Chicago Blackhawks will open playoffs on road
Thanks to some amazing late-game wizardry by St. Louis' Vladimir Tarasenko on Thursday night, the Chicago Blackhawks officially will start the Stanley Cup playoffs either at St. Louis or Dallas next week.
The Hawks were less than 90 seconds away from shutting out the Blues and retaining a glimmer of hope of passing St. Louis for second place in the Central Division, but with 1:16 on the clock, Tarasenko whizzed a shot past Scott Darling and tied the game at 1-1.
The Blues' superstar then notched the game-winner with 1:23 left in OT, meaning the Blues (107 points) have clinched home-ice advantage in the first round and remain tied with Dallas atop the Central Division with one game remaining.
"It hurts. It hurts for sure," Patrick Kane said. "Thought we played a great game up to that point against a good team."
St. Louis finishes at home against Washington, while Dallas (which holds the tiebreaker) hosts Nashville. Both games are Saturday. The division winner will have home-ice advantage through the Western Conference finals.
The Hawks face whichever team finishes second.
After the Blues tied it, the 22,075 at the United Center nearly saw something that might have made them wonder if coach Joel Quenneville had lost his mind. The Blackhawks' coach was trying to pull Darling in the final minute -- again, in a tie game -- but he never had the opportunity to pull it off.
The reason for wanting to pull Darling was simple: The Hawks, who trailed St. Louis by 4 points with two games left before the night began, had to win in regulation for any chance of catching the Blues.
Quenneville wasn't bemoaning his team's fate afterward, however, especially considering it played without the suspended Duncan Keith and four injured players -- Marian Hossa, Andrew Shaw, Artem Anisimov and Corey Crawford.
"I don't mind the way we're playing here," Quenneville said. "I thought we did some good things in a lot of ways, in a lot of areas. Didn't mind it."
The Hawks took a 1-0 lead thanks to a Jonathan Toews goal at 12:40 of the second period. He scored with the teams playing 4-on-4 after taking a pass from Kane and beating Brian Elliott with a shot that went through the five-hole.
Kane set a career high with his 59th assist on the play. It was Toews' 28th goal.
Darling, who made 33 saves, went 6-3-2 in relief of Crawford. It looks like his run as starting goalie is over, however, as Quenneville said he still wants Crawford to start at Columbus.
As for home ice, the Hawks certainly showed they didn't need it to win the Cup last season, as they started on the road against Nashville, Anaheim and Tampa Bay.
"Sometimes it can be a positive if you steal one of the games on the road and come back home feeling good about yourself," Kane said.