ST. LOUIS — The Blues were using their game against the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks as a sort of reconnaissance mission.
“We can’t lose in this game,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said before the puck dropped in the first of five meetings of the season between the Central Division rivals Wednesday night at the Scottrade Center. “We’re going to get information after (Wednesday night) that we need. Whether it’s good or bad, we’re going to get it.
“We know in the last two years how much we’ve improved but we need to get to another level. Whatever happens, happens, but the information we’re going to get moving forward, man, it is going to help us
Here’s the main thing Hitchcock and his squad learned during an entertaining game that resulted in a 3-2 Blues victory: Nothing figures to come easily for either of these teams in the next four regular-season meetings.
Alexander Steen scored the game-winner with 21.1 seconds remaining in the third period to help the Blues remain unbeaten at 3-0-0. Vladimir Tarasenko and David Backes also had goals and Jaroslav Halak continued his strong start between the pipes with the victory. Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews each had a goal and an assist and Patrick Sharp added two helpers but it wasn’t enough as Corey Crawford suffered the loss in goal for the Hawks (1-1-1).
“It’s frustrating,” Toews said. “That’s two games in a row. I feel like (Wednesday night) we got robbed of two points. Last game we got robbed of one point. Just from making some small mistakes late in the game. Normally that would be when we feel like we take over and get even better. We have to finish stronger regardless of the score.”
The Hawks’ power play continued its strong play in the early going of the season as the unit cashed in on its first two opportunities and took a combined 22 seconds to do it.
The Blues hit the scoreboard first when Tarasenko made use of some room and ripped a shot from the right circle that Crawford couldn’t handle.
It didn’t take long for the Hawks to tie it with the first of their power-play scores. Sharp partially fanned on a shot and the puck trickled through a myriad of skates in the slot and eventually popped out near the left post where Kane swooped in and chipped it in.
Both goalies were on top of their games as Crawford had big saves on Jaden Schwartz and T.J. Oshie while at the other end, Halak stopped big chances by the Hawks’ Marian Hossa and Joakim Nordstrom.
In the second, Backes put the Blues out front again when he redirected a long Alex Pietrangelo shot while on the power play. The Hawks responded again with a man advantage when Toews got a stick on a rebound of a Kane shot and knocked it past Halak.
Despite the offenses clicking, the netminders continued their solid play in the second as Halak stoned Sharp on a breakaway and Crawford made an impressive kick save on Derek Roy’s point-blank chance.
On the winning goal, the Hawks had three forwards in deep and defenseman Brent Seabrook pinched in and it resulted in a three-on-one the other way with Steen blowing the winner past Crawford.
“Brutal loss,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “We have to get that game to overtime. I don’t know what we were thinking about. It was one of those plays, last minutes the period, you want to be out there and we’ll take one (point) and maybe two. Getting none was unacceptable.
“You can’t make a mistake like that. Getting nothing was a huge four-point swing. It was one play. We have to be smarter, that’s all.
“We did the right things. It was nice to see the power play get productive. A lot of positives coming out of that game but one shift is what we’re all upset about.”