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Blackhawks-Blues Preview

Chicago Blackhawks' Johnny Oduya, of Sweden, is congratulated by Brandon Saad, left, after scoring during the first period in Game 1 of a first-round NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoff series against the St. Louis Blues Thursday, April 17, 2014, in St. Louis. Photo:

Chicago Blackhawks' Johnny Oduya, of Sweden, is congratulated by Brandon Saad, left, after scoring during the first period in Game 1 of a first-round NHL hockey Stanley Cup playoff series against the St. Louis Blues Thursday, April 17, 2014, in St. Louis.

The St. Louis Blues had no Game 7 predictions late Saturday night. They were too busy fending off questions about their impending collapse.

While the Chicago Blackhawks are doing what they always seem to do, the Blues are facing a familiar first-round flop, one they will try to avoid when they head back to St. Louis for Monday night's series finale.

"It's going to be fun here to win it in Chicago."

That Game 6 prophecy of sorts from Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo suddenly sounds more like a Chicago rallying call.

It tanked hard Saturday night when the defending Stanley Cup champions scored five unanswered goals for a 6-3 win at United Center to force a winner-take-all finish.

Dale Weise capped a three-goal second period with the eventual winner, and Andrew Shaw scored in his return from a one-game suspension for hurling a gay slur at officials in Game 4. Those tallies helped the Blackhawks rally from a 3-1 deficit - just like they could in this series with one more victory.

Chicago improved to 45-15 in Games 4-7 and 15-1 in Game 6s in eight seasons under coach Joel Quenneville. The Blackhawks are 2-2 in Game 7s in that time, including a win and loss on the road.

"It's a testament again to our experience and the guys who haven't been here ... to really buy in and play the right way when we've been in this do-or-die position we've been in the last couple games," captain Jonathan Toews said. "You see what can happen when we all buy in, we all play the right way."

Toews is still yet to score in this series, but he had two assists Saturday. A Chicago attack that totaled eight goals through the first four games has 10 in the last two - starting with Thursday's 4-3 double-overtime win in Game 5.

St. Louis seemed to have the Blackhawks' number, winning three of five regular-season meetings and outplaying them early in this series.

However, a massive hit advantage shrank Saturday to 40-38, the narrowest yet. The physical play, which resulted in a fight from Chicago goaltender Corey Crawford and Shaw's outburst in Game 4, amounts to a 249-187 St. Louis advantage through six games.

While St. Louis has bested Chicago in the first and third periods, the middle 20 minutes has resulted in a 10-3 Blackhawks scoring edge.

Blues coach Ken Hitchcock also had to defend his use of star forward Vladimir Tarasenko, whose ice time was down in Game 6. Tarasenko appeared to confront Hitchcock when the team left the bench after the second period.

"Knowledgeable hockey people don't look at time, they look at shifts, and shifts matter," Hitchcock said. "The game he plays is a physical game. It's at the puck, it's around the puck, it's one on one and it's very demanding."

Brian Elliott was great the opening four games but has surrendered nine goals in the last two with an .871 save percentage. He was beaten three times on 19 shots in Saturday's second period, but Hitchcock is sticking with him.

"There's no bad goals," forward Paul Stastny said. "He's made the big saves when he's had to, and sometimes whether it's an odd-man rush or a rebound or we just lose our coverage, the goalie's not at fault."

The Blues have been knocked out in the opening round in each of the last three seasons, including a 2014 six-game series against the Blackhawks that they led 2-0.

"It's going to change eventually, so why not do it tomorrow?" Stastny said. "I think in here, we have that mentality that what happened in the past happened in the past. I think we all believe in each other."

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