Once again the Blues had a chance to eliminate the defending champs and for the second game in a row they failed, leading to a winner take all Game 7 Monday night. Unlike Game 4, tonight the Blues never seemed to be in control of any aspect of this game, despite holding a two goal lead. Brian Elliott could not contain a rebound, the defense stopped skating and the team as a whole could not sustain much pressure in the offensive zone. This game was lost well before the final horn sounded.
Ten seconds in you had a feeling this could be a bad night. A pass deflection by Andrew Shaw went right to Patrick Kane in the slot but Elliott turned him aside. Chicago continued to control the play and with just under 4 minutes gone struck the first blow.
Kevin Shattenkirk had not one but two chances to clear the puck from his zone but in a precursor to his night he just could not find the handle. Andrew Ladd, who had enabled the puck to stay in the zone, jumped on the loose puck and roofed a shot past Elliott. It was Ladd's first of the postseason.
The Hawks kept pounding the pressure and should have gone ahead 2-0 but Andrew Desjardins could not shoot the puck into a wide open net. Fortunately for the Blues the missed opportunity led to a 2 on 1 break for Steve Ott and Scottie Upshall. Ott would saucer a nice pass to Upshall streaking in on Corey Crawford's left side. As he fired the puck Brent Seabrook got just enough of his stick on Upshall's stick to change the shot and it slipped past Crawford for the 1 all tie.
After allowing the Hawks to control the first 8 minutes of the game, the Blues finally started playing their game and it lead to Alex Pietrangelo putting his first goal of the playoffs in. Troy Brouwer did all the work out of the corner as he stick-handled between two defenders before sliding the puck cross ice to Petro. Alex wasted no time in slapping the puck towards the net and with a perfect screen in front, the puck went in untouched. But the Blues weren't down yet.
Another over play by the Hawks led to a 3 on 3 break that evolved into a 3 on 2 as two of the Hawks converged on Jaden Schwartz leaving Jori Lehtera and Vladimir Tarasenko free to work their magic. Lehtera feathered a pass over to Tarasenko's favorite spot and he blasted the shot past Crawford for the 3-1 lead. Boy were we all excited, up by two goals in the opposing barn, this was it wasn't it?
Well, no, it wasn't. Because one coach and team decided to make changes and execute while the other was content with the lead and didn't want to lose it. Unfortunately in hockey when you do that and against a great team, you will pay and pay we did.
The second period has been by far the worst period of play for the Blues all season and that continued yet again as Chicago just took the game over. Shot after shot wen tin on Brian Elliott and for a time he was turning them aside like he has all series. But a penalty 3 minutes would come to be the death knell for the Blues tonight.
With Brodziak in the box for hooking the Hawks would enter the zone with Ladd who would get a shot on net. The puck would end up behind the net but Shattenkirk could not clear it past Panarin. Panarin found Hossa in front of the net but he was absolutely stoned by Elliott, but the puck caromed into the air and Artem Anisimov would bat it out of the air into the net. You could start to feel the United Center starting to rumble to life after that goal and the avalanche of cheers was about to drown out the game soon after.
More unsure play and lack of skating led to Chicago tying the game up. A stretch pass to Richard Panik drew two Blues defenders who just kind of stood there and watch him slip a pass to Jonathan Toews streaking down the left side. As he cut to the front of the net Toews spotted Trevor vanRiemsdyk across the crease. Having beaten Brouwer to the inside he was perfectly positioned to flip in the Toews pass for a 3-3 game.
Oh but the fun wasn't over there. Artemi Panarin would flip Shattenkirk's stick out of his hand behind the Blues net and gather the puck. After trying to recover his stick, Shattenkirk was knocked down and unable to cover his position allowing Panarin to feed Dale Weise on a reverse pass. Weise was able to put the shot off Elliott's blocker and into the roof of the net for the third unanswered goal of the period.
Even after all of that the Blues still had a chance to come back like they have been as they were awarded a power play late in the second. After being out shot 19-4 during the second, the power play gave some life to the team as they put some good looks in on Crawford. At one point a Parayko slap shot caught Crawford near the throat knocking the net minder down and in pain for a bit. But it didn't seem like even that could unhinge him enough to let in a goal.
The Blues came out in the third with more intensity than in the second and really tried to get back into the game. But it seemed like just when they would start to get a break the Hawks were able to recover. Whether it was Crawford coming up with a huge save or a forward back checking and breaking up a play, Chicago seemed to have all the right answers to tonight's questions. Andrew Shaw and Marian Hossa would add two late goals to secure the 6-3 victory and this series is heading back to St. Louis for Game 7 Monday night.
Now as Blues fans we need to take a step or two back from the ledge for a moment. We must remember that this Chicago team is he defending Champs, they know how to win and have been in this position before. We must reserve judgement on this team until after Monday's game. Don't call for anyone's head until that final horn sounds, maybe we can surprise ourselves and win. We knew going into tonight's game that Chicago would throw everything at us and their top players came to play. Maybe they wore themselves out and we can take advantage, likely they didn't but one can hope. We just need to match intensity and play our game Monday and we can beat them, we have shown it 3 times this series.
#3 - Jonathan Toews: 2 Assists, played his best game of the series
#2 - Artemi Panarin: 2 Assists and showing why he as the best rookie in the league this year
#1 - Andrew Ladd: 1 goal and 1 assist. May be the key to Chicago winning this series