St. Louis Blues' Eric Brewer (4) and Chicago Blackhawks' Rene Bourque, right, battle for the puck in the first period in an NHL hockey game Saturday, March 29, 2008 in St. Louis. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Bill Boyce
ST. LOUIS - After building a four-goal lead, the Chicago Blackhawks nearly squandered away their playoff hopes.
Duncan Keith and Craig Adams scored short-handed goals as the Blackhawks held on for a 4-3 victory over the St. Louis Blues on Saturday night.
"It was a playoff game for us," Blackhawks coach Denis Savard said. "(St. Louis) wanted to beat us. St. Louis is not going to die. They won (Friday) in Detroit. They had a full house here. They wanted to play well in front of there fans."
The Blackhawks built a 4-0 lead before the Blues rallied with a furious three-goal outburst in the game's final 15 minutes. Chicago was able to hold on thanks in large part to the goals by Keith and Adams.
Chicago, which moved within four points of eighth-place Nashville for the final playoff slot in the Western Conference, also got goals from Andrew Ladd and Jonathan Toews. The Blackhawks, who play again Sunday night at home against Columbus with four games remaining, have 82 points.
"It was a big win," Savard said. "It keeps us in (the playoff chase). We came here to do a job, get two points and we got it."
St. Louis, which got goals from Keith Tkachuk, Brad Boyes and Paul Kariya, are in a 3-13-3 slide in its last 19 games after making a frantic comeback in the third period.
"Some good players started to make some good players and we got some traffic to the net," Blues coach Andy Murray said. "We took advantage of our opportunities. I didn't think we generated enough screens and traffic over the first 40 minutes of the game and we seemed to have a lot more traffic to the net in the third period after they scored (the fourth goal)."
The Blackhawks quickly grabbed momentum with two first-period goals by Ladd and Toews. Ladd scored from a bad angle 1:40 into the game, his 14th of the season, while Toews scored at 15:26 of the opening period on a wrist shot from the right circle.
Horrible. I simply didn't play well today," said Blues goalie Manny Legace, who stopped 15 shots in the loss. "The first goal was a prime example."
A pair of fights were part of the first-period highlights. The Blues' Cam Janssen and Craig Adams squared off 1:42 into the game before St. Louis' David Backes and Chicago's Adam Burish had a brief bout just a few minutes later. Savard made comments in reference to the Blues taking extra hits at Toews and Patrick Kane after the teams met last week in Chicago, and fisticuffs were expected for the rematch Saturday. There was also a scrum with all the players on the ice with 5 seconds remaining.
Keith gave Chicago a 3-0 lead with a short-handed goal at 15:12 of the second period, when Keith's shot from the top of the left circle handcuffed Blues goalie Manny Legace. The play developed as the Blues' Erik Johnson broke his stick on a slap shot from the point that resulted in a Chicago odd-man advantage.
Adams got his fourth of the season 2:06 into the third to make it 4-0 for Chicago after a 2-on-1 break where a Blues defenceman went crashing into the net, knocking the goal off its moorings right as the puck went in. After a review, the goal stood.
Saturday marked the second time this season Chicago scored two short-handed goals in a game against St. Louis.
"I've only maybe been around for three games against them, so I don
this year," Adams said. "I'm not sure and I don't know why that is. It's probably just the way the bounces go more than anything."
Tkachuk got the Blues on the board 6:11 into the final period, redirecting in a pass from Paul Kariya to spoil Nikolai Khabibulin's bid for a third shutout this season. Boyes scored his 41st of the season and third in two nights with 4:58 to play on a feed from David Perron.
Kariya's first goal in 23 games on the power play cut Chicago's lead to 4-3 with 2:40 to play.
Notes: The short-handed goals were Chicago's 15th and 16th of the season, moving them past Ottawa for most in the league. They were also the fourth and fifth short-handed goals Chicago scored against the Blues in eight games this season. St. Louis has allowed 12 short-handed goals this season. ... Tkachuk, who celebrated his 36th birthday Friday, is three goals shy of 500 for his career. ... Blackhawks F Patrick Sharp, who leads the team with 35 goals, has scored only once in the last eight games. ... Blues F Brad Boyes is the first Blues player to score 40 goals in a season since Scott Young scored 40 during the 2000-01 season 13th in team history. ... Chicago won the season series 5-3.