Blues' season will be defined by Game 7: 'It's our turn to answer'

Blues' season will be defined by Game 7: 'It's our turn to answer'

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said before Game 6 that he doesn't care when or where they beat the Blackhawks in the first round. He just wants it to happen, period.

Kevin Shattenkirk agreed but obviously preferred to end it in Chicago because there's no point in giving the defending Stanley Cup champions another day to fight.

Well, they did, and now the series is headed back to St. Louis for a Game 7 on Monday night in perhaps the most important game in St. Louis' franchise history to date.

"It's important that you take the positives out of this and you realize what went wrong and you fix it, and you focus on the task ahead," Scottie Upshall said following Saturday night's 6-3 loss to the Blackhawks. "It's a big game Monday. We're excited. It's going to be a big game for our organization, for our team, we're all going to step up."

The Blackhawks got on the scoreboard first Saturday thanks to an Andrew Ladd goal, his first of the playoffs. But it was a short-lived lead, as the Blues responded right back like they have all series long.

Upshall scored less than three minutes later, which opened the flood gates for the Blues. Alex Pietrangelo — his first of the series — and Vladimir Tarasenko — his fourth of the postseason — each found the back of the net, capping off a three-goal unanswered spurt in a span of 4:42.

The surge had a sellout United Center crowd of 22,260 thinking they'd be packing it in early for the summer, something Chicago isn't used to.

But that thought didn't last too long.

Artem Anisimov scored his third goal of the postseason on the power play to cut the Blackhawks' deficit to 3-2, and they didn't look back. 

Trevor van Riemsdyk and Dale Weise each netted their first goals of the playoffs to put the Blackhawks back on top, and it was enough to take the wind out of the Blues' sails.

"There's a reason they've won a lot of hockey games and championships," Hitchcock said. "They raised their level a little bit in the second period. They were desperate, we didn't match it. They got that advantage, that fourth goal that got the lead, and they were able to keep us pretty much on the outside in the third period.

"That's what you've got to fight through if you're going to win, you've got to fight through that stuff."

The entire television timeout that followed the game-tying goal evoked a standing ovation, pumping energy back into the building and, most importantly, the Blackhawks.

"I think it was the loudest I've ever heard the United Center," said Andrew Shaw, who returned from his one-game suspension by potting a third-period goal. "We built off that and came out and had a few more goals."

Shaw's power-play goal with 3:07 remaining in regulation put the game out of reach, and Marian Hossa's empty-netter sealed the deal, putting the Blues in a backs-against-the-wall situation the Blackhawks have already been in for the last two games.

"They played great, but we were hesitant in our game," Upshall said. "We just didn't do the simple things, and they jumped on us. They had a great second. They played desperate, they did what they had to do and now we're in a spot where we got home ice Game 7 to determine our season."

The Blues' season will be defined by how they respond in Game 7.

They've been eliminated in the first round in three straight postseasons, and a fourth straight first-round exit would be enough to justify a drastic change in the offseason. A series win would indicate a break-through mentally and push the ball closer to a Stanley Cup.

This is their best shot to make it happen, and it's all up to the Blues to prevent history from repeating itself.

"They raised the bar for a period. OK? So now it's our turn to answer," Hitchcock said. "We've worked hard all year to get to this, and we've got an opportunity in front of us. I really want to see us take advantage of it, but we're going to need people to play better. We need our whole team to play better. If we do that, then I like our chances."

And what better way to do it than in front of their own fans?

"We worked 82 games this year to get that home ice," Pietrangelo said. "If there’s a time to use it it’s right now."

Capitals' Devante Smith-Pelly speaks out about 'racially charged chanting' at United Center

Capitals' Devante Smith-Pelly speaks out about 'racially charged chanting' at United Center

After being on the receiving end of some racist taunts while he was in the penalty box during Saturday's game against the Blackhawks, Capitals winger Devante Smith-Pelly spoke publicly about the incident.

Smith-Pelly, a 25-year-old Canadian, reacted to the fans while he was in the box, going up to them from the other side of the glass. He addressed questions from the media about the incident on Sunday.

"I just heard some chanting, some, I guess, racially charged chanting," Smith-Pelly said. "You can tell by my reaction that I got pretty upset.

"What was said this time around crossed the line."

The Capitals released a statement about the incident:

"The Washington Capitals are extremely disappointed by the intolerant behavior extended toward Devante Smith-Pelly by a select group of fans during Saturday night's game against the Chicago Blackhawks at United Center. The Capitals organization strives to be inclusive and has zero tolerance concerning any form of racism. Such behavior is unacceptable and has no place in hockey or society. As such, it is crucial to confront such appalling conduct, and the Capitals extend their appreciation to the Blackhawks organization and United Center security for swiftly removing the fans from the game."

The Blackhawks released a statement after the game with a similar tone.

Smith-Pelly said this has happened previously in his career.

"It's sad that in 2018 we're still talking about the same thing over and over," Smith-Pelly said. "It's sad that athletes like myself 30, 40 years ago were standing in the same spot saying the same thing. You'd think there'd be some sort of change or progression, but we're still working towards it I guess and we're going to keep working towards it."

The Capitals released the full interview.

Blackhawks release statement following incident that happened during game vs. Capitals


Blackhawks release statement following incident that happened during game vs. Capitals

Four fans at the United Center were thrown out of Saturday's Blackhawks game for taunting Washington Capitals forward Devante Smith-Pelly with racist remarks.

Midway through the third period, Smith-Pelly, who is black, was in the penalty box when fans shouted "basketball, basketball, basketball" at him, the Washington Post reported.

Here is a GIF of Smith-Pelly's interaction with the fans:

After the game, the Blackhawks released this statement:

Capitals head coach Barry Trotz also had this to say about the incident: