ST. LOUIS – After dropping three consecutive games, the Chicago Blackhawks were looking to regain their swagger on Saturday.
They did just that as Jonathan Toews had a goal and an assist, Antti Niemi stopped 34 shots and the Blackhawks snapped a season-high three-game losing streak with a 2-1 victory the St. Louis Blues on Saturday night.
“I don’t think we’ve been very happy with the way we’ve been playing since Carolina and maybe even before that,” said Patrick Sharp, who also scored for the Blackhawks. “We definitely weren’t panicking in our locker-room, but tonight was a must-win. We wanted to come out and have a good effort against a tough opponent, so getting the early lead was big for us and I think we battled the rest of the way.”
The Blackhawks, 0-2-1 in their previous three games, scored a pair of first-period goals and held the Blues off the rest of the way, including killing off St. Louis’ 41-second two-man advantage.
Chicago was the last team in the NHL to drop three in a row this season.
“We worked hard, got off to a good start and we knew it was going to be a tight game for three periods,” Toews said. “That’s a good win, and that’s the kind of effort we need to keep showing up with every night.”
The Blues, who got a late goal from Alex Steen and 28 saves from Chris Mason, fell to an NHL-worst 9-16-5 on home ice and have dropped two in a row to the Western Conference’s top two teams after falling to San Jose on Thursday night.
It was the second straight game the Blues fell behind 2-0 in the first period and could not recover.
“I thought we had very good energy and I thought there was good, physical play early on in that period,” Blues coach Davis Payne said. “… The disappointing part in the middle there was our execution of the 5-on-3. We have some situations where we want to go to. … We’ve got to make sure we stick to the plan.”
After some early hitting by both teams, Sharp gave Chicago a 1-0 lead, converting Toews’ pass from the low slot on a one-timer past Mason 5:33 into the first period.
Chicago made it 2-0 when Toews and Kane combined for a goal, with Toews getting his 19th after the Blues’ T.J. Oshie tripped over teammate Roman Polak’s skates, creating a 2-on-1 with Toews one-timing Kane’s pass past Mason at 15:51 of the first.
“I was just playing the puck along the wall and I was battling with Sharp, I think, and all of the sudden, the puck just bounced there and I didn’t know it was coming there,” Polak said. “(Oshie) just tripped on my foot and I lost the puck and they went on a 2-on-1. I just turned and was trying to get the puck and he was already on the ice.”
The Blues thought they had scored to cut Chicago’s lead to 2-1 on a goal by Brad Boyes with 3:33 left in the second and the Blues on a 5-on-3 power play. However, referee Dan O’Halloran whistled a scramble in front of Niemi dead, citing that the puck was frozen, but replays clearly showed Niemi never had possession of the puck.
“The puck obviously was loose, we were banging away,” Boyes said. “What (O’Halloran) saw was what it kind of what it was. It was sitting there and it kind of popped out and I was able to put it in. He blew it dead obviously before. He thought it was under the goalie and that’s it.
“It’s a big goal. It kind of gets us going. I felt like it was in, but it didn’t (count). We still had other chances, other opportunities, but we didn’t get enough.”
Steen got the Blues within one with a power-play goal with a two-man advantage, scoring with 1:46 to play. But the Blues could not convert on another late power play, and finished 1 for 8 for the night.
Niemi, who hasn’t played since being removed from his last start Jan. 23 in Vancouver, played for the first time since suffering from a stomach flu ailment which forced him to miss a scheduled start Wednesday against the Blues.
“It was very tough,” Niemi said. “You have to keep your head in the game and concentrate.”
NOTES: The Blues won 3-2 in Chicago on Wednesday night. … Blues D Erik Johnson has gone 31 games without a goal and has just seven assists in that span after 18 points in 25 games. … The Blackhawks are 9-1-2 in the second of back-to-back games, including 7-0-2 on the road. … Blues C Keith Tkachuk (68 games) and LW Paul Kariya (65 games) each have 67 career points against the Blackhawks. … Blues RW David Perron played in his 200th career game Thursday, becoming the youngest Blue (21) in franchise history to do so. … Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo was in attendance, sitting in a suite with Blues minority owner Tom Stillman.