After 83 exhilarating minutes of hockey, and Thursday night becoming Friday morning, the Blackhawks beat the Blues 4-3 in double-overtime at the Scottrade Center in Game 5 of their first-round NHL playoff series.
The clock read 12:25 a.m. The memory will be timeless for Hawks star Patrick Kane, whose nifty back-handed, wrap-around shot slipped past Blues goalie Brian Elliott 3 minutes, 7 seconds into the second overtime.
"It was good enough to go in,'' Kane said. "It's a good feeling.''
It was also a familiar one. Kane came through with the fifth overtime game-winner of his career for a Hawks team that faltered in the third period for the third straight night. In a dressing room full of players as relieved as they were joyous, the message was don't count the Hawks out just yet — even if nothing comes easily for this group.
Nothing really has since the Hawks won 12 straight games in January. Since then, they have been a team that can look like the defending Stanley Cup champions one night and a directionless one the next. But somehow, they lived to see another day.
"We knew this was going to be a huge challenge,'' Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We've just got to find a way to make them crack some more.''
The Blues came dangerously close to doing that. Robby Fabbri, who's only 20, kept Chicagoans on the edge of their seats after shredding the Hawks defense for a goal to make it 3-2 with 13:03 left in regulation. David Backes compelled many to throw things at the television with a game-tying goal with 5:10 remaining.
In the first overtime, the reeling continued for the Hawks, who didn't register a shot on goal until 7:58 passed. Their best chance came when Teuvo Teravainen — remember him? — fed Artem Anisimov on two-on-one but the puck bounced over Anisimov's stick.
Then Kane eventually made it all moot.
"He's a clutch player,'' coach Joel Quenneville said. "A great player.''
Despite the Hawks facing their most dire circumstances since the Red Wings owned a similar 3-1 series lead in the 2013 playoffs, Quenneville denied before the game what everybody else sensed.
"The pressure is clearly on St. Louis,'' Quenneville said with a straight face.
He even might have believed it. That didn't make it true, even if the Hawks survived.
The pressure always affects the team that should win more than the one considered the underdog. Forget the regular-season records; the Hawks entered this series expected to regain their championship swagger while many thought the Blues would retreat the way they always have.
The Hawks felt no pressure? Was Richard Panik squeezing the stick too tight in the scoreless first period when he sailed the Hawks' best scoring chance over the cross bar on a breakaway?
And, remember, the Hawks faced elimination because they buckled under the pressure in Game 4 during the Madison Street Meltdown the way the Blues historically have. The role reversal left the Hawks in an awkward and unfamiliar spot, trying to regain composure against a Blues team that kept it.
Saying the Hawks responded to the pressure sums up Game 5 more accurately than suggesting they felt none approaching their most challenging spot in three years.
"I think there was a little bit of pressure, a little bit of nervousness,'' Kane acknowledged postgame. "But that can be good too.''
Meanwhile, a loose Blues team took the ice knowing it still could lose twice before real anxiety set in. While a 7-1 record in elimination games since 2013 buoyed the Hawks' confidence, the Blues clung to their own trivia: They arrived 5-0 in Game 5s at home when leading a series 3-1.
Instinctively taking the cue from Coach Q, nobody from the Hawks dared to admit the desperation Game 5 represented but, honestly, nobody had to.
Indications were everywhere.
The biggest one came at the morning skate when Quenneville paired Jonathan Toews and Kane on the same line, the Hawks' equivalent of breaking glass in case of an emergency. Neither Kane nor Toews had scored a goal in the first four games and, overall, the Hawks offense lacked the explosiveness their pairing offered.
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville reacts to the team's 4-3 double-overtime win in Game 5 against the Blues.
A coach sensing no pressure leaves his stars alone. Quenneville also knew he could not stand pat without the energy of Andrew Shaw, whose one-game suspension cost the Hawks their most productive forward in this series. By the time the puck dropped, Quenneville also decided to use defensemen Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook as a tandem, which rarely happens anymore.
Even a minor move by Quenneville reflected the urgency he felt: Defenseman David Rundblad replaced Coach Q favorite Michal Rozsival. Rundblad, exiled to the Swiss League over the winter, last played in an NHL game Dec. 13, rust an early turnover revealed.
Yet Quenneville still considered him an upgrade over the 37-year-old Rozsival, which says everything. Again, why was veteran defenseman Trevor Daley deemed expendable last December?
The Hawks delayed answering the tough questions because Quenneville's tinkering ultimately produced the answer everyone wanted.
A moribund offense perked up after Marian Hossa scored a short-handed goal with at the 11:32-mark of the second period, ending a drought that lasted too long. After Blues center Jaden Schwartz tied it 63 seconds later, the Hawks regained the lead when Anisimov knocked one home in front of the net, which oddly prompted the Blues organist to play, "Alleluia.''
Back in Chicago, they thanked the heavens for a rare lead.
Hawks fans rejoiced again when Artemi Panarin beat the clock before the second period ended, firing the goal past goalie Brian Elliott with 0.4 seconds on the clock.
"Gigantic,'' Quenneville called it later.
That 0.4 second difference typifies how minuscule the margin between these two teams stayed in a game billed locally as potentially the biggest in years for the Blues. Signs all over the city established this as one of those nights locals planned to remember.
Anticipation charged the air, an atmosphere similar to Wrigleyville last October. In Thursday's St. Louis Post-Dispatch, the front page of the sports section respectfully declared: "One (Tough One) To Go.'' Outside the arena, Taylor Swift's "Bad Blood,'' played on a loop but the rivalry already had the fans in the plaza revved up.
All over downtown, at bars and restaurants full of patrons decked out in blues, they planned to celebrate a moment that marked more than just a series victory but a rite of passage.
Like the Cardinals were to the Cubs, the Hawks are more than just an opponent to the Blues. The Hawks always have been the mountaintop too tall to scale for the Blues.
Thanks to Kane coming through yet again, their climb continues.