Vladimir Tarasenko scored twice in a 1:53 span in the third period to lead the Blues past the Chicago Blackhawks Monday in the Winter Classic at Busch Stadium. (St. Louis Blues) 

By Rob Rains

Vladimir Tarasenko loves the big stage, and he showed why again on Monday in the Winter Classic.

Tarasenko scored twice in a span of 1:53 in the third period to lead the Blues to a 4-1 win over the Chicago Blackhawks in the Blues’ first oudoor game in their history at Busch Stadium.

Tarasenko’s two goals came after he had been denied on two great scoring chances earlier in the period, being stopped on a breakaway by goalie Corey Crawford and then hitting the post when the Blues were on a power play, meaning he could have scored four goals in the period.

The two goals increased Tarasenko’s total to 18 on the season. He has also scored 14 goals in his last 19 games against the Blackhawks.

“I don’ think you can rank this performance, it’s just different, Tarasenko said. “It’s a different experience, maybe once in a lifetime. I’m just really happy we won the game, that’s the best feeling.”

For the rest of the Blues, knowing Tarasenko is on their team gives them a great feeling.

“Anytime you’ve got Vladi on the team, it usually helps,” said defenseman Alex Pietrangelo.

The game was tied at 1-1 when Tarasenko scored his first goal at 12:05 of the third period, off a lucky bounce. His backhanded centering pass deflected off the skate of Chicago defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson and into the net.

“I could have played it differently but it was a tough bounce,” Hjalmarsson said. “He (Tarasenko) is one of those few guys in the league that has a shot that's more than above average. He doesn't have to wind up to get a big shot away so he can shoot it from anywhere and that's what makes him so dangerous.”

Tarasenko then added his second goal of the game at 13:58 to make it a 3-1 lead before Alexander Steen scored the final goal into an empty net.

Patrik Berglund had tied the game for the Blues with his goal in the second period after the Blackhawks got their only goal of the game just 62 seconds into the game, from defenseman Michal Kempny.

With the game tied, Blues coach Ken Hitchcock was not surprised it was Tarasenko who became the star of the game. Neither were his teammates.

“He's a hungry offensive player,” Hitchcock said. “He's a guy that sniffs out weaknesses or he sniffs out coverage issues and he jumps on it. And when he's engaged like he was today and like he's been for the most part of this year, he's dangerous, because he's one shift away from breaking the thing wide open. He usually doesn't miss on those breakaways -- and I thought for sure that was going to be the one.

“But he was very hungry, he was very heavy and hard on the puck and that's, those type of players, they don't come around very often. And I just thought he played a great game at the puck. He was very competitive, he won a lot of board battles, he came up with a lot of loose pucks down low. And then, obviously, he's just got the gift of knowing where the goalie is not when he's on the angles.”.

Added defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk, “Big time players, you ask them to come through in big games. He’s a guy who shoots a million pucks a game but the one goes in off a skate for him, and that’s hockey right there. We knew if we put pucks at the goal crease we were going to get a bounce. He’s a guy who only needs one shot. He proved that today.”

The loss left the Blackhawks 1-4 in outdoor games and dropped them to 1-4-1 in their last six games.

The game began with a temperature of 46 degrees and the first half was played in a steady but light rain. The game drew a crowd of 46.556 fans.

“It was the coolest thing I’ev ever been a part of,” Pietrangelo said.