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Hossa scores twice, Blackhawks defeat Blues

by Louie Korac

ST. LOUIS -- The Chicago Blackhawks went home looking forward to a making a big push down the stretch.

The Blackhawks, who went 4-3-0 on their road trip after a 4-2 victory against the St. Louis Blues at Scottrade Center on Sunday, will play their next eight games at United Center.

Chicago (33-18-2) has a chance to close the gap on the teams in front of them in the Central Division. The Blackhawks trail the Blues by four points and were six points behind the division-leading Nashville Predators, who played Sunday against the Florida Panthers.

"I don't think I've ever been on any team that had eight straight home games," Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. "It should be fun.

"Individually, you'd say six of the seven we played the right way [during the trip] and played well. "The Minnesota game [on Feb. 3] we sat in the garbage can."

Marian Hossa scored twice in the third period, including the game-winning power play goal with 8:41 remaining to break a 2-2 tie. It was Hossa's first goal in six games.

Hossa took a pass from Brandon Saad in the slot and beat Blues goalie Brian Elliott on the short side.

"I just tried to finish it," Hossa said. "That was a set play and I'm glad it worked."

Hossa also scored an empty-net goal with 13.5 seconds remaining in the game.

Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester was in the box after he took a hooking penalty on Chicago forward Brad Richards.

"That's the first time I've seen them use that play on their rush attack and they got us on the gap on the rush," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "... I think just gap up. We had new people on the ice, people that hadn't played together. When Bouwmeester goes up, you've got different people killing penalties. We didn't have a tough enough gap in the middle with the forward."

The Blackhawks got a goal from Marcus Kruger, a goal and an assist from Bryan Bickell and two assists from Saad. Corey Crawford made 25 saves.

"I think we stepped up a little bit, played better," Kruger said of the end of the trip. "We knew we were in a spot and we want to be in a different spot."

Vladimir Tarasenko and David Backes scored for the Blues (34-15-4), who have lost two in a row after going 12-0-1. They played their seventh game in 11 days and looked like a tired team in the third period when Chicago outshot them 12-3.

"I thought in the third period we looked tired, played tired," Hitchcock said. "Whether it was what they did or what we did, I think a lot of it was us having to come back in the game. The whole game today, we had to mount a comeback. We ended up exerting a lot of energy, probably shortened our bench a little bit more than we normally do."

The Blues overcame a 1-0 deficit after the first period to tie the game, 2-2 after the second period.

Tarasenko's team-leading 28th goal tied the game 1-1 after he scored on a breakaway, deking Crawford before finishing a backhand at 6:52.

Bickell gave Chicago a 2-1 lead after David Rundblad's long-range shot was saved by Elliott, but the rebound in the slot came to Bickell, who split defensemen Carl Gunnarsson and Ian Cole before beating Elliott with a wrist shot high glove side at 11:25 of the second.

The Blues tied it 2-2 when Backes beat Crawford after he initially saved T.J. Oshie's shot.

Oshie crashed the net and got shoved into the crease by Hossa and Niklas Hjalmarsson, which obstructed Crawford from getting back in position to stop Backes' shot from the side of the net at 12:53.

"I really thought after the second period based on the way we played in the second, that we had a real push going, but we didn't sustain much in the third period," Hitchcock said.

Backes agreed.

"We got away from what we had a lot of effectiveness with in the first two periods," he said. "That was shooting pucks from everywhere and then making them face their goaltender, then going to get it again and shooting it again. We were able to score a few key goals, but you get away from that. ... we got a little cute and their transition game with their speed and their top two lines especially, they'll make you pay. We were playing catch-up."

Chicago took a 1-0 lead 4:38 into the first period when Kruger scored his first goal in 28 games and got his first point in 20 after he converted a 2-on-1 from the slot with Daniel Carcillo.

Gunnarsson turned the puck over in the offensive zone and was caught on a pinch that led to the odd-man rush. Kruger beat Elliott to the blocker side with a wrist shot.

"I thought we played very well in the third," Quenneville said. "Second was a little shaky. We played a very good third before and after the [Hossa] goal."

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