Troy Brouwer is congratulated by the players on the bench after his third-period goal put the Blues ahead 3-2 in game 7 against the Blackhawks Monday night. (Scott Rovak/St. Louis Blues)

By Rob Rains

All that mattered to Troy Brouwer was that the red light went on and the puck went in the net.

“That’s the ugliest goal I’ve ever scored and probably the most timely,” said Brouwer, whose goal midway through the third period broke a 2-2 tie and gave the Blues a 3-2 win in game seven Monday night over the Chicago Blackhawks, eliminating the defending Stanley Cup champions in the opening round.

“It means a lot to me, to the team and to the franchise,” Brouwer said. “For a franchise that has had trouble getting out of that first round it’s a confidence booster. Sometimes when you are not able to do it you start doubting yourself and tonight is a huge encouragement for us.”

Brouwer, the only Blues player who has won a Stanley Cup and the only player on the roster who has appeared in more than two game sevens, was able to find the puck in front of the net after it hit the post, and as he fell, directed it back into the net at 8:31 of the third period.

“I was joking that if I didn’t put that one in I might quit hockey,” Brouwer said.
As the play developed, even those on the bench tried to help Brouwer will the puck into the net.

“The bench was trying to help push it in,” said coach Ken Hitchcock. “God was it an anxious moment on the bench. Then he almost tried to kick it. We would have had a heart attack.”

The goal allowed the Blues to wipe out three years of frustrating losses in the opening round of the playoffs with their first series victory since 2012. It also was their first game seven win since 1999, when Joel Quenneville was their coach, and their first win in game seven at home since 1991.

They also avoided blowing the series after taking a 3-1 lead before the Blackhawks won games five and six to force the deciding game seven.

It was Brouwer’s eighth career playoff goal but his first in 24 games dating back to 2013, when he was playing for Washington.

Only eight players are left on the Blues roster who were on the team the last time they won a playoff series. They advance to play the Dallas Stars in the Western Conference semifinals.

“It was great to have smiles on our faces instead of the frowns we’ve had so many times going through the line,” said one of those eight, captain David Backes.

The Blues had built a 2-0 lead on first-period goals from Jori Lehtera and Colton Parayko only to see the Blackhawks respond on a goal from Marian Hossa, his 52nd career goal in the playoffs, with 1:30 left In the first period and a power-play goal from Andrew Shaw early in the scond period.

That was when Brouwer’s leadership kicked in. Acquired from Washington for T.J. Oshie last summer, Brouwer was playing his seventh consecutive playoff series which had gone to a game seven.

“I’d like to think it (his experience) played a pretty good part, not just scoring the goal but making sure on the bench guys were calm, and excited at the right times,” Brouwer said. “Getting out to a 2-0 lead making sure we were not too far ahead of ourselves like we were in game six.”

The Blackhawks came back from a 3-1 deficit in that game, and as he watched from the bench, Hitchcock knew why they have won three of the last six Stanley Cups.

And he hopes his team will benefit from going through, and winning, this series.

“It was really eye-opening what a championship team can do like them when they dial it up,” Hitchcock said. “You find yourself in awe on the bench seeing what they do. We had to find a way to battle through it. We have knowledge now of what it takes and we have to use it.”

It was a disappointing end to the season for the Blackhawks.

“That felt like a conference final,” Quenneville said. “That’s the division we’re in, that’s the conference we’re in … the best in the league. It’s a tough way to go out.”

The Blues held Patrick Kane to only one goal, the double overtime game-winner in game five, and kept Jonathan Toews from scoring a goal during the seven games.

“People were saying this series looked like it was going to come down to one goal at the end, and it did,” Toews said. “Just wasn’t in our favor."

NOTES: The only previous time the Blues and Blackhawks met in a Game 7 was in 1990, when the Blackhawks won the Norris Division finals with an 8-2 win in Chicago. ... The Blues had not played a Game 7 since 2003, when they lost to Vancouver after leading the series three games to one. The Blues' previous Game 7 in St. Louis was in 2000, when they lost to San Jose. ... The Blues made one change in their lineup, with D Joel Edmundson replacing D Robert Bortuzzo. Edmundson played in the first four games of the series before being a healthy scratch in games five and six. ... The Blackhawks did not make any changes from their Game 6 lineup.