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Blackhawks edge Blues to go 3-0-0

The SportsXchange

CHICAGO -- The United Center had reason to be loud Tuesday night.

A crowd of 21,455 fans saw the Chicago Blackhawks become the NHL's first team to reach three victories as they defeated the St. Louis Blues 3-2 in the city's lockout-delayed home opener.

The Blackhawks (3-0-0) remained perfect in the young season while the Blues (2-1-0) suffered their first loss of 2013. What's more, the Blues continued to have fits in Chicago, where they haven't won since Feb. 3, 2010.

"We're very happy with the way things have began," Blackhawks coach Joe Quenneville said. "It was a lot of tough opponents right out of the gate, but I like the focus of our team right off the bat and I like the contributions we're getting from a lot of guys. It's a positive start and we're happy, but we're going to try and keep getting better."

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock wasn't of the same mindset when it came to his team and the way it played in the game.

"We played very good for stretches, but made too many poor decisions against a really good team," Hitchcock said. "We were just light with the puck, entering the offensive zone. It wasn't what they did in our zone, it's what we did entering their zone and they transitioned quick. ... You can't make puck errors against a team like that."

Viktor Stalberg scored his second goal of the season at 2:09 of the third period, assisted by Bryan Bickell and Johnny Oduya, putting Chicago's victory on ice.

St. Louis managed to avoid a shutout when left wing Andy McDonald tallied at 4:40 of the third period, his third goal of the season.

The Blues then put a scare into Chicago with just over five minutes remaining, taking advantage of both the power play and sloppy defense by the Blackhawks as T.J. Oshie closed the scoring gap with his second goal of the season.

"The start killed us," McDonald said. "We took too many penalties, we mismanaged the puck, earlier in the game it seemed to take us a while to make plays in our own zone and the neutral zone. Maybe it had to do with how hard they were coming, but we have the skills to make plays and manage the puck better than that and it wound up costing us.

"We're a better hockey team than that. We're not going to sit there and be just happy with one period. We came back and played hard in the third and made it interesting, but we've got to do better than that. That wasn't the team we're capable of being."

And even though they outshot the Blackhawks 34-27, St. Louis would come no closer as goalie Corey Crawford shined in the net and stopped several late Blues chances.

"When the game was on the line, he was big," Quenneville said of Crawford. "He was quick, he moved and anticipated well and made a couple of really big, big saves that were very timely."

Defenseman Brent Seabrook and winger Patrick Kane provided most of the early offensive firepower that the Blackhawks needed in the first two periods.

Taking advantage of the power play, Seabrook scored his first goal of the season at 8:21 of the second period with assists from Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith, putting the Blackhawks up 2-0.

Kane scored Chicago's first home goal of the season (and Kane's second overall this season) at 7:20 of the first period.

After a give-and-go with teammate Patrick Sharp, Kane crossed in front of Blues goalie Brian Elliot and effortlessly deked a shot past the sprawled out Blues goalie to give the Blackhawks an early 1-0 lead.

At 12:47 of the opening period, Blues winger Chris Stewart and Hawks winger Brandon Bollig engaged in a lengthy but relatively mild fight, both being assessed separate five-minute penalties. At period's end, the Blues had outshot the Blackhawks 10-7.

"These are meaningful two- and four-point games when we play a St. Louis, knowing we expect them to be a top team in our conference," Quenneville said. "After watching them play earlier on and in his game, we can definitely know they're going to be around when it counts.

"These are four-point games that at the end could be the differential in being ahead of one another, so let's make sure we prioritize these two points when we play St. Louis, and it was played like that today."

St. Louis' Hitchcock agreed. Even though this is a shortened season, it puts more emphasis and importance on each game played, particularly against a divisional rival like Chicago.

"We've got lots of spirit, but as I told the players, comeback hockey is losing hockey," Hitchcock said. "You can't mount comebacks all the time and expect to win hockey games. We got away with one (Sunday's 4-3 shootout victory at Nashville) and we got caught on it today.

"We broke even on the road, but we can't play this way and expect to win hockey games, so we have to smarten up and do better next time. This is a very good hockey team and they gave us a good evaluation of ourselves."

NOTES: Tuesday was the Blackhawks' home opener for the lockout-shortened season. Last season, the Hawks had the fourth-best home record in the NHL at 27-8-6. ... Coming into Tuesday's game, Hawks right winger Marian Hossa was tied for the lead in goals thus far this season with four, with back-to-back two-goal games in the season openers at the L.A. Kings and Phoenix Coyotes. ... Tuesday marked Blues' left wing Alex Steen's 500th career game in the NHL. ... St. Louis is coming off the second-best season in its history (49-22-11 and 109 points). ... Chicago plays Thursday at Dallas and Saturday at Columbus before returning Sunday against Detroit. The Blues host Nashville on Thursday, are at Dallas Saturday and back home against visiting Minnesota on Sunday.
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