Cheap shot on Backes rallies Blues past Blackhawks in Game 2
ST. LOUIS — The cheap shot heard round the NHL left a standing-room-only crowd stunned on Saturday at Scottrade Center.
They got angry. But after coughing up a two-goal lead in Game 2 of their Western Conference first-round playoff series against the visiting Blackhawks, they grew even more determined.
They wanted to win it for their captain.
The Blues turned Brent Seabrook’s dirty hit to the head of David Backes late in the third period into a power-play goal from Vladimir Tarasenko with 6.4 seconds left in regulation that tied the score and then won it in overtime 4-3 on a goal from Barret Jackman to take a 2-0 lead in the series.
"The message was just we owe him a game," Maxim Lapierre said of Backes, "and I think guys just emptied the tank to try to get the win."
Alex Pietrangelo said everybody was hungry to get that game for Backes and they were able to take advantage of Seabrook’s five-minute major penalty that also earned the Blackhawks’ defenseman a game misconduct.
"He’s your emotional leader, on the ice, off the ice," Pietrangelo said of Backes. "He’s been there all year for us and he’s led by example. Anytime you see that, whether it’s him or anybody else, you want to make sure you give a little extra effort for him there."
Seabrook should be hearing from the league office soon enough, with possibly a fine or suspension coming his way. The defenseman, who told reporters afterward he was not trying to target the St. Louis captain’s head, had to watch from the dressing room as the Blues rallied to win.
That, Kevin Shattenkirk said, sends a message, too.
"It’s going to be a long series and we’ll get our opportunities but I think that hurts the most," the defenseman said. "That’s a real dagger when you’re the guy sitting in the locker room and you see that (tying) goal go in."
The best-of-seven series now shifts back to Chicago for Game 3 on Monday and Game 4 on Wednesday full of uncertainty about when we might see Backes or Seabrook again.
Backes was hit in the head by Seabrook’s right shoulder and then appeared to also hit his head on the ledge between the boards and the glass. He was down on the ice motionless for a few moments, struggled to get to his feet and then needed some help to slowly skate off the ice and into the dressing room.
It was not what the Blues wanted to see after T.J. Oshie just returned to the lineup after taking a shot to head against Minnesota late in the regular season and with Patrik Berglund still sidelined with an undisclosed upper-body injury.
Blues coach Ken Hitchcock didn’t show his hand Saturday morning regarding Oshie’s return, but he did say he expected both Oshie and Berglund to return by Game 4.
Now the status of Backes could be up in the air for the next few days.
St. Louis knows what it is up against with the two games in Chicago.
The memories from last year’s series against the Los Angeles Kings are still fresh. The Blues won the first two games and then lost four in a row to lose the series in six games.
"It’s a different year," Jackman said. "We’re a team that’s confident and we know obviously there’s nothing we’re taking for granted. We’re going to go in a very hostile environment in Chicago and they’re a team that’s got a lot of experience. We expect more of the same type of game like tonight: hard-hitting and physical and right to the end."
The Blues are in a good-but-precarious position going into Game 3, considering they needed a pair of game-tying goals late in the third period to force overtime. They need to be focused on doing the things that have made them successful this season — the penalty kill was superb on Saturday, but before the Tarasenko goal the power play was not — or else they could be returning to St. Louis for Game 5 with the series deadlocked at two.
"The way that these games have gone, you have to respect the fact that Chicago was a shot away in both these games too," goalie Ryan Miller said. "The weird part about hockey is they can go your way a couple nights, and you have to just keep working and hope it works out the next few nights. We’ve put the work in, we’ve put the structure together on the ice. I think we’re going to be rewarded but we have to stick with it.
"We know they are a very dangerous team and they are very accomplished. They’ve won the Cup. They have guys who have won it twice and they’ve gone through a lot of adversity to win those Cups, so we expect the best out of them. They’ve gone through adversity. They were down in the series. Even last year. It looked like they were down and out but they battled their way back. This is going to be a tough test for us."
The Blues have passed their first two of these playoffs, but they are well aware that the challenges get more difficult going forward.