CHICAGO – It was another wild night at the "Madhouse on Madison Street," but this time, the St. Louis Blues finally came out on the right end.
St. Louis was 0-4-4 in its last eight trips to the Windy City and couldn't buy a victory against the host Chicago Blackhawks at United Center. That changed on Thursday night with a 4-3 shootout victory for the Blues (19-14-2) -- but it didn't come easy.
It took five minutes of overtime followed by six entertaining rounds of breakaways to decide which team got the second point. Blues goalie Brian Elliott (33 saves) stopped a wrist shot by newly-acquired forward Michal Handzus in that sixth round before Kevin Shattenkirk ended the night with a swift wrist shot to the far side that beat Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford.
"We practice it quite a bit," Shattenkirk said of the shootout. "We got a lot of chances to try different things in practice, especially when our goalies kind of know our moves all the time. I've done that move before. I think just having the confidence to stick with it and not try to change it up is important."
The win bumped St. Louis into eighth place in the Western Conference standings with 40 points. The Blues lead the Columbus Blue Jackets and Edmonton Oilers by one point and the Phoenix Coyotes and Nashville Predators by two in the race for the final Stanley Cup Playoff berth in the Western Conference.
Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa – playing his first game since sitting out six straight with an upper-body injury – scored in the shootout for the Blackhawks, giving Chicago the lead each time. Chris Stewart, Andy McDonald and Alexander Steen beat Crawford before Shattenkirk's deciding goal.
"It's definitely not fun when you give up that many goals in the third period," said Crawford, who is now 3-4 in shootouts this season. "We found a way to battle back, though, and definitely had some chances to win it. [I] just didn't feel that great in the shootout. It was a weird game. [The] positive thing [is] we were able to battle back and get a point out of it."
The Blues, who led 1-0 after one period and trailed 2-1 after two, got goals by Adam Cracknell and David Backes early in the third period to grab the lead, only to see Chicago's Viktor Stalberg force overtime by scoring with 4:31 left in regulation.
"We had a lead in the third and we don't like to give up leads in the third period, but the team across the hall has a ton of fire power and just never quit," said Backes, who broke a 14-game goal drought when he scored at 7:06 of the final period to put the Blues up 3-2. "Tip your cap to them, tip your cap to us a little bit. [It was] one of the more entertaining shootouts I think you'll ever see.
"Three misses in the whole thing? It was a great end to the game -- and we'll take the extra point."
Stalberg's seventh goal of the season set up a wild finish. He beat Elliott after pouncing on a loose puck in the slot.
Crawford, who made 19 saves, came up with arguably his biggest just 13 seconds before the horn in overtime sounded -- stopping McDonald cold on a breakaway.
Cracknell, meanwhile, had a night he won't soon forget. Playing just his ninth game of the season, the 6-foot-2, 210-pound grinder scored two goals after going 463 days since his last one in the National Hockey League -- that one came on Dec. 26, 2011, against the Dallas Stars.
Cracknell's sudden scoring prowess capped a nice night for the Blues' fourth line.
"Our line played well and we just played our game," he said. "We've all played together before so it was just easy chemistry for us."
Cracknell opened the scoring with 3:57 left in the first by firing a shot that appeared to deflect off defenseman Brent Seabrook's stick and sail into the net over Crawford's shoulder. Elliott had already made several big saves against Toews and Kane, and St. Louis took momentum plus a 1-0 lead into the first intermission.
Chicago owned the second period, outshooting the Blues 15-5 and getting goals by Toews and Brandon Saad less than 2 1/2 minutes apart to take a quick 2-1 lead. Toews put home a rebound of Kane's shot from the left circle; then after stealing a puck from Steen along the half wall in the right circle, he zipped a tape-to-tape pass to Saad in front of the net for a quick shot that the rookie redirected past Elliott.
It was Saad's eighth goal of the season -- he has four of them during his current three-game scoring streak.
The Blackhawks had momentum and seemed to gain even more when Blues defenseman Barret Jackman fell hard into the boards after slight contact with Stalberg late in the second.
Stalberg was then jumped by Roman Polak to start a fracas, and Polak picked up the extra minor for instigating. The flare-up concluded with Blackhawks backup goalie Ray Emery exchanging words with Jackman at the benches.
Chicago failed to score on the power play, which extended to the start of the third, and Cracknell beat Crawford on a breakaway to knot it 2-2 just 3:30 into the period. Chicago went 0-for-2 on the power play, which means Blues penalty-killers have now wiped out the last 11 straight advantages they've faced.
The win also extended a trend that's developed in this Central Division rivalry. Cracknell's first goal gave the Blues the game's first tally, so now the team that's scored first has won the last six games.