The stars have returned -- and not a moment too soon.
First, it was Patrick Kane dominating the last 30 minutes of Game 4, and Friday night it was Marian Hossa scoring the first goal and Jonathan Toews the last in Game 5, as the Blackhawks won 3-2 in overtime at Scottrade Center.
The result is the Blackhawks have won three straight against St. Louis and can clinch the series with Brent Seabrook back in the lineup Sunday afternoon at home.
The Blues, who won the first two against Los Angeles a year ago in the first round before losing four straight, have given up home ice advantage and the Hawks will be difficult to stop Sunday now that they've found their playoff legs again.
"In the playoffs, momentum is something real and something you can feel," said Hawks coach Joel Quenneville. "Momentum is something that when you get it, you want to keep it as long as you can."
Well, the Hawks have it now, having been outplayed the first three games and following up with two strong outings.
"One game at a time," Toews said. "We have four lines and we go shift by shift and we're not looking further ahead than that. We've done a good job of that so far and we've put ourselves in a great spot in the series."
The game-winner came on a brilliant play from Duncan Keith, who played a game-high 29:04 and stopped a Blues scoring chance while in the same motion clearing the zone and finding the captain jumping on the playing surface and all alone at center ice.
Toews cruised in, froze Ryan Miller with the puck on his forehand and tucked it in backhand just inside the post and past the goaltender for an overtime win and a new outlook on life for the visitors.
"I wasn't even sure where their defense was," Toews said. "I was just hauling as fast as I could."
Five games, four overtimes. A series doesn't get much closer than this. It's starting to look a lot like the opening round against Phoenix in 2012 when the first five games went to overtime and the Blackhawks lost three of them, eventually falling in a sixth game on home ice.
This time, however, the Hawks will have a chance to clinch at home. The defending Stanley Cup champs have come back from down two games, losing twice in overtime in St. Louis to begin the series.
"Everyone in the room was talking before overtime," Toews said. "We said here's our chance to change things up. We had a couple tough bounces in Games 1 and 2 in OT, and this is our chance to get a tough win on the road and feel good about going home."
And they will feel good. The UC crowd will ensure that.
"The momentum is on our side," Hossa said. "We stole one here and now we get to go home. That feels good."
Hossa felt very good when he opened the scoring at 16:11 of the first for his first goal of the series. He followed up his own shot on Miller, scooped up the rebound and fired it into an empty net for a 1-0 lead.
The Hawks carried the play for most of the first 30 minutes but couldn't get that big second goal, and the Blues tied it in the middle frame when T.J. Oshie walked around Niklas Hjalmarsson and Corey Crawford, and beat the goalie from his knees on the backhand with 8:56 remaining in the second.
The Hawks got it back six minutes later when Ben Smith put in some great work down low keeping the play alive. He shoveled it to Kane, who got it back to Sheldon Brookbank, and then Smith picked up a rebound and flipped a backhand past Miller for a 2-1 Hawks lead.
The Blues tied it early in the third on a 4-on-4 when Nick Leddy carried deep and fired it wide on a deflection, but Andrew Shaw -- the last forward in -- didn't cover for Leddy and the Blues busted down 2-on-1. Alex Pietrangelo scored off a pretty Jaden Schwartz feed at 1:42 and the game went extra minutes.
But 7:36 into OT, Toews gave the Hawks the lead in the series, and a team that simply will not quit regardless of how dire the circumstances, finally has the advantage.
For the Blues, it might feel insurmountable.
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