As the time ticked down the Blackhawks still had a shot at securing home ice, still had a chance to control a little bit of what happened down the regular-season stretch.
But two Vladimir Tarasenko goals later, the only thing the Blackhawks know is that they’ll start their postseason on the road.
Jonathan Toews scored his 28th goal of the season, but Tarasenko scored the tying goal late in regulation and the winner in overtime as the Blues came back to beat the Blackhawks, 2-1, on Thursday night. The loss means the Blackhawks will start on the road. Who they play is still unknown. The Dallas Stars and Blues are tied atop the Central; the Blackhawks will play whoever finishes in second place.
The Blackhawks clung to their 1-0 lead until late in regulation. A few seconds after Blues goaltender Brian Elliott vacated the net, Tarasenko scored his 38th to tie it at 1 with 1:16 remaining in regulation. It was Tarasenko again 3:37 into overtime.
“Yeah, it hurts. Hurts for sure,” said Patrick Kane, who assisted on Toews’ goal for his 103rd point of the season. “I thought we played a great game up to that point against a good team. You give one up with (1:16) left, and we’re in a position where you’ve got to score in (1:16) to basically put yourself in a good position to try and get home ice. Obviously it didn’t happen.”
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Coach Joel Quenneville was disappointed but not overly so. The Blackhawks had won their three previous games despite missing players. Considering this was one more game where they were missing Duncan Keith (suspension), Marian Hossa, Andrew Shaw, Artem Anisimov and Corey Crawford (all injured), Quenneville could live with it.
“I don’t mind the way we’re playing here,” he said. “We’re missing five guys right now in a game (in which) I thought we played pretty good. I thought we did some good things in a lot of ways, a lot of areas so, I didn’t mind it.”
The Blackhawks weren’t giving the Blues much prior to that final minute-plus. What they did give up, Scott Darling stopped. Darling, making his 11th consecutive start, stopped 24 of 25 in regulation and overtime.
“Yeah, it’s tough, definitely tough,” Darling said. “You want to close out a close game. They made a good play on the goal, and 3-on-3 is anybody’s game.”
The Blues, who are also dealing with some injuries, had their chances. Giving Tarasenko space can be lethal. The Blackhawks did, and it was. Elliott stopped 33 of 35 shots, making several big stops including one on Andrew Ladd’s penalty shot in the third period.
The Blackhawks entered this game potentially having some say in what happened in the first round. Now it’s out of their hands. They know they’re heading on the road, they just don’t know where yet. They played a pretty good game considering some of their top guys were out. Nevertheless, this one hurt.
“We were in a good situation,” Kane said. “I thought we played pretty well all night. I don’t think we gave up much. We had some chances going the other way that could have made the score a little bit different, but didn’t turn out that way, obviously. We’ve got to be better at finishing off those games.”