ST. LOUIS | The Blackhawks were on the verge of a dramatic, come-from-behind win on Saturday. But instead, a few stunning moments later, they were coming to grips with a second consecutive devastating 4-3 loss to the Blues.
And they may absorb yet another loss before the teams meet in Chicago for Game 3 Monday in the Western Conference quarterfinals. It seems possible – if not probable – Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook will be disciplined for his hit on David Backes late in the third period. Even Seabrook looked resigned to the idea he would be hearing from the NHL’s department of player safety.
"I was just tying to make a play on Backes," Seabrook said. “I was coming down the wall and I just tried to finish my hit. We’ll see what happens.
“I feel bad, seeing a guy like that on the ice. I’ve been there myself. I wasn’t trying to target his head or do anything like that. It doesn’t feel good to see a player like that lying there like that. It wasn’t my intent.”
The hit was a focal point in the tops-turvy outcome. The incident happened with four minutes 51 seconds remaining in what promised to be a rejuvenating win for the reigning Stanley Cup champions. Trailing 2-0 after the first period, the Blackhawks scored three unanswered goals in a span of about 10 minutes, starting late in the second period and continuing early in the third.
First, Duncan Keith’s shot sailed through a screen and beat netminder Ryan Miller with 2:35 to go in the second. The Blues still led 2-1, but momentum shifted.
Then, just under five minutes into the third, Seabrook stepped into a shot that appeared to ding Chris Porter as it zoomed over Miller’s shoulder, tying the game 2-2. Less than two minutes later, the Blackhawks got another divine deflection when Michal Rozsival’s shot hit Backes and knuckled by Miller. Just like that, the Blackhawks led 3-2 with 13:22 remaining.
All of a sudden, the visitors had the tables turned on Thursday night’s demoralizing, triple-overtime loss. All of sudden, their goal to win one game in St. Louis was there in the palms of their sweaty gloves. Then came the hit.
With the desperate Blues just over a minute into a fledgling power play, with 4:51 remaining on the clock, Seabrook plowed into Backes’ head along the boards. The Blues captain laid crumpled on the ice as players converged. After officials calmed things down, Seabrook got a five-minute major and a game-misconduct.
“I didn’t know what happened,” said Seabrook, who has two goals in the series. “I looked around. The refs didn’t have their arm up for a penalty and then I saw David (Backes) sitting there, and that’s tough to see. I don’t know what else to really tell ya. I hope he’s doing OK, that’s all I can say.”
The Blues had 46 seconds of a 5-on-3 advantage, which dissipated into an extended 5-on-4. Chicago snuffed out all of it, all but 6.4 seconds. That’s when, with Miller pulled for an extra attacker, Vladimir Tarasenko scored to make it 3-3.
It was deja tie all over again. In Game 1, Chicago yielded a goal to Jaden Schwartz with 1:45 to play in regulation to knot the score, then lost 4-3 in three overtimes. This time, the extra time only lasted 5:50. The Blues dominated the first overtime before Barret Jackman’s shot trickled through goaltender Corey Crawford’s pads.
“It was a little bit of a screen but it went straight through,” Crawford said. “I had my pads together, but there was a little space there and it just kind of squeezed through.”
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville got caught up in the emotion on Thursday night and was fined $25,000 for a gesture. On Saturday, all he could do was pull his hair out.
“It’s brutal,” Quenneville said. “We did a great job killing, an outstanding job, and you’re right there, six seconds away. The other game was tough, tough losing with a buck-and-change (left to play), but tonight was brutal.”
The Blackhawks might take solace in recent Blues playoff history. The Note went up 2-0 on Los Angeles in similar fashion during the first round last year. Alexander Steen won Game 1 in OT; Jackman won Game 2 by scoring with 51 seconds to play. The Blues lost the next four.
But the back-to-back overtime losses were still too fresh. Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews acknowledged Saturday’s turn of events — and the cloud hanging over Seabrook’s status — were tough to swallow.
“It’s hard to think about what could have been, these last two games, but what are you going to do?” Toews said. “We had a great opportunity to go home and turn this thing around in our own building, and take the momentum and find a way to not let it go.
“We’ve had (momentum) late in the last couple of games and gave it up to go into overtime, so it’s not a good feeling.”