ST. LOUIS -- Ken Hitchcock thought his St. Louis Blues finally moved past the lingering debris from their late-season slump in the third period Thursday night and started playing the brand of hockey that allowed them to rack up 111 points through 76 games in the regular season.
Little did Hitchcock know that it would take the Blues another 40-plus minutes to get a win.
Alexander Steen scored 26 seconds into triple overtime at Scottrade Center to give the Blues a 4-3 victory against the Chicago Blackhawks and a 1-0 lead in their Western Conference First Round series. It was the longest playoff overtime game in Blues history and the first to extend into triple overtime.
The Blues lost their final six games of the regular season to fall out of first place in the Central Division and into this first-round matchup with the Blackhawks, but they have a chance to take a 2-0 lead in the best-of-7 series by winning in Game 2 on Saturday (3 p.m. ET, NBC, CBC, RDS).
"We needed it for confidence," said Blues goalie Ryan Miller, who made 39 saves, including 35 in a row after the first period. "I think we needed it to show that stretch we had to finish the season is behind us. The guys needed this, but we have to understand they're a very talented team. It took us a hard-fought game to squeeze out a victory. They've got a ton of talent and they've got the experience of winning."
Blues forward Steve Ott, who was moved onto the top line with Steen and center David Backes for Game 1, helped set up the game-winning goal.
Ott got the puck from Backes, who won it behind the net with a strong forecheck, and left a drop pass in the slot for Steen. The Swedish forward cut through the right circle and from a few feet out beat Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford over his blocker.
"Steener is not going to miss it from the ladies' tee there," said Hitchcock, the Blues' coach. "He's not going to miss that."
Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said the Blackhawks made some technical mistakes that led to the goal. He wouldn't go into detail, but defenseman Johnny Oduya didn't go after the puck with Backes behind the net, defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson was caught on the wrong post when Ott got the puck and Steen was open because forward Brandon Saad didn't follow him as he cut through the circle and toward the slot.
"It stings right now, obviously," said Blackhawks forward Patrick Kane, who scored on a breakaway late in the first period to give Chicago a 3-2 lead. "I think the big thing for us is we've gotta realize that it's only one game and we obviously have a quick turnaround playing an afternoon game coming up, but that's the best part about it. We'll get back at it, try to figure out what we can do better, and hopefully come back in Game 2."
The game extended into overtime because Blues left wing Jaden Schwartz scored his first career goal in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with 1:45 left in regulation to tie the score at 3-3. Schwartz first forced a turnover in the corner with a hard pinch down the left-wing wall. He immediately cut to the net, where center Derek Roy found him for a quick shot through Crawford's legs.
Crawford stopped the Blues' first 13 shots in the third period before Schwartz beat him. The Blackhawks had held the 3-2 lead since 18:24 of the first period, when Kane beat Miller on his breakaway.
"We never stopped working. We never stopped believing," Schwartz said. "We kept rolling the lines. We had chances. There was never a doubt. It was a big goal. To stand here and say I knew I was going to score, I'd be lying, but I wanted to do everything I could and it was definitely nice."
Kane thought the Blackhawks were at times guilty of playing to protect a lead in the third period instead of trying to build on it. They went 0-for-2 on the power play in the first 10 minutes of the period.
"They're pressing, they're pinching, they're aggressive," Quenneville said. "They're gambling and they had some opportunities. We almost got through it."
Chicago outshot the Blues 14-10 in the first overtime, but Miller got some help from center Maxim Lapierre to keep the game going. Lapierre was shoved by Saad and wound up deep in the crease and behind Miller -- but also in perfect position to stop Chicago forward Kris Versteeg's shot with 1:51 remaining.
"Lappy bailed me out," Miller said. "I got caught following [Jonathan] Toews on the play -- that's how these games go. You get lucky in a few situations and you've got to battle through the rest and it's nice to come out of this with a win."
Crawford made back-to-back saves on St. Louis forward Chris Porter with just over seven minutes left in the first overtime. The Blues later killed off a Blackhawks' power play after center Vladimir Sobotka was called for a delay of game penalty after shooting the puck over the glass.
Chicago got another power play in the second overtime after Blues forward Ryan Reaves was called for delay of game seconds after he crunched Toews into the boards with a hard hit. Toews was slow to get up and was bloody, but he was back on the ice during the power play. However, St. Louis killed off that one as well.
Miller later came up big by stopping Chicago forward Patrick Sharp on a breakaway with 2:40 left in the second OT.
"He's quick with that little chip glove, so I just tried to stay close to him and he didn't get it up," Miller said. "Fortunately for me."
Prior to Schwartz's goal, all the scoring took place in the first period. Kane, Oduya and defenseman Brent Seabrook scored for Chicago; forwards Adam Cracknell and Vladimir Tarasenko provided St. Louis' early offense.
Cracknell gave the Blues a 1-0 lead 4:40 into the game, but Oduya and Seabrook scored back-to-back goals 3:25 apart to give Chicago a 2-1 lead with 5:21 left in the period.
The Blues used some exceptional puck movement to tie the game 73 seconds after Seabrook scored. Tarasenko got his first career playoff goal with a shot from the left circle, but the other four Blues on the ice touched the puck before he scored.
The Blackhawks regained the lead when Kane scored on a blue-line-in breakaway 2:32 later, but the Blues eventually found their game, which had been M.I.A. for nearly two weeks, and played on until they rediscovered what winning feels like.
"Win, lose or draw, what happened in the third period is we finally saw our team," Hitchcock said. "We saw our continuity come back. Regardless what happened, to be able to see our team look like that in the third period was a good sign for us."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl