Stanley Cup Recap: Defending Champs Dethroned, Predators Prey on Ducks

St. Louis Blues Troy Brouwer celebrates his series winning goal versus the Chicago Blackhawks. (Photo: @StLouisBlues Twitter page)

Monday night was another night for thrilling playoff hockey. In St. Louis, the Blues did what many thought would not be possible by eliminating the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks from the postseason and in Nashville, the Predators extended their series with the Anaheim Ducks. Game 7 coming up.

Chicago Blackhawks vs St. Louis Blues

After six grueling games with enough plot twists to match a Stanley Cup Final, the defending Stanley Cup champion Blackhawks and the Blues faced off in Game 7 in their First Round Series and for the sixth time in those seven games, this would be a one-goal affair with St. Louis defeating Chicago 3-2. Former Blackhawk Troy Brouwer scored the game-winner 8:31 into the third period breaking a 2-2 tie.

The loss eliminated the Blackhawks from the Stanley Cup playoffs.

“Every game was just packed with a sense of urgency and emotion,” St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock said after the contest. “Every game felt like its own sudden-death game. It was a lot of fun. It was a lot of fun to coach in it, to play in it, to strategize in it. It was a lot of fun.

“It was real eye-opening what a championship team can do like them when they can dial it up. You find yourself on the bench just in awe with some of the things they do. We had to find a way to battle through it. We knew that there was going to be a push. It came and came hard. You play in a series like this, you see why that team has won three [Stanley] Cups.”

St. Louis jumped out to a 1-0 lead only 1:00 into the game on a goal by Jori Lehtera assisted by Jay Bouwmeester and Jaden Schwartz.

Colton Parayko gave the Blues a 2-0 lead at the 13:43 mark of the first period. Patrik Berglund and Alexander Steen garnered the assists.

Per Elias Sports Bureau, Parayko is the first defenseman in St. Louis Blues history to score in a Game 7.

Just when St. Louis appeared to be in control of the game, Chicago’s Marian Hossa cut the Blues lead in half, 2-1 with 1:30 remaining on the clock. Richard Panik was credited with the assist.

Chicago’s Andrew Shaw changed the complexion of the game 3:20 into the second period while on the power play. It was his fourth goal of the playoffs. Jonathan Toews and Duncan Keith gathered the assists.

That’s how the period ended and the stage was set for an intense third period.

In that third period, the teams traded scoring chances but the night’s goaltenders, Brian Elliott of the Blues and Corey Crawford of the Blackhawks, stood up to the tasks until Brouwer scored the only goal of the period sending St. Louis onto the Second Round of the playoffs.

Brouwer’s goal was his first playoff goal since May 8, 2013 (24 games).

Chicago came close to tying the game with 3:30 remaining in the third period when Brent Seabrook’s shot from the point hit the post to Elliott’s right, skidded across the goal line and hit the other post before being swept away from the net by Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo.

Elliott recorded 31 saves in the win.

The Game 7 win was the first for the Blues since the 1999 Western Conference Quarterfinal against Phoenix (1-0 overtime win).

The series win was the first for St. Louis since the 2012 Conference Quarterfinal versus San Jose (4 games to 1).

St. Louis will face off against the Dallas Stars in the Second Round. It will be the first postseason meeting between the two teams since the 2001 Conference Semifinals. The teams have met in the playoffs 13 previous times.

Chicago is the first defending Stanley Cup champion to lose in the first round since the Boston Bruins in 2012.  

Anaheim Ducks vs Nashville Predators   

The Ducks walked into Nashville’s Bridgestone Arena on a three-game win streak and leading the series 3-2. A fourth straight Ducks win would end the Predators’ season but Nashville did what good teams do when they have their backs against the wall. They came out with a desperate sense of urgency which resulted in a 3-1 Nashville win that sends the series back to Anaheim for Game 7.

James Neal sent the Predators to the first Game 7 in franchise history with his second goal of the postseason 17:45 into the second period. The lamplighter gave Nashville a 2-1 lead and was assisted by Ryan Johansen. It was Neal’s third career playoff game-winning goal.

The clubs skated to a 0-0 first period before Predators forward Mattias Ekholm opened the scoring 8:10 into the second period. Calle Jarnkrok and Ryan Ellis drew the assists.

Anaheim’s Ryan Kesler closed the gap to 2-1 when he dove to put a rebound into the open side of the Predators’ net with 14 seconds to play in the second period. Corey Perry and Cam Fowler assisted on the power play goal.

That was as close as the Ducks would get on the scoreboard.

With Ducks goaltender Frederik Andersen pulled for the extra skater, Shea Weber scored into an empty net for Nashville with 10 seconds remaining in the third period to seal his team’s victory.

Nashville netminder, Pekka Rinne, stopped 26 shots on the way to the win. He is 17-6-2 in his last 26 games dating back to February 18th.

“It was nice to get that win,” Rinne said. “It was a lot of fun and a great win. I’m just really excited about the Game 7.”       

Game 7 will be at Anaheim’s Honda Center on Wednesday, April 27th at 10:00 p.m. ET (NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports).

Stat of the Night:

The only teams remaining in the Stanley Cup playoffs to win one of the last 10 Stanley Cup championships (since 2005-06) are Pittsburgh (2009) and Anaheim (2007).

Follow ESPN New Hampshire NHL Writer, Shawn Hutcheon, on Twitter at @ShawnHutcheon.

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