Blues begin season with road win over Blackhawks

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[October 13, 2016]  CHICAGO -- St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock did not know what to expect from his new-look team in its season opener against the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday night.

After the Blues pulled away for 5-2 win on the road, Hitchcock could not help but feel satisfied.

"You're wondering what emotional direction you're going to take because of all the changes that we made," said Hitchcock, whose team parted ways with longtime captain David Backes and top goaltender Brian Elliott during the offseason. "Day one was really solid -- solid in the room, solid on the bench, solid everywhere. It's a good start."

Right winger Vladimir Tarasenko had two goals and an assist to lead the Blues. Defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk and center Paul Stastny each finished with a goal and two assists for St. Louis (1-0-0).

The Blues went 3-for-5 on the power play to quiet a sellout crowd at the United Center.

"It's good to see that our special teams were in order because a lot of times early in the season, they could struggle," Shattenkirk said. "But in a game like this tonight, they're very important."

Left winger Richard Panik and right winger Ryan Hartman scored for the Blackhawks. Chicago (0-1-0) committed five penalties and managed only 19 shots as it struggled to find rhythm in the offensive zone.

Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said his players needed to generate more chances on even strength.

"Structurally, (St. Louis) has a pretty good team, good defense and a tight gap," Quenneville said. "It's tough trying to get shots through, and we didn't do a good enough job getting entries and getting pressure on the forecheck."

St. Louis goaltender Jake Allen stopped 17 shots in the win. Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford turned aside 29 of 32 shots.

Stastny notched a power-play goal 55 seconds into the third period to put the Blues ahead 3-2 for their first lead of the game. Crawford stopped a rising shot from Tarasenko but could not corral the rebound, and Stastny chopped at the puck as it bounced off the ice.

"The guys that have been here before and know what it's like to play in this building, know what it's like to play against Chicago, they played really well today," Hitchcock said. ""The guys that you lean on, you count on, the veteran guys, they really showed up."

Tarasenko added an empty-net goal with 1:06 remaining to make it 4-2.

Blues left winger Scottie Upshall was credited with a goal with 19 seconds remaining after Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook inadvertently swept a pass into his own team's empty net.

Chicago converted its first power-play opportunity to seize a 1-0 lead at 4:38 of the first period. Panik punched a rebound past Allen from the left side of the crease.

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Blackhawks left wing Richard Panik (14) scores against the St. Louis Blues during the first period at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

St. Louis responded with a goal on the man advantage to even the score at 1 early in the second period. Defenseman Alex Pietrangelo slipped a pass to Shattenkirk, who blasted a one-timer from the left circle.

Chicago grabbed a 2-1 advantage on Hartman's first career goal with 6:03 to go in the second period. The Blackhawks' 2013 first-round draft pick intercepted a clearing attempt and scored moments later on a quick pass from left winger Tyler Motte. Hartman pumped a fist to celebrate the milestone.

"It's a really good feeling," Hartman said. "It's something you dream of doing your whole life, but at the same time, we did lose. Hopefully, we come back Friday with a little more energy."

St. Louis capitalized on a five-on-three power play to even the score at 2 with 31.9 seconds remaining in the second period. Tarasenko scored on a wrist shot from the right circle as Jonathan Toews and Artem Anisimov watched from the Blackhawks' penalty box.

Shattenkirk praised Tarasenko for his precision on the ice.

"He's a guy who's so dangerous," Shattenkirk said. "If you give him one opportunity in a game, he can capitalize on it, more so than most guys in this league."

NOTES: Blackhawks D Niklas Hjalmarsson was out of the lineup as he served a suspension for charging St. Louis RW Ty Rattie during an Oct. 1 preseason game. Hjalmarsson was suspended for Chicago's final three preseason games and its first regular-season game. He will be eligible to return Friday against Nashville. ... Blues D Carl Gunnarsson and LW Magnus Paajarvi were healthy scratches. ... Blackhawks D Michal Rozsival and C Dennis Rasmussen were healthy scratches. ... RW Nail Yakupov made his Blues debut five days after he was acquired from the Edmonton Oilers. ... Four Blackhawks players made their NHL debuts: D Gustav Forsling, D Michal Kempny, LW Tyler Motte and C Nick Schmaltz. ... Blues D Alex Pietrangelo appeared in his first regular-season game as captain.

[ 2016 Thomson Reuters. All rights reserved.]

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