Chicago, IL (SportsNetwork.com) - The Chicago Blackhawks have cleared yet another hurdle in their quest for a second straight Stanley Cup.
For the St. Louis Blues, it was another bad moment of deja vu.
And once again, Jonathan Toews came through on the game's biggest stage.
Toews' score 44 seconds into the third period began a four-goal barrage in the final frame that carried the Blackhawks to a 5-1 Game 6 victory over the Blues that wrapped up a thrilling Western Conference quarterfinal series between the longtime rivals.
Four of the first five meetings were decided in overtime, the most recent Chicago's 3-2 triumph in Friday's Game 5 on Toews' eighth career postseason game-winner. There was no need for sudden death in Sunday's clincher, however, after St. Louis unraveled over the final 20 minutes following a dominant but frustrating second period.
Corey Crawford kept the Blues scoreless in the second despite St. Louis owning a 17-3 advantage in shots, and Toews, Patrick Sharp and Andrew Shaw all lit the lamp within the first 7 1/2 minutes of the third to turn a nail- biting contest into a blowout.
"They were dominating the first 40 minutes and we came back with maybe our best period of the year," said Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville.
Duncan Keith tacked on another goal late for good measure and added three assists, with defense partner Brent Seabrook tallying a pair of helpers in his return from a three-game suspension for a check to the head of St. Louis captain David Backes in Game 2.
Crawford stopped 35-of-36 shots overall to once again outduel counterpart Ryan Miller, who managed just 22 saves in the Blues' fourth consecutive loss after taking the first two games in overtime.
It's the second straight year St. Louis blew a 2-0 series lead in the opening round. The Blues dropped four straight to a Los Angeles Kings team that eventually fell to the Blackhawks in the 2013 West finals.
They appeared poised to force a Game 7 after peppering Crawford all throughout the middle session, but the Chicago netminder was up to the challenge to virtually single-handedly keep the score deadlocked at 1-1 heading into the third.
Chicago then showed its championship pedigree, capitalizing on its scoring chances to leave no doubt of the final outcome.
Keith, whose heady outlet pass led to Toews' winner in Game 5, saved the puck in the Blues' zone to set up the go-ahead marker in this one as well. He quickly fed Toews in the right circle, where the star center skated into the slot and fired a well-placed attempt into the upper left corner as Miller went low.
It was a 3-1 lead a mere 77 seconds later, as Sharp blocked a Kevin Shattenkirk shot to create a breakaway in which the Blackhawks' sniper slipped a shot underneath Miller while being hooked from behind.
"We played a great first two periods, but I thought the third goal ... you could see a big sag on the team after that," said Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock.
Chicago didn't let up, with Keith rocketing a shot that landed right on Shaw's stick as the latter was stationed to the right of Miller at the 7:30 mark. The two teamed up again for the final goal, where Miller overplayed Shaw's pass on a 2-on-1 rush and Keith tapped the puck into a wide-open left side with 2:55 remaining.
Toews, also credited with the deciding goal in the Blackhawks' pivotal 2-0 win in Game 3, broke the franchise record he had shared with Jeremy Roenick with his ninth career postseason game-winner.
Chicago now awaits the winner of the Colorado-Minnesota series, which the Avalanche hold a 3-2 edge heading into Monday's Game 6 in St. Paul.
Both clubs scored once during an evenly played opening period, with Bryan Bickell giving Chicago a 1-0 lead 4:12 in by redirecting a long wrist shot from Seabrook following an extended stay by the Blackhawks in St. Louis' end.
The Blues drew even with 3:32 left in the frame. Crawford made the initial stop on a drive by Jay Bouwmeester, but Alexander Steen cradled the rebound and sent a behind-the-net wraparound pass that T.J. Oshie knocked home from in close.
The team that scored first won all six matchups in the series ... The Blues have now lost 11 of their last 12 playoff series that were tied 2-2 ... Chicago is now 11-2 since 2009 in playoff games it can clinch the series ... St. Louis finished 0-for-6 on the power play and was just 2-for-29 with the man advantage for the series ... Seabrook logged six points (two goals, four assists) in the three games he appeared in.
04/27 20:55:48 ET