ST. LOUIS – The Blackhawks playing in an outdoor game has become tradition. So has their losing in them.
Michal Kempny scored his second goal in as many games but Vladimir Tarasenko scored twice as the St. Louis Blues beat the Blackhawks 4-1 in the 2017 Winter Classic on Monday afternoon.
The Blackhawks are now 1-4-0 in outdoor games. The only one they won was at Soldier Field on March 1, 2014 (4-1 over the Pittsburgh Penguins).
“I mean, last time in Minnesota, it was kind of a blowout but [today] it was a closer game and we did a lot of good things,” Duncan Keith said. “But we tried to make too many plays and got away from our game plan, and they came down and scored.”
Yes, this one was closer, the Blackhawks and Blues deadlocked at 1-1 heading into the third period. But the third period, especially the start of it, wasn’t close. The Blues had seven or eight shots before the Blackhawks got their first. The Blackhawks’ first third-period shot didn’t come until the midway point of the frame.
A bigger immediate issue, however, is the Blackhawks are now 1-4-1 in their last six games. They’ve relied too much on goaltending all season, and that was true again on Monday as Corey Crawford kept it tied through the first 50-plus minutes. But you got the sense it was only a matter of time before the Blues cashed in on their chances.
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Tarasenko finally did, albeit with an unfortunate deflection for the Blackhawks. The forward’s third-period shot went off Niklas Hjalmarsson’s skate and in to give the Blues a 2-1 lead about eight minutes into the third.
“We had guys in the right spot. Hammer made a great play coming back and he was in the perfect position, but sometimes it’s really fluky and there’s nothing you can do about it,” Trevor van Riemsdyk said.
Tarasenko’s second goal, however, was all his as he put the Blues up 3-1 about two minutes later.
“He’s one of the few guys in the league who has a shot that’s more than above average,” Hjalmarsson said of Tarasenko. “He doesn’t have to wind up to get a big shot away. He can shoot it from anywhere. That’s what makes him so dangerous.”
In their last two games the Blackhawks have experienced a bit of a reversal. They’ve gotten the early goal and lead – Kempny both times, just 62 seconds into the game on Monday – but haven’t had enough at the end.
Maybe it’s just coincidence that the Blackhawks don’t fare well in these outdoor games. This one was close until the third period. But for a team that’s been struggling lately, a frustrating division loss, be it indoors or out, is a frustrating division loss.
“This year was comparable to the tough loss we had in Washington [to start 2015,] lost with a couple of minutes to go. It wasn’t like we weren’t in the hockey game,” coach Joel Quenneville said. “Crow did a good job of keeping us in the game as well but [it’s] certainly disappointing that you’re there, you’re looking to get a point, hopefully two."