Hockey / Sports

The St. Louis Blues' Steve Ott (29) pins the Chicago Blackhawks' Marcus Kruger (16) after a face off during the second period of Game 5 in a Western Conference quarterfinal at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis on Friday, Apr. 25, 2014. (Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune/MCT)

Blues fall to Blackhawks, who lead series 3-2

ST. LOUIS -- A breakaway goal by Jonathan Toews 7 minutes, 36 seconds into overtime gave Chicago a 3-2 victory over the Blues on Friday night at Scottrade Center.

The Blackhawks now hold a three games to two lead in the best-of-seven Western Conference first-round series. They can close it out with a win in Game 6 on Sunday at United Center.

The suspense in the series continued in Game 5 on Friday night at Scottrade Center, where injured Blues' captain David Backes made a triumphant return, bringing the early arrivers in the crowd of 19,796 to their feet before the puck dropped.

Then the Blues and Blackhawks entertained the standing-room-only gathering with another epic chapter in their first playoff series in 12 years. The clubs were tied 2-2 after regulation, meaning for the fourth time in five games they would need sudden-death. That tied a franchise record for the most OT games in a series, which also happened in 1999 against Dallas and 1968 against Minnesota.

The Blues had won two of the three previous OT games in the current series with the Blackhawks. But for the second straight game, the sudden-death period was decided by the Hawks.

Backes charged into the offensive zone and put a shot on Chicago goalie Corey Crawford. The rebound bounced in front of the net, and defenseman Duncan Keith swatted it ahead to Toews.

Blues goalie Ryan Miller came out of the net proactively in an attempt to deny Toews, but the Blackhawks captain slipped it by the Blues' netminder for the game clincher.

After having a two games to none lead in the series, the Blues have now lost three consecutive games and are on the brink of elimination.

The Blues were trailing 2-1 headed into the third period, but they picked up a goal from defenseman Alex Pietrangelo to knot the score 2-2 with 18:18 remaining in regulation. Pietrangelo took a cross-ice feed from Jaden Schwartz and beat Crawford for the equalizer.

The Blues were seeking a solid start in Game 5 after a sluggish first period in Game 4 forced them to play from behind before falling 4-3 in overtime. They had two power plays in the first seven minutes of the game, but came out of that with only one shot on goal.

From a Chicago perspective, the pressure had been mounting on Blackhawks forward Marian Hossa, who came into Game 5 with 21 shots but no goals and only one assist.

That changed with 3:49 left in the first period.

The Blues' continued refusal to shoot the puck while in the offensive zone led to a turnover. Meanwhile, defensman Roman Polak pinched on the play, contributing to an odd-man rush with Bryan Bickell and Hossa.

Hossa took the pass from Bicell and seemed to whiff on his shot. But a rebound lay loose in the slot, and with Polak crossing the crease in front of Miller, Hossa had a wide-open net for his first goal of the series and a 1-0 advantage.

Early in the second period, Blues coach Ken Hitchcock altered his line combinations, returning to the familiar top threesome of Backes, Alexander Steen and T.J. Oshie.

That finally led to some offense, as the Blues pulled even with the Blackhawks, 1-1, on an amazing individual effort by Oshie.

Defenseman Barret Jackman sprung the Blues with a stretch pass to Steen. Steen fed Oshie, who juked Blackhawks blueliner Niklas Hjalmarsson, and from his knees backhanded a puck over the outstretched stick of Crawford.

Oshie's third-career playoff goal ended a personal streak of 10 games without a point and pulled the Blues into a 1-1 tie with Chicago with 8:56 remaining in the second period.

To say that the Blues had chances to grab the lead on the Blackhawks would be a terrible understatement. In less than a minute's time, Vladimir Sobotka and Oshie each had opportunities with the puck on their stick in the slot. But as the horn operator at Scottrade Center tried to control his trigger finger, Sobotka fired wide on his wide-open attempt with 5:03 left in the second period and Oshie went high on his with 4:09 to play.

Oshie's errant blast was the Blues' 10th missed shot of the game.

Crawford showed the body language of a goaltender dealing with some sort of injury issue, but the Blues' offense let him off the hook.

There were only four minutes separating the Blues from entering the second intermission involved in a tie game and setting up for a third-period showdown. But with 2:50 left to play in the middle frame, the Blackhawks one-upped the home team with a goal by Ben Smith.

Chicago defenseman Sheldon Brookbank, who is filling in for the suspended Brent Seabrook, put a point shot on net that got knocked down in front. Smith then backhanded the puck upstairs over Miller for a 2-1 lead, which held up at the break.

But with the teams playing four on four after a pair of coincidental minors to Adam Cracknell and Patrick Kane at the end of the second period, Pietrangelo tied the score early in the third period. And once again, the Blues and Blackhawks were destined for OT.

This one, however, didn't last long before Toews won it for the Hawks.

(c)2014 St. Louis Post-Dispatch

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BLUES


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