Twice in three days, the Blackhawks were on the verge late in the third period of defeating the St. Louis Blues by a goal and taking home-ice advantage away from them in the Western Conference first-round playoff series, and twice, the Blues delivered a punch to the Blackhawks’ gut by scoring a game-tying goal late in the third period and prevailing in overtime.
No one placed the blame for the Hawks' loss on Corey Crawford, except for the goaltender himself. "We're not going to win if I'm going to play like that," he said. "Just got to be better."
Both losses possessed plenty of similarities for the Blackhawks.
The Blackhawks were first devastated by the Blues in Game 1 when St. Louis erased a 3-2 lead with 1:46 remaining in the third period and then won the game in triple overtime on Thursday.
The Blackhawks were even closer to victory on Saturday. After fending off a 5-on-3 power play for 46 seconds and a 5-on-4 power play for 3:59 -- which also included the Blues removing their goalie and adding another attacker -- in the final five minutes of the third period, Chicago's 3-2 lead was decimated when the Blues’ Vladimir Tarasenko scored with 6.4 seconds remaining in the period. The Blues finished the job with a goal by Barret Jackman 5:50 into a first overtime.
The Blackhawks dealt with so much penalty-killing time because Bryan Bickell was called for kneeing at 13:55 and Brent Seabrook received five minutes for charging and a game misconduct at 15:09. Chicago killed off 17:47 of a possible 17:48 of the Blues’ power plays in the game.
"We did a great job killing," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "It was an outstanding job, and you’re right there, six seconds away. The other game was tough losing at a buck and change, but tonight was brutal."
Neither Quenneville nor any of the Blackhawks placed the blame on goaltender Corey Crawford, but he put it on himself.
"I obviously have to find a way to make that save [in the third period,] and our guys need me to make a save at the end, too," Crawford said. "Really frustrating being up and losing the lead two games in a row in the last couple minutes. That’s pretty much not acceptable. We’re not going to win if I’m going to play like that. Just got to be better."
The Blackhawks were pleased with their play for a majority of the game. They went down 2-0 after the first period but responded to take a 3-2 lead behind three goals by three defensemen. Michal Rozsival put the Blackhawks ahead by a goal at 6:38 of the third period.
"We didn’t play well enough in the first period," Chicago captain Jonathan Toews said. "I think, as a group, we answered back and we played the right way in the second and the third, and everyone started playing a little more physical, a little more emotion in their game. You saw the result. We were getting shots from the point; we were getting traffic; we were getting pucks back; we were winning battles. We did a lot of great things. We did what we had to do to win. We just didn’t finish it."
The Blackhawks were less than two minutes away from having a 2-0 lead in the series. Instead, they’re returning to Chicago down 2-0 and having to win four out of the next five games.
As difficult as those facts might be for the Blackhawks, Toews said he and his teammates must leave that behind them.
"It’s hard to think about what could have been these last two games, but what are you going to do?" Toews said. "We’ve got a great opportunity to go home and turn this thing around in our own building and take that momentum and find a way to not let it go.
"We’ve had it late in the last couple games and we gave it up, [and they] come back and score in overtime, so it’s not a good feeling. But like we did before tonight, we put the last one behind us and we move on to the next one. It’s as simple as that. That’s all we can do."
Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith wasn’t giving into the blues or the Blues just yet.
"My heart’s still kicking," Keith said. "It’s not broken, that’s for sure. It’s just frustrating. The second game in a row we had the lead with a minute, two minutes to go and you can’t close it out. That’s what’s really frustrating. We’re just going to have to focus on one game, getting a good start in Game 3. Getting that first game back home -- it’s a big game."