 lead going into the third period.
Pietrangelo had a chance to score on a 2-on-1 with Oshie with one minute left in the first period, but Crawford made the save, allowing Marian Hossa's goal less than three minutes earlier to stand up as the only one in the opening period.
St. Louis also had two power play chances early in the first period, but managed just one shot on goal. Its power play is 2-for-23 in the series.
"We had plenty of chances to take bigger leads and didn't and it cost us," Steen said. "If you want to win in the playoffs you have to score on your chances."
Chicago scored on its break, one that Hitchcock called "lucky" and Chicago coach Joel Quenneville termed "fortunate."
The Blackhawks knew all along that they'd have to get one to beat the Blues at Scottrade Center. They gave away chances to win Games 1 and 2. If it didn't happen in Game 5, they might not have had another opportunity.
"When it comes down to it there's chances on both sides in an overtime period, and that's four out of five games that have gone to overtime," Toews said. "You think sometimes it is about bounces, but for us it's just about belief and working for those bounces and hopefully we get lucky."