It’s always nice when the Cardinals and Blues win.
It’s even better when they both win on the same night.
One game showed the fight and desire a once beaten down and injured team had as they long for a goal over 50 years in the making. While the other game was a dominant performance by one of the best pitchers in the game and a young, fresh lineup.
On the east coast, Adam Wainwright and the Cardinals took on the Washington Nationals in a battle between teams that have been heavily hyped in the offseason.
Wainwright threw a two-hitter, and got two base hits in an 8-0 Cardinals’ victory.
In the first inning, Wainwright allowed an infield single by Ian Desmond. It wasn’t until the ninth inning when he would allow another hit. With eight strikeouts and only three walks, he showed why he is one of the best pitchers in the game. It was his seventh career shutout, and 17th complete game.
But pitching wasn’t the only reason the Redbirds won. The bats came alive and also took advantage of four fielding errors on Washington’s part, to get eight runs on 14 hits. Matt Adams drove in three of the runs, Matt Holliday had two RBI’s, and every batter in the starting lineup (including Wainwright) had at least one hit, something that occurred last week against the Cubs.
With the win, the Cardinals’ record improves to 10-6 and a tie with the Brewers for first in the NL Central. The Nationals dropped to 9-7 on the year.
But that wasn’t the only game of the evening.
Back in St. Louis, in front of over 19,000 strong, the Blues took on one of their most heated rivals: the defending champion Chicago Blackhawks.
And it was a classic.
In the first period, it became an offensive shootout, which started when the Blues’ Adam Cracknell scored his first ever playoff goal. Minutes later, Johnny Oduya chipped a shot past the back of the net, behind Ryan Miller to tie the game at 1. And right after that, Brent Seabrook was able to get a power play goal past Miller as well. Trailing 2-1, Vladimir Tarasenko, who missed the last 15 games with a hand injury, was able to notch the game at two a piece.
But Patrick Kane would not let the period end in a tie. With around two minutes left, he fired a shot into the net to give the Blackhawks a 3-2 lead after one period.
The next two periods became a goalie battle between Ryan Miller and Corey Crawford. Save after save, close call after close call, the Blues and Blackhawks traded shots back and forth for the next hour.
As the third period had begun to wind down, with the Blackhawks up 3-2, the Blues needed a momentum-changing goal.
And they got it.
Jaden Schwartz launched the puck right past Crawford to tie the game with a mere two minutes left, as the Scottrade Center erupted in cheers. The Blues showed they would not go down without a fight.
The overtime periods featured heart-wrenching shots by both teams, and Crawford made multiple unreal saves that are surely to be on the playoff highlight reels.
Both goalies kept their teams alive, despite constant pressure. But the Blues suddenly seemed to have momentum shift to their side, giving Crawford everything they had in them.
It took not one, not two, but THREE overtimes.
And in the third overtime, 26 seconds in, Alexander Steen chipped in a shot past Crawford, and finally ended the longest game in Blues’ history.
With the 4-3 victory, the St. Louis Blues lead the series 1-0. And while they still have to win three more to advance, this instant classic between rivals prove that the Blues’ team out there on the ice, is not the same team that lost their last six games. Momentum is on their side, and they have done very well against the Blackhawks all season long.
Game 1 showed what playoff hockey is all about. Physical play from two teams who flat out dislike each other from two cities that know a thing or two about intense rivalries.
Game 2 of the playoffs is tomorrow night, while the Cardinals play tonight, with Michael Wacha on the mound.