CHICAGO – The St. Louis Blues played like a much different team than the one the Chicago Blackhawks saw a month ago on the night Davis Payne took over as interim coach.
Catching the Blackhawks in their first home game since a two-week, eight-game road trip, the Blues got two goals from David Backes and scored three times in the second period to beat Chicago 3-2 Wednesday night.
Chris Mason had 32 saves as St. Louis improved to 8-5-3 since Payne replaced Andy Murray.
“They got some lines together. When you look at their top three lines, they got some offence, they got some guys who can make plays and are dangerous off rush and turnovers,” said Chicago coach Joel Quenneville, not happy with his team’s play in the latter stages of the second. “A lot of their goals we generated via turnovers. A lot of our puck possession game led to their offence.
“It has always been a tradition that anybody coming off an extended trip that the first game back is always challenging. … It was kind of a frustrating game.”
St. Louis scored three times in the final 8:26 of the second – the second and third goals coming 69 seconds apart – to spoil Chicago’s first game at home since Jan. 14. The Blackhawks had gone 5-3 on a trip that took them to both coasts and covered nearly 7,800 miles.
“I don’t know if you can ever catch this team at a good time,” Mason said of the Blackhawks. “They haven’t had any long lulls or anything.”
The change to Payne has given the Blues a lift.
“We’re seeing a little bit more of the up-tempo play. He’s obviously got a little youthful energy himself and we’re playing more as a team and for longer, more-consistent periods,” Backes said. “We were in a shell a lot before that and he’s done a great job motivating us and been able to get us all on the same page and playing as a team.”
Jay McClement also had a goal for the Blues, who had 19 shots. Patrick Kane and Marian Hossa scored for Chicago.
McClement scored from in-close by deflecting in a shot from teammate Roman Polak with 22 seconds to go in the second period, making it 3-1.
Backes’ second goal, with 1:31 left in the second, came on the power play when his shot from the left circle went between Cristobal Huet’s legs to put the Blues up 2-1.
About 7 minutes earlier, Paul Kariya raced behind the net to get the puck after Chicago’s Duncan Keith had tried to bank it off the boards and fed it back to Backes in the right circle. His shot went whizzing past Huet to make it 1-1.
Hossa had a short-handed goal at 4:16 of the final period, taking a nice pass from Jonathan Toews to make it 3-2, but then Mason held off the Blackhawks.
“Our offence came alive in the second half of the second period. The third period they came us really hard and we did a good job and survived,” Mason said.
Kane scored on a breakaway, picking up the puck after a blocked shot by teammate Troy Brouwer and skating in to beat Mason just 2:40 into the game.
Mason stopped wraparound attempts by Toews and Dustin Byfuglien and denied Hossa at the end of a 2-on-1 break to keep the Blues close in the opening period. St. Louis managed just three shots in the first 20 minutes.
The Blues had their best scoring chance of the opening period when Brad Boyes got the puck on a turnover from Keith but couldn’t connect at the end of the breakaway just before the horn sounded.
NOTES: Blackhawks C Dave Bolland was activated from injured reserve before the game and made his first appearance since undergoing back surgery Nov. 10. He got a loud ovation when he hit the ice for the first time. The Blackhawks also recalled G Joe Fallon from Rockford of the AHL. He replaced backup Antti Niemi, who was supposed to start against the Blues but was ill. … The Blues got their first win in three meetings with Chicago this season. The longtime rivals play three more times this season. … Hossa has four short-handed-goals this season. … The Blues continued to play better on the road where they are 16-8-4.