(Photo Courtesy: Associated Press – Nam Y. Huh)
That’s all that separates the St. Louis Blues from exorcising their demons and getting past the Chicago Blackhawks after a 4-3 victory as they take a 3-1 series lead.
In net, Brian Elliott once again stood tall stopping 39 of 42 shots faced, while Corey Crawford turned aside 17 shots while letting four past.
Vladamir Tarasenko starred for the Blues with a pair of goals while Alexander Steen tallied a goal and assist himself.
Special teams were a big story for both teams as they combined for three power play goals and a fourth goal that expired just seconds after the Blues killed a penalty.
In the first period, Elliott once again stood tall stopping 14 shots, with a bit of luck along the way.
Artemi Panarin one timed a shot from the left side. Elliott squeezed the pads as the puck trickled over the right pad. The puck rolled on edge, but after video review, the officials ruled the puck did not cross the goal line keeping the game scoreless midway through the first period.
The Blues got a quality chance to break the scoreless game later in the period as Jori Lehtera went in on the forecheck. Lehtera fought off two Blackhawks defenders, including Brent Seabrook, along the end boards to come away with the puck and find Tarasenko in front of the net. After the pass, Seabrook floated across the front of the net and inadvertently screened Crawford on Tarasenko’s shot past the glove.
Tarasenko’s second goal of the series gave the Blues a 1-0 lead with 5:58 left in the first period. The goal also marked Tarasenko’s 12th goal in 17 playoff games.
Chicago bounced back in the second period.
As the Blues killed off a penalty, Marian Hossa circled out from the sideboards toward the top of the circle and took a wrist shot on net. Andrew Shaw provided the screen as the puck hit his jersey before finding the back of the net tying the game 1-1 with 10:48 left in the second period.
About two minutes later, the rivalry intensified as Robby Fabbri took a shot from the slot in on Crawford. Crawford kicked the shot in front as Fabbri collected the rebound and tried to stuff it home. Crawford shut down the second opportunity as Jonathan Toews checked Fabbri into Crawford. Fabbri fell toward the corner, but the collision angered Crawford. Crawford left his net and punched Fabbri in the face instigating a full-ice brawl between the two teams. After the dust settled and a questionable call, the officials gave the Blackhawks a power play despite the instigation coming from Crawford.
On the power play, Chicago found its first lead of the game.
Toews handled the puck at the point and fed the puck low to Patrick Kane along the goal line. Kane slid the puck to Shaw who tried to stuff it home on Elliott. Elliott made the first stop, but the rebound bounced to his right where Duncan Keith, as he glided down from his point, put a shot over Elliott’s shoulder making it 2-1 with 6:51 left in the period.
Despite the surge from the Blackhawks, the Blues responded, led by their leading goal scorer.
With the man advantage, Kevin Shattenkirk passed across the blue line to Steen. Steen quickly fed Tarasenko by the dot. Tarasenko pivoted and fired past Crawford for his second goal of the game with 2:29 left in the period to knot things up at two. The goal also brought Tarasenko’s total to 13 goals in 17 career playoff games.
In the third period, the Blues regained control.
Once again on the man advantage, Shattenkirk attempted a centering pass to David Backes in the slot. The puck was swept away but bounced right to the blade of Jaden Schwartz who fired home the go-ahead goal 1:36 into the period.
The Blues looked to add to their lead later in the period. Trevor van Riemsdyk held the puck in his neutral zone attempting to make a pass to his defensive partner. Steen read the play and intercepted the pass springing himself on a breakaway. Steen fired over the glove of Crawford as he went to the ice, making it 4-2 with just over 15 minutes remaining in the game.
Chicago responded late in the period with a goal by Keith that deflected off the stick of Tarasenko high over Elliott, but the goal was not enough to complete the comeback.
The next game is a potential series-clinching matchup between the two teams as they head back to the Scottrade Center. Game five is set for Thursday, April 21 at 8:30 p.m.