By R.B. FALLSTROM
(ST. LOUIS, AP) — In the first period, Ryan Miller looked like the goalie who limped home 0-5. For the final 80 minutes, 26 seconds, the St. Louis Blues saw the cool, confident backstop they acquired to make the deep playoff run they’ve long sought.
Miller allowed three goals on seven shots in the first period, then shut the door on the Chicago Blackhawks to pave the way for Alexander Steen’s deciding goal in an epic 4-3, triple-overtime Game 1 victory on Thursday night.
“It’s not all about one period,” Miller said. “I tried not to change my approach and it’s nice to come out on the right side.”
Steen scored 26 seconds into the third overtime to cap the longest playoff game in franchise history, beating Corey Crawford off a pair of short passes from Steve Ott and David Backes to end the marathon.
“I didn’t know how open he was, obviously,” Ott said. “He obviously buried it and the game’s over. We stuck with it and we found a way to win it.”
The Blues got most of their injured front-line players back for Game 1, then put a six-game losing streak to end the regular season behind them.
“Win, lose or draw, what happened in the third period was we finally saw our team,” St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock said.
The next challenge is finding a way to recover on short rest, with Game 2 on Saturday afternoon. Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo logged 44 minutes, 8 seconds of ice time and two Blackhawks, Duncan Keith and Niklas Hjalmarsson, played more than 40 minutes.
Miller made 39 saves for the Blues and Crawford had 48 for Chicago.
“I think the big thing for us is we have to realize it’s only one game and we’ve got a quick turnaround coming back,” Chicago’s Patrick Kane said. “That’s the best part about it, we get right back at it.”
Kane scored on a breakaway to put Chicago up 3-2 late in the first period. Jaden Schwartz stole the puck to set up his tying goal with 1:45 to go in regulation.
The Blues’ previous longest overtime game was a 4-3 loss at Detroit in 1984 that extended 37 minutes, 7 seconds. The home record for a playoff overtime game was 33:49 of extra time in a 5-4 win over Chicago on April 20, 1989.
St. Louis had to kill off delay-of-game penalties for shooting the puck into the stands in the first two overtimes and Chicago coach Joel Quenneville argued vehemently for a second delay of game that would have given Chicago a 5-on-3 advantage in the first OT. The Blackhawks killed off a holding penalty in the second overtime.
Jonathan Toews, like Kane back from a lengthy injury absence, had two assists for Chicago.
Schwartz, Vladimir Tarasenko and Adam Cracknell all scored their first playoff goal for the Blues.
The Blackhawks kept the Blues pinned in their own zone for 2:10 during the first overtime, and Maxim Lapierre made the save of the session by getting in front of a drive by Kris Versteeg with less than two minutes remaining.
“Guys like me take pride in blocking shots and doing little details,” Lapierre said.
Tarasenko was among the best players coming off a 15-game absence because of a broken thumb, tying for the team lead with seven shots.
Cracknell tapped in a rebound early in the first to end a scoring drought of 148 minutes, 39 seconds for a team that got shut out the last two games of the regular season.
Kane scored his 30th career playoff goal after catching the defense napping at the end of a St. Louis power play, beating Miller off a long lead pass from Toews for a 3-2 lead at 18:24 of the first.
Miller allowed three goals on just seven shots in the first with defensemen Johnny Oduya and Brent Seabrook also scoring for Chicago.
“They had a couple of nice shots in the first, but I had to come out and battle,” Miller said. “Luckily I got ahold of a few of them.”
St. Louis’ top line of David Backes, Steen and Ott was a combined minus-5 in the first. Ott was a bit of surprise, considering he was minus-7 during the Blues’ six-game losing streak to end the regular season, but was solid the rest of the way.
“He played the way we thought he could play,” Hitchcock said. “With that type of energy, that type of focus, he’s a good player.”
Crawford faced just three shots in the second, but needed big saves to thwart Tarasenko and Ott. He made glove saves on drives by Steen and Tarasenko not long before Schwartz got the equalizer.
NOTES: Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester, who has the longest consecutive game streak in major sports at 717 games, left in the first overtime and did not return. Hitchcock said Bouwmeester was dehydrated but was fine after the game. … Oduya and Seabrook combined for 10 goals in the regular season. Oduya’s goal was first credited to Versteeg on a deflection. … The Blues scratched a pair of top forwards, T.J. Oshie (head) and Patrik Burglund (shoulder). … Kane had two goals and four assists against St. Louis in the regular season and Toews had a goal and three assists.