Tarasenko helps Blues top Blackhawks 5-2 in opener
CHICAGO – St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock got what he needed from his top players, and that was more than enough on opening night.
Vladimir Tarasenko had two goals and an assist, and the Blues kicked off the season with a solid 5-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday.
"The guys that have been around did a number today," Hitchcock said. "The guys that have been here before and know what it's like to play in this building, know what it's like to play against Chicago, they played really well today."
Kevin Shattenkirk and Paul Stastny each had a goal and two assists for the Blues, who eliminated the Blackhawks in seven games in the first round of the playoffs in April. Jake Allen had 17 saves in his first game since he was handed the lead goaltending job with Brian Elliott's June trade to Calgary.
St. Louis went 3 for 5 on the power play.
"I think that last two days in practice really helped us find our groove," said defenseman Alex Pietrangelo, who took over as captain after David Backes signed with Boston in the offseason. "We kept it simple, try not to be overly complicated. We've got a lot of guys who can shoot the puck. The big thing is putting the puck toward the net."
Richard Panik and Ryan Hartman scored for Chicago, which struggled in the second period. Corey Crawford finished with 29 saves.
The Blackhawks had five rookies in the starting lineup, and four players made their NHL debut. And they looked out of sync for much of the night.
"There's definitely some learning going on," coach Joel Quenneville said. "We'll accept mistakes through hard work, because that's how you get better."
Hartman put Chicago in front 2-1 with his first NHL goal at 13:57 of the second, but the Blackhawks were whistled for three penalties in a span of 1:34 late in the second. Captain Jonathan Toews was sent off for slashing with 2:06 left in the period, veteran center Artem Anisimov got called for hooking and defenseman Duncan Keith received a high-sticking penalty at 19:28.
During the delay after the call on Keith, Tarasenko tied it at 2 with a wrist shot that beat Crawford on the goaltender's stick side. The 24-year-old Tarasenko set career highs with 40 goals and 74 points last season.
"He's proven to be a big-time player and obviously these games mean so much to us," Shattenkirk said. "He is someone who just shows up in those big games."
Blackhawks defenseman Brent Seabrook saved a goal when he swept a bouncing puck off the line late in the second. But the Blues went ahead to stay on Stastny's power-play goal 55 seconds into the third off a rebound from Tarasenko's shot.
Chicago had two power-play opportunities in the third, but it was turned away each time. Tarasenko then finished off the Blackhawks with an empty-netter with 1:06 remaining, and Scottie Upshall was credited with a second empty-netter on what looked like an own-goal for Chicago.
"We didn't do a whole lot of what we wanted to," Toews said. "Our energy, our speed and our work ethic wasn't quite there. We've got to regroup and try to come with that energy in that next one, and play a little bit smarter, too."
NOTES: RW Nail Yakupov played 10 1/2 minutes for the Blues. He was acquired in a trade with Edmonton on Friday. ... Blackhawks winger Marian Hossa remains stuck on 499 career goals. He assisted on Panik's goal in the first. ... Blackhawks D Niklas Hjalmarsson completed his suspension for charging Blues forward Ty Rattie during a preseason game on Oct. 1. D Michal Rozsival and C Dennis Rasmussen also were scratched. ... St. Louis scratched Rattie, D Carl Gunnarsson and LW Magnus Paajarvi. ... Olympic gymnastics champion Simone Biles got a standing ovation when she was shown on the videoboard during the first period. She acknowledged the cheering crowd with a wave.
Blues: Host Minnesota on Thursday night.
Blackhawks: Visit Nashville on Friday and then host the Predators on Saturday night.
Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap