In Duncan Keith's return, the Chicago Blackhawks tied the series with a 3-2 win on the strength of an absolutely thrilling third period marked by two key calls. Artemi Panarin scored the winner for Chicago on a late empty net goal. Corey Crawford made 29 of 31 saves in the victory and Patrick Kane had two assists. This best-of-seven first round series is now tied at 1-1 heading back to Chicago as the Blackhawks earned a huge road split.
With all things considered, most of the first two periods were uneventful compared to the approximate final 20, but let's get to it anyway.
With the return of their horse in Keith, Chicago got off to a slow start that was in large part matched by the Blues. We didn't see much offensive action in the first period. The two teams combined for nine shots on goal in a low pace frame. The Blackhawks themselves had just two shots on goal and struggled to get their offense going. Neither goalie was really tested in any serious fashion. Chicago also wasn't able to capitalize on a power play despite decent zone time around halfway through the period. Passing was also off and sloppy for Chicago. However, Ken Hitchcock was likely happy with the hit results as the Blues had 14 hits in the first and the Hawks had 13.
Boy would things change offensively on both ends and become more finely tuned in the second.
The second frame saw the Hawks and Blues combine for 32 shots as the tempo finally ramped up. There were prime scoring chances on both ends as Corey Crawford came out aggressively from his crease on multiple occasions, most notably on a David Backes attempt from the left circle to keep things knotted up. A Michal Rozsival turnover with 5:20 left in the second allowed Vladimir Tarasenko to blast a shot point blank from the slot to give the Blues the 1-0 advantage as Chicago struggled to clear it's own zone. With just five seconds left in the period, extended offensive zone time by the Blackhawks cornerstones had Chicago get a crucial goal. Jonathan Toews won an offensive zone face off to Kane who then dished to Keith who fluttered a shot in from the point just below the cross bar to tie the game up at 1-1 headed into the final twenty.
As I said, the third period is where the Hawks really ramped it up to steal this one away and where this game became a doozy.
Let's take this to around eight minutes to go in the third when Jori Lehtera received a chip from Kevin Shattenkirk at center ice. Lehtera worked his way behind the net and fired a laser of a pass to a wide open Tarasenko to give the Blues a supposed 2-1 lead late. However, the play was challenged to be offsides by Joel Quenneville after deliberation. After a lengthy review by the officials, and much fervor in St. Louis, the goal was overturned on the huge successful challenge by Q. Lehtera's left skate was determined to be off the ice and behind the blue line on a good angle and the Hawks would survive.
Later on, as fans and the teams were still processing the overturned goal, Chicago received a late power play off of a slash by Tarasenko on Andrew Shaw. With five seconds left on the power play and 4:19 left in the contest, Andrew Shaw would then slot the puck in past Brian Elliot on a rebound to put the Hawks in front, 2-1. Controversy ensued over whether Shaw interfered with Brian Elliot. Another lengthy review ensued as officials would come together to first see if Shaw had actually scored. With a good goal determined, Ken Hitchcock would use his own coach's challenge, but the goal would stand as St. Louis reached a fever pitch.
The Hawks 2-1 lead would stand and they wouldn't let it go.
In the final minutes, St. Louis didn't really test Crawford save for a Colton Parayko attempt from the side of the net where the defenseman just missed. Panarin would then bank in an empty netter from his own zone to seal the victory as the eventual game winning goal putting the Hawks up 3-1. Kevin Shattenkirk would score with 1.1 seconds left, but it was too little too late and Chicago came out with the win.
As far as things to like, after a morbidly slow start by both teams, Chicago was able to rev things up very well offensively in the second period. No doubt it helped having someone like Duncan Keith, with his crucial two points, drive play for Chicago to have solid enough possession. Apparently in 31:00 of ice time, Keith, was "just another player." The primary contention in this game was also whether St. Louis would pressure Hawks defenseman in their own zone, something they didn't do well enough in Game 1. In my mind, save for Rozsival's turnover, Chicago defenseman responded well under an aggressive forecheck by St. Louis given the offensive production on both ends.
Corey Crawford also had a big game yet again in saving the Hawks bacon on more than several occasions. If there was any rust to be worried about, it's surely gone now as this series shifts back to Chicago. Crawford was an absolute wall and he's going to need to have these kinds of performances if the Hawks are to prevail. Good signs all around.
What you'll have to watch in Chicago is how Quenneville uses the last change at home. In the past, he's dictated match-ups very well at home. This could turn out to be the difference in this series, should the Hawks take advantage of new found home ice. Giving guys like Panarin and Kane more zone starts while sheltering your bottom pair defensemen is never a bad idea.
No doubt there will be plenty of conversation over the goal calls in the third period over the next 36 hours or so, but it doesn't matter for the Hawks. They'll likely stay plenty focused and look to take the series lead on Sunday.
With the series tied at 1-1 thanks to the Hawks' win, it now shifts to Chicago for Sunday afternoon. Puck drop is scheduled for that one at 2:00 p.m. CT on NBC 5.
Robert Zeglinski is a staff writer for Second City Hockey. You can follow him on Twitter @RobertZeglinski.