Blackhawks Inch Closer to Playoff Spot with Win Over Blues

The Blackhawks made another important stride towards claiming a playoff spot tonight with their 4-3 shootout win over the St. Louis Blues at the United Center. 

Bryan Bickell, Andrew Brunette and Patrick Sharp scored in regulation and Dave Bolland's shootout tally provided the game winner for Chicago over their division rivals. Corey Crawford made 20 saves for the Blackhawks and stopped all shots in the shoot out. 

Despite the late game surge by St. Louis to tie the game with less than two minutes in the third to force overtime, Crawford was able to best Blues' netminder Jaroslav Halak as Chicago downed St. Louis for the second time in as many meetings. 

The Blackhawks kicked off the scoring in the middle of the first period when Bickell's laser of a wrister beat Jaroslav Halak to make it 1-0 game for Chicago. However, St. Louis answered right back with a goal of their own to tie the game at one just 11 seconds later as Alexander Steen fired a snap shot right past Corey Crawford for his 14th goal of the year. 

The score would remain tied at one through the end of the second period, but the scoring chances highly favored the Blackhawks through the first two periods, outshooting St. Louis 24-11. 

The last stanza saw much more offense as the Blackhawks' strong work ethic and tight fore check paid off with two goals early in the third period. Andrew Brunette made it a 2-1 game for Chicago when he stuffed home a rebound amidst the confusion in front of Halak for his 12th goal of the year. 

Patrick Sharp then made it a 3-1 game favoring the Blackhawks about nine minutes into the third period when he and Viktor Stalberg broke in alone and took a pin-point pass to snap a one-timer past Halak's right side. It was Sharp's 31st goal of the season, which he followed up with a passionate fist-pump. 

Once again, though, the Blues came storming back with another goal of their own to cut the lead to 3-2. As Patrick Kane gave away the puck in the Chicago zone, it slipped out in front of the net and Jason Arnott just had to tap it in through the pads of Corey Crawford. 

St. Louis gained some substantial momentum back from that goal as they continued to keep pressure on the Blackhawks' defenders with their fore check, all the while creating more offensive chances for themselves.

It paid off, as the Blues tied the game at 3-3 with a minute and a half left in regulation to force the extra time.

Though the Blackhawks had the majority of scoring chances in the overtime period, they couldn't convert and would resort to relying on Crawford to make some big stops for the extra point. 

And Crawford was anything but disappointing. 

The Blackhawks take on the Predators once again on Saturday, March 31 when they travel to Nashville for the sixth and final meeting of the teams' series. With just four games left, the Blackhawks could be close to getting team captain Jonathan Toews back from concussion-related issues hopefully just in time for the playoffs.

If the Phoenix Coyotes lose to the San Jose Sharks tonight, the Blackhawks will officially clinch a playoff spot. 

The Blackhawks are playing some good hockey right now and at the right time. They will need to still improve their special teams play and tighten up defensively for the post season, but regardless, will be exciting to watch as we finish off the regular season in just a few days. 

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