It wasn’t a playoff game. That was down the street at Busch Stadium.

But for the Blues and Chicago Blackhawks and the 16565 fans who opted for hockey over baseball the early-season meeting felt like a postseason matchup.

“We’ve kind of been joking … it’s going to be the first playoff game of the year” Chicago captain Jonathan Toews said before the game. “It’s not really a joke. It’s going to be a tough game a physical game.”

The “Wednesday Night Rivalry” game lived up to its billing with a fight in the opening two minutes the captains of the teams each scoring a goal and a knotted affair going into the third period.

All that was left was a photo finish and forward Alexander Steen obliged scoring with 21 seconds left in regulation to lift the Blues to a 3-2 victory.

The Blues reached 3-0 for the first time since 1993-94 and for only the third time in their history. They’ll have a chance to extend that to four games when they return to the ice Saturday against the New York Rangers.

“It did (feel like the playoffs) in the game but it didn’t in the post-game” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. “I think in the postgame the players are looking forward to the day off (Thursday) and then moving on getting ready for New York. But it did in the actual competition yes.

“I think everybody knows this is the third hockey game of the year but I think the actual competition from the drop of the puck until the end of the game felt like a playoff game.”

Following his shutout Saturday Blues goalie Jaroslav Halak made 26 saves including one that set up the winning goal. After a stop the puck quickly was on the stick on teammate Alex Pietrangelo who with Chicago defenseman Brent Seabrook on him immediately backhanded the puck ahead to Steen.

“We know their ‘D’ like to come down and pinch on the puck so as soon as I got it I knew I had to get it up” Pietrangelo said. “‘Steener’ gets the puck and he’s full steam ahead.”

What developed was a three-on-one situation with Steen David Backes and T.J. Oshie flying in on defenseman Duncan Keith.

Chicago’s Patrick Kane hustled back desperately but he was denied by Backes to get anywhere near the play.

“I figured I might get in his way” Backes said.

Steen skated just inside the left circle and teed up. Chicago goalie Corey Crawford got a piece of the puck but it trickled past him for what ended up being the game-winner.

“I found a hole” Steen said. “I don’t know if I got all of it. It’s not really how hard it is. It’s more where you put it.”

It put the Blues on top the Central Division standings and despite their being 79 games remaining for both teams Chicago coach Joel Quenneville called it a “brutal loss.”

“We gotta get that game to overtime” Quenneville said. “I don’t know what we were thinking about. We’ll take one maybe two (points). Getting none is unacceptable.”