ST. LOUIS — Patrick Kane was slamming his stick in frustration, and Artemi Panarin was looking bewildered as St. Louis goaltender Jake Allen made spectacular save after spectacular save on Wednesday night. But the Blackhawks — less than two minutes away from losing in regulation after leading through two periods for the first time since the 2013-14 season — just kept coming.
And with just 77 seconds left, Panarin finally broke through, his one-timer in the slot off a Jonathan Toews feed sending the game to overtime and salvaging a crucial point in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Blues. Kevin Shattenkirk scored in the sixth round of the shootout, and Teuvo Teravainen hit the post to give the Blues the win.
It was fast, it was physical, and it was a whole lot of fun. And it was a possible first-round playoff preview, if the Stars can stave off the Hawks, who moved back into a tie with them for first place with the point. The Blues are now one point back. The Hawks visit Dallas on Friday night.
Both goalies were terrific, with Corey Crawford making 15 of his 28 saves in the second period alone, and Allen (33 saves) making a spectacular diving paddle save on Kane late in the first, a sprawling stop on Panarin in the third, and another on Kane in the third.
“Their goaltender played well, they played well defensively,” Toews said. “It’s one of those games where we didn’t quite get the bounces offensively, and it ended up costing us that we couldn’t kill those penalties off in the third.”
Indeed, in a showdown of the league’s top-ranked power play (Hawks) and the league’s top-ranked penalty kill (Blues), it was the other units that made the difference.
The Blues — who were shut out by Crawford the last time these teams met — finally broke through at 8:46 of the third, as David Backes tipped in a Kevin Shattenkirk shot from the blue line just 10 seconds after the Hawks took a too-many men penalty. Less than four minutes later, Ehrhoff was whistled for holding — the Hawks’ third penalty in less than seven minutes — and Troy Brouwer banged home the go-ahead goal on the ensuing power play.
The Hawks entered the game with the league’s 23rd-ranked penalty kill, but were coming off a strong effort against Detroit.
“The majority of the game, we played pretty well,” Toews said. “We just need those timely penalty kills in the third and we didn’t get them. We’ve got to be better.”
The Blues took three penalties in the first, including a five-minute charging major on Ryan Reaves (who also got a game misconduct) for a huge hit on Christian Ehrhoff, one that the league’s department of player safety is taking a long look at. The Blues held firm on the first two kills, but couldn’t escape the major, as Andrew Ladd deflected a Teravainen shot past Allen for a 1-0 lead at 1:14 of the second period.
That the Blues are even in the playoff picture, let alone fighting for the Central Division title, is quite an achievement. The Blues have lost more than 240 man-games to injury — key players, too.
“Everybody talks about ‘next man up’ and all that stuff, but we played with no memory, and we learned to survive early,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. “You just become numb after a while.”
The Hawks have been on the opposite end of the spectrum this season, losing 90 man-games to injury, the second-fewest in the league. So the Hawks couldn’t complain much when Marian Hossa decided after Wednesday’s morning skate that he needed another couple of days before he was ready to return from the leg injury that has kept him out since Feb. 13.
Even Wednesday’s game, the Hawks were fortunate. Christian Ehrhoff, who has a history of concussions, left the game after the Reaves hit, but returned for the second period. And Jonathan Toews got a scare in the second period when Jaden Schwartz ran him into the boards just as the door to the Blues bench opened. Toews briefly left the game with a sore hip flexor, but returned shortly after. Tomas Fleischmann appeared to hurt his wrist in the third, but didn’t miss any time.
“We’ve been fortunate that they haven’t been severe ones,” Andrew Desjardins said. “It’s different every year. It’s just one of those things where it can happen at any time. So I think we’ve been a little bit fortunate, for sure.”