"He's a guy that we count on," Hitchcock said. "He can score from
anywhere. He can score at any time."
Just ask the Chicago Blackhawks.
Tarasenko scored late in the third period and again in overtime to
lift St. Louis to a 2-1 win over Chicago on Thursday night. He
evened the score at 1 when he scored with 1:16 remaining in
regulation after the Blues pulled goaltender Brian Elliott in favor
of an extra skater. The 24-year-old Russian sealed the comeback with
a wrist shot with 1:23 remaining in overtime.
St. Louis (49-23-9) secured home-ice advantage in at least the first
round of the playoffs. The Blues earned their third straight victory
and improved to 8-1-0 in their past nine contests. If the Blues
collect more points in their regular season finale than the Dallas
Stars collect in their finale, then St. Louis would clinch the
Central Division and earn the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference
"The whole focus was home ice and to continue to keep pushing toward
first place," said Hitchcock, whose team concludes the regular
season Saturday against Washington. "Every team has to play now.
Dallas has to play for points, we've got to keep playing for points,
and then we'll just see where it goes. But it's nice to know that
we're going to have home ice no matter who the (first round)
Jonathan Toews scored the Blackhawks' lone goal. Chicago (47-26-8)
dropped to 11-8 in overtime this season and finished the regular
season 26-11-4 on home ice.
The Blackhawks played without several key players, including
suspended defenseman Duncan Keith, injured forwards Marian Hossa and
Artem Anisimov, and injured goaltender Corey Crawford. Next week,
the team will begin the playoffs on the road against St. Louis or
"I don't mind the way we're playing here," Chicago coach Joel
Quenneville said. "We're missing five guys right now in a game that
I thought we played pretty good. I thought we did some good things
in a lot of ways and a lot of areas, so I didn't mind it."
After Hitchcock pulled Elliott from the net with about 1:30
remaining, Tarasenko evened the score. Blues defenseman Kevin
Shattenkirk blasted a slap shot from the right circle. Goaltender
Scott Darling stopped Shattenkirk's shot but allowed a long rebound
Tarasenko scored in overtime on a drop pass from defenseman Alex
Pietrangelo during an odd-man rush. The goal marked Tarasenko's 39th
of the season, a career high.
Darling finished with 33 saves, while Elliott stopped 24 shots.
Elliott denied Blackhawks left winger Andrew Ladd on a penalty shot
with 4:58 remaining in the third period.
[to top of second column]
"I think every time we play here, it feels like a playoff game,"
After a scoreless first period, Chicago grabbed a 1-0 lead on a goal
by Toews with 7:20 to go in the second period. Patrick Kane zipped a
pass to Toews, who scored on a wrist shot from the left circle. The
play marked Toews' 28th goal of the season and his third goal in the
past three games.
A pair of stellar defensive plays by St. Louis prevented Chicago
from seizing an early advantage.
Pietrangelo slid on his stomach and used his stick to break up a
two-on-one rush by Kane and Artemi Panarin early in the first
period. Later in the period, Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester used
his skate to deny a point-blank shot by Blackhawks center Teuvo
The Blackhawks entered the game 41-6-4 when scoring first and 37-0-3
when leading after two periods.
"Hurts, for sure," Kane said. "I thought we played a great game up
to that point against a good team."
NOTES: Blackhawks LW Bryan Bickell played alongside C Andrew
Desjardins and RW Dale Weise in his first game since Jan. 8. Chicago
recalled Bickell on Wednesday from Rockford of the American Hockey
League, where he scored 15 goals and dished 16 assists in 44 games.
... Blues D Jay Bouwmeester returned after missing six games because
of an upper-body injury. ... A lower-body injury cost Blackhawks RW
Marian Hossa his second consecutive game. Hossa has 499 career
goals. ... Blues C Robby Fabbri missed his fourth straight game
because of a lower-body injury. ... Blackhawks C Artem Anisimov did
not play because of an upper-body injury. ... Blues C David Backes
missed his second game because of a lower-body injury. Backes will
be re-evaluated before the playoffs. ... Blackhawks D Duncan Keith
served the fourth contest of a six-game suspension for high-sticking
Minnesota Wild C Charlie Coyle.
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