The Blackhawks held their own on the pugilistic side Saturday night and out-gunned the St. Louis Blues where it mattered most—the scoreboard.

In a game that featured two first-period fights, a melee in the final seconds and pushing and shoving after nearly every whistle, the Hawks defeated the Blues 4-3 before a crowd of 19,150 at the Scottrade Center.

The match-up was the first for the teams since Hawks coach Denis Savard accused some St. Louis players of dirty tactics during a March 23 game. The victory kept the Hawks' faint playoff hopes alive as they moved within four points of the eighth and final Western Conference postseason spot with four games remaining.

"If we have any hope we need to win all our games," said Craig Adams, who scored a short-handed goal and assisted on another. "We can't win them all if we didn't win this one. This keeps us alive maybe with just a sliver of hope."

The Hawks took a 1-0 lead on Andrew Ladd's goal just 1 minute 40 seconds into the game. Ladd poked a rebound of a Dave Bolland shot past goaltender Manny Legace.

On the ensuing face-off the first altercation occurred as Adams and St. Louis' Cam Janssen squared off. The duo exchanged punches and as they skated to the penalty box Janssen waved his arms in the air as the crowd roared.

That proved to be the undercard to an Adam Burish-David Backes fight 31/2 minutes later. The two wrestled near center ice before Burish landed a punch as they fell to the ice. Backes, who was one of the Blues players—along with Barret Jackman—Savard singled out for hitting Hawks rookies Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane after whistles during the previous meeting, came up bleeding from a cut on his nose.

"I knew there would be a little bit of fireworks early on and then it would settle down and that's exactly what happened," Burish said. "We gave a poor effort [Wednesday night] in Columbus and it was big for us to have a game where not only did we answer the bell physically but we scored some nice goals."

Toews gave the Hawks a 2-0 lead at 15:26 of the first by firing a wrist shot from the top of the right circle that sailed by Legace.

"Guys like Craig Adams and Adam Burish stepped up and dropped the gloves and sent a message that were weren't going to take that lying down," Toews said. "[And] it was good for us to get on the board early on in the game."

Duncan Keith's goal while the Hawks were short-handed made it 3-0 at 15:12 of the second. Kevyn Adams blocked a shot and gave it to Craig Adams who fed it to Keith for a shot from the top of the left circle that Legace got a piece of but went in.

The Hawks struck again while short-handed at the 2:04 mark of the third to make it 4-0. Craig Adams fired a shot from the slot past Legace for the Hawks' fifth short-handed goal against the Blues this season.

The Blues rallied with third-period goals by Keith Tkachuk, Brad Boyes and Paul Kariya, but goalie Nikolai Khabibulin (31 saves) hung on for the victory to keep the Hawks' postseason dream alive.

"It's only four games," said Keith, who was assessed a match penalty with :06 remaining during a scrum behind the Hawks goal. "There's no reason why we can't go on a four-game run here and win all four. You don't want to look too far ahead and think about the last one or anything like that. You have to take it a game at a time. Having said that, the playoffs are the big picture and that's where we want to be."

One-timers

Saturday's victory gave the Hawks 82 points, 11 more than all of last season, and guaranteed them at least a .500 season for the first time since the 2001-02 season. … Keith's match penalty will be reviewed by the league and if it's upheld he will be suspended for one game. ... With their two short-handed goals, the Hawks regained the NHL lead with 16, one more than the Ottawa Senators. St. Louis has allowed 12 short-handers this season, tied for second-most in the league. The Hawks have allowed six.

ckuc@tribune.com