In a key divisional matchup, the St. Louis Blues and Chicago Blackhawks met Tuesday night, as the Blues hoped to claim sole possession of the Central and first place overall in the Western Conference. Ray Emery has done well enough to hold the Blackhawks in good position lately, but it wasn't enough to hold back the hot Blues, as St. Louis took a 5-1 win at home.
The game provided everything a playoff atmosphere would call for, including some fisticuffs between Ryan Reaves and Brandon Bollig just about three minutes into the match. A couple of minutes later, momentum swung in the Blues' favor and T.J. Oshie got his stick on a puck that trickled past Emery to get things going. With 38 seconds left in the first, Andy McDonald scored a goal on the power play that bounced off of Chicago's Dylan Olsen, leading to some commotion in front of the net.
Chicago earned a power play early in the second period, but their struggling unit with the man advantage not only failed to score to get back into the game, but Vladimir Sobotka found some room after a solid feed from Scott Nichol and with a curl and drag got the shorthanded goal to put St. Louis up, 3-0.
The third was a significantly more successful period for the Blackhawks, who held the puck for most of the time. Andrew Brunette was able to get his squad on the board just 1:58 in off of a bad clearing attempt. However, McDonald scored with a sharp wrister later in the period to put more distance on the scoreboard. With 15 seconds left in the game, Jason Arnott added insult to injury with the Blackhawks already down four goals, taking advantage of another rough attempt to move the puck out of the zone, catching Emery out of position.
There were plenty of opportunities for the Blackhawks, including some on each of Chicago's five power plays, but they were unable to bank any in. The Blues can thank their defense for, once again, holding the opposition to few shots -- 20 in this game for the 'Hawks.
Despite the loss and a three-game win streak snapped for Chicago, the Blackhawks are still sitting snug as the sixth seed in the West: four points ahead of seventh and four points back of fifth. They'll be tested in their upcoming home stretch against the New York Rangers, Los Angeles Kings and the Blues again.
The Blues, comparatively, have an easier next few games, facing the Anaheim Ducks next and then a home-and-home against the Columbus Blue Jackets. St. Louis claimed first overall in the West with Tuesday's win and after the Vancouver Canucks loss to the Dallas Stars the same night.