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Hawks squander 2-goal lead, fall to Blues in shootout

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Updated: December 28, 2013 11:08PM

ST. LOUIS — As good as the Blackhawks have been through the first half, as much experience and savvy as they have after winning two Stanley Cups in five years, as well as Patrick Sharp, Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith are playing — you get the feeling that the second half is going to play out much like Saturday night’s game at Scottrade Center: The Hawks ­trying to pull away, and the Blues simply not letting them.

The Blues twice erased two-goal deficits — including two goals in the final four minutes of regulation — and pulled out a rollicking, back-and-forth 6-5 shootout victory over the Hawks before a boisterous and split sellout crowd of 20,082.

It was the third consecutive thriller between the teams, with the Blues winning the first in the last minute of the third period, and the next two in shootouts. Even the Hawks, disappointed and frustrated in the wake of the latest loss to their burgeoning rivals, had to admit this one was fun.

“The crowd was into it — great hockey game, great intensity,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “It’s good for the sport. Tough for us.”

A night after pounding the Colorado Avalanche 7-2, the Hawks had a chance to deliver another statement to the Central Division. Instead, the Blues earned the extra point on Kevin Shattenkirk’s fifth-round shootout winner, and moved to within six points of the Hawks in the standings — with four games in hand.

Avalanche coach Patrick Roy essentially handed the division to the Hawks on Friday. The Blues have other ideas.

“They’re a good hockey team,” Quenneville said. “I expect it to be a race the whole time.”

The Canucks might have the bad blood, and the Red Wings might have the history, but the Blues are rapidly becoming the Hawks’ most significant rival. Because thanks to the NHL’s new divisional playoff format — which was designed to create rivalries, and to ensure good teams regularly meet in the playoffs to fuel those rivalries — these teams appear destined to see a lot of each other for the foreseeable future, starting with this spring.

It ought to be awfully entertaining. And for the Hawks, it could be awfully difficult.

The Hawks led 3-1 and chased Blues starter Jaroslav Halak after one period on goals by Sharp (a spectacular breakaway in which he split star defensemen Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo), Andrew Shaw (a power-play rebound off a Kane deflection) and Kane (a wrister from the right circle). Sharp has six goals in his last three games, and Kane has a point in 14 straight games, and 26 of his last 27.

But the Blues seized momentum in the second, tying the game on goals by Jaden Schwartz and Dmitrij Jaskin. Brandon Saad — who later had a chance to extend the shootout but was stopped by Brian Elliott — scored late in the second to give the Hawks the lead, and Brent Seabrook scored on a harmless wrist shot from the blue line that somehow beat Elliott to restore the two-goal lead early in the third.

But Vladimir Tarasenko and Patrik Berglund scored 77 seconds apart in the final four minutes to stun the Hawks and send the game to overtime.

“It was pretty disappointing; you don’t want to give up two-goal leads,” Keith said. “They play a hard game. It’s always tough, but it’s always fun playing these guys. It’s always a lot of excitement both ways.”

Plenty of excitement, no doubt. Also plenty of points for the Blues — a full six in three meetings.


Twitter: @marklazerus

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