A bad third period performance cost the Blackhawks big in Game 3 of their first-round series with the St. Louis Blues, as the Blues scored two goals in the final frame to come back and win the game by a score of 3-2. It's the first time the Blues have beat the Hawks in regulation in the 2015-16 season. The Blues now lead 2-1 in the best-of-seven series.
The Blues got off to a strong start in the first period, generating a couple of good scoring chances in the game's opening minutes. After a scrum in front of the net between Viktor Svedberg and Kyle Brodziak, the Blackhawks found themselves with an early power play. They would cash in quickly, as Brent Seabrook pounded a Patrick Kane pass for one-timer from the point, beating Brian Elliott high and getting the Hawks out in front, 1-0. After killing off a pair of penalties in the following minutes, the Blues found themselves with a power play midway through the period, and shortly after the puck dropped to start the man advantage, Colton Parayko let a hard shot go that beat Corey Crawford clean to tie the score, 1-1. The period would end with the same score.
The second period started out with the Blackhawks controlling a good portion of the play and generating a few good scoring chances early. Artemi Panarin and Artem Anisimov got together to generate a great rush, but couldn't solve Elliott. However, after Anisimov was kicked out of the following faceoff, Artemi Panarin ran a great faceoff play, losing the draw on purpose, in favor of getting a jump on the opposing center. He then went on to beat Parayko in the corner to win the puck and feed Anisimov in the slot, who knuckleballed a puck past Elliott to put the Hawks out in front, 2-1. After that, Crawford was the shining star for Chicago, making several absolutely incredible saves to keep his team ahead and the period ended with the Hawks holding a one-goal advantage.
The Blues came out strong for the third period, though. After a few lengthy stretches in their offensive zone and several minutes of complete domination from St. Louis, an errant pass from Michal Rozsival wound up on the stick of Patrik Berglund. He then took the puck down the ice and short it from high in the zone, where it ricocheted off Rozy, into the ice and then bounced over the shoulder of Crawford to tie the game at two goals a piece. Later in the period, Kane took a double minor penalty for high sticking Alex Pietrangelo and the Blues cashed in on the PP to give them the 3-2 lead. They would hold on to that to complete the win and take the 2-1 series lead.
This is a very frustrating loss for the Blackhawks to take. After playing a very strong first period in which they squandered several good scoring chances, followed by a good second period as well, to just be dominated in the fashion they were in the third was extremely discouraging. When the Blues took the lead, the Blackhawks looked like they just had no idea how to overcome the deficit. They were pressing hard and just seemed unsure of themselves.
For Game 4, Coach Q is going to have to look at making some serious changes to the Blue line. With the exception of Duncan Keith, there was just no quality offensive contribution throughout this game. Svedberg has more PIM in today's game than he did all season long, Rozsival was a nightmare for the entire third period and Seabrook looked abysmal aside from his early PPG.
Still, with all of that going wrong for the Blackhawks, they were right in this game. That was in large part due to the heroics of Crawford, but if Chicago adds like Christian Ehrhoff or Erik Gustafsson to the blue line to add a bit more offense to the back end for Game 4, they could very well even this series up. After all, the Blackhawks were in this very position -- down 2-1 in the series after a loss in Game 3 at home -- during last year's Stanley Cup Final, and they obviously managed to come back and take that series. While this team may not be quite at the level of last year's, to doubt the Blackhawks at this point would be foolish.
Game 4 of the series will be Tuesday at the United Center. It'll be another late starter, as puck drop for that one is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. CT.
Adam Hess is a staff writer at Second City Hockey. Follow him on Twitter at @_adamhess.