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Blues, for once, appear up to playoff challenges

St. Louis has shrugged off adversity at every turn so far against Chicago

by Amalie Benjamin @amaliebenjamin / Staff Writer

CHICAGO -- The roles are in such stark contrast: the team that always loses, the team that always comes back.

That was why the game seemed so tenuous in those final minutes, after Duncan Keith scored off a deflection by Vladimir Tarasenko to cut the St. Louis Blues lead to one goal at 14:40 of the third period, after the Chicago Blackhawks started pushing.

This was where, in years past, the Blues would crack.

But the team that always loses -- at least over the past three seasons, when the Blues have not been able to make it out of the Western Conference First Round -- didn't lose. The Blues came back, again, taking Game 4 of the best-of-7 first-round series 4-3 on Tuesday.

"We haven't had that great response when tough stuff happens," St. Louis captain David Backes said of last season and the season before and the season before that. "But it doesn't matter where it came from, it's here. We love what's on the bench. They got a call or score a goal, and we're right back on it next shift to turn the tide back in our favor."

Video: STL@CHI, Gm4: Schwartz finds puck, pots go-ahead goal

In doing so, they put themselves on the brink of something that hasn't happened since 2011-2012: a spot in the second round.

St. Louis is one win away. One.

The Blues will get a chance to get that win Thursday, to put away the Blackhawks at Scottrade Center, on home ice, in front of their fans. And, as an added bonus, they will get a chance to knock out the team that, over the past six seasons, has usually been the one doing the knocking.

But the Blues have overcome those moments in this series, including having a crucial goal overturned in Game 2, including falling behind in Game 3 before a third-period comeback, including a goal by Keith at 13:09 of the second period in Game 4 after a scrum between the teams and a scuffle between Chicago goalie Corey Crawford and St. Louis rookie forward Robby Fabbri produced a power play for the Blackhawks.

Video: STL@CHI, Gm4: Schwartz puts a big check on Keith

"One of those things where we could let that get under our skin and come unraveled and fold," Backes said. "Instead, we stick with the game plan, stick to it. ... Just, again, the guys did a great job. We need efforts like that again on Thursday to close this out."

Because the Blues know how far they have to go. They have been in commanding positions before, having won the first two games of a first-round series twice (2013, 2014), only to go on to lose the next four. They have tasted that defeat.

So what is about this Blues team?

"Part of it's adversity we faced during the season with different guys being out and the responsibility and the belief system that we've built in here," Backes said. "Part of it's hard lessons over a few years in the first round of exits when we haven't had that great response when tough stuff has happened.

"But you know what? It doesn't matter where it came from. It's here."

Video: STL@CHI, Gm4: Upshall puts a check on Keith in 1st

This was one game. But it was a win in the face of a history that said they should have lost, especially given how good Chicago has been when down 2-1 in recent seasons. Under coach Joel Quenneville, the Blackhawks were 43-14 in Games 4-7 coming into Tuesday, and they were 26-6 in the past three seasons.

But this one went to the Blues. That matters. To the Blues, and to the Blackhawks.

"We know it takes four to win a series, so we're going to do everything we can to make sure we have our best game. We have to," Keith said. "We're facing elimination and we've got to leave it all out on the ice."

So do the Blues. Even with just one more win needed, nothing has been locked up yet.

Video: STL@CHI, Gm4: Bortuzzo puts a big check on Desjardins

As Backes said, "We love what we've done so far, but we haven't accomplished anything. We've got another great task on Thursday."

"They have knowledge no one else has," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We'd all love to have it. Some of us have been lucky to see it and be around it for a few years, but when you have that knowledge, it's like gold. We've got to draw upon the knowledge that we've got in the last three or four games and build on it. But they're the ones that have the knowledge. They know how deep they've got to draw."

The Blues are still the team that hasn't closed out a series in years. The Blackhawks are still the defending champions. But, now, one more game -- one more win for the Blues -- will change all that.

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