Steen gives Blues win over Hawks in triple-OT thriller
St. Louis Blues forward Jaden Schwartz (9) is congratulated after scoring a goal against the Chicago Blackhawks during Game 1 of the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs at the Scottrade Center. (Scott Rovak/USA TODAY Sports)
Now that's a thrilling way to break a losing skid.
The St. Louis Blues know full well to be the best, they have to beat the best, and they did it in dramatic fashion Thursday night to kick off their opening round Stanley Cup playoff series.
Alex Steen was the hero by scoring 26 seconds into the third overtime in a 4-3 Blues victory over the defending NHL champion Chicago Blackhawks.
"Steener is not going to miss it from the ladies tee there," said Blues head coach and avid golfer Ken Hitchcock. "He's not going to miss that. For a 3-3 hockey game, man, there were a lot of scoring chances, or it felt like there were a lot of scoring chances."
"It's a big goal. It's fun. It's big to get off to a 1-0 start," said Steen after he ended the longest game in Blues history.
The Blues, who played like a Cup contender nearly the entire season, went into the playoffs on six-game losing skid. It not only cost them top spot in the Central Division but set them up to face a potent Blackhawks team looking for their third championship in five years.
That disappointing finish to the regular season was washed away with the Game 1 victory.
"We needed it for confidence," said Blues goalie Ryan Miller. "I think we needed it to show that stretch we had to finish the season is behind us.
"The guys needed this, but we have to understand they're a very talented team. It took us a hard-fought game to squeeze out a victory. They've got a ton of talent, and they've got the experience of winning."
The last 'Hawks game to hit triple-overtime was in the first game of last year's Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins.
Game 2 of the best-of-seven affair is Saturday afternoon in St. Louis (1 p.m., CBC).
For some reason, the opening games in most every NHL series this year haven't been short on goals.
This one continued the trend before the standing-room only crowd of 19,423 fans at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis.
Johnny Oduya, Brent Seabrook and Patrick Kane scored for the 'Hawks while Adam Cracknell and Vladimir Tarsenko, who was out for the final month due to a hand injury, replied for the Blues in a wild opening frame.
From there, things settled down ( "you had your typical Blues-Blackhawks game after that," Steen said).
Just as it looked like the goal from Kane, who also missed the final month, would be the difference, Jaden Schwartz tied the game with less than two minutes left in regulation.
"Tired like everybody else," Schwartz said of his status after the game. "It's a great feeling, though, when you get that win. It makes you feel like it was worth it. We really stuck together and stuck to the gameplan, no matter how tired we were. We played as a team and got rewarded."
And eventually they received the kind of goaltending they needed from Miller.
Miller, whose acquisition by the Blues from the Buffalo Sabres before the NHL's trade deadline was expected to be the final piece that put them over the top, couldn't be blamed for the deficit per se.
But after the first three goals he surrendered, he needed to elevate his game.
He did just that with a couple of clutch saves early in the second period to prevent the 'Hawks from pulling away and then by denying Patrick Sharp on an overtime breakaway.
"I had to enter the battle at some time," said Miller, who made 39 saves. "They had a couple nice shots in the first. I didn't set up the breakaway on Kane very well, as you might have seen. I thought I could get myself an advantage, and it totally backfired.
"I had to come out and battle, and luckily, I got hold of a few."
And that left the 'Hawks shaking their heads.
"It's not fun to lose those ones," said 'Hawks captain Jonathan Toews. "When you go the length of a game like that you want to find a way to win. It's disappointing, but it's a long series.
"I guess it's one of those first games that could go either way. We'll find a way to put it behind us, and we'll be even better in the next game."
'Hawks goalie Corey Crawford was the busier of the two netminders, but oddly enough, his biggest highlight-reel saves came in the second period during which he saw only three shots. First, he made a diving save on Tarasenko and then recovered from being out of position to take away a golden chance for Steve Ott.
Crawford, who stopped 48 shots, also has lucky stars to thank after both Derek Roy and Maxim Lapierre rang shots off the posts.