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Blackhawks Win Series; St. Louis Sings The Blues

By Chuck Sudo in News on Apr 28, 2014 1:30PM

The hole the Blackhawks found themselves in after the first two games of their opening round playoff series against the St. Louis Blues didn’t seem as dire as trailing 3-1 to Detroit in last year’s playoffs yet the way the defending Stanley Cup champions rallied and dispatched of the Blues may have been even more impressive. Sunday’s 5-1 win at the United Center was an emphatic statement the Hawks won’t go down without a fight and the road to the Stanley Cup still rolls through Chicago.

As with every other game in this series, the Hawks had to work for this win. St. Louis came out of the opening puck drop dictating the tempo with their brand of physical-bordering-on-dirty play but Bryan Bickell staked Chicago to a 1-0 lead with a tip-in, assisted by Duncan Keith and the returning Brent Seabrook. But St. Louis continued dictating the pace of the game and tied the game with 3:32 remaining in the period on a slapshot by T.J. Oshie.

The Blues increased the pressure on the Hawks and goalie Corey Crawford in the second period as they goaded Chicago into a series of tacky penalties and spent much of the middle 20 minutes of the game on the power play. But Crawford, as he has since the series returned to Chicago for Games 3 and 4, proved resilient and turned away all of the Blues’ 17 shots in the period. The Hawks only managed three shots on goal in the second period.

After two periods St. Louis outshot the Blackhawks 28-11 but it was Chicago who entered the third period with a renewed sense of urgency. Jonathan Toews ended the 1-1 deadlock with power play goal 44 seconds into the final period and opened the floodgates against Blues goalie Ryan Miller.

Patrick Sharp, who had a terrible series through Sunday, scored 2:01 into the period. Andrew Shaw and Duncan Keith added insurance goals as the Hawks outshot St. Louis 18-6 in the final 20 minutes.

Crawford ended the game with 35 saves and the Blackhawks killed six St. Louis power play opportunities. The Hawks penalty kill was one of the keys to this series as St. Louis was 2-for 29 on the power play in the six games, with Crawford making some amazing saves in that span. Most important, the sense of urgency that seemed lacking in the late stages of the regular season and first two games of this series returned for the Hawks. Keith, who had three assists in addition to his goal, said after the game.

"We knew those first two games could've gone either way and we knew that we didn't play our best hockey," said Keith, who matched his career high for points in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. "It's a seven-game series for a reason. We've been through enough playoff series to realize that. It's not a sprint. It's a marathon."

The Blackhawks now face the winner of the Colorado-Minnesota series. The Avalanche lead that series three games to two with Game 6 tonight in Minnesota.