BOSTON , Mass.— Finally.
For the first time in 52 years, the St. Louis Blues have won a game in the Stanley Cup final. Now they have to win three more. But after being swept by the Bruins in 1968, 1969 and 1970, this one feels good.
The Blues, who defeated the Bruins 3-2 in overtime in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup final, are back in this final — something that previous
St. Louis teams have never been able to say.
“You always want to get that first win out of the way,” said Blues forward Brayden Schenn. “It was a big win tonight to tie the series up. You don’t want to be going down two. We’ll take the momentum back home.”
You can thank Carl Gunnarsson for that. It was at 3:51 in overtime when the Blues defenceman one-timed a slap shot that found the top corner against the Bruins. It was only his second goal of the playoffs. And it could not have come at a better time.
“It couldn’t have happened to a better guy,” Joel Edmundson said of Gunnarsson, who missed six months with a torn ACL. “He practices that shot all the time in the morning skates.”
Gunnarsson’s goal, which came during a delayed penalty for tripping, snapped Boston’s playoff winning streak at eight games and made this final a little more interesting. Not that it needed much more action.
This game had it all. Both teams traded a pair of goals in the first period, before the goaltenders shut the door through the rest of regulation time. It was not until overtime when the Blues got the goal that they needed.
With an extra attacker on the ice, a pass went back to the point and Gunnarsson, who in the third period had a slap shot ring off the post, made no mistake as his slapper beat Boston’s Tuukka Rask.
Game 3 is in St. Louis on Saturday.
If it’s anything like Game 2, the players better tighten up their chinstraps.
This was a bruising affair. There was no time or room to make plays, as both teams took the body and kept the scoring chances mostly to the outside. Pretty hockey took a backseat to simple hockey. The team that made the fewest mistakes was rewarded with the win.
And yet, this was not a conservative game. Not by a long shot.
The game went off the rails in a hurry, as the Bruins and Blues traded shots, goals and at least one pretty ugly hit in the first period.
Boston struck first on a power-play goal from Charlie Coyle, but St. Louis tied it up on a tipped shot from defenceman Robert Bortuzzo. The Bruins again took the lead, this time on a nifty deke from fourth-line centre Joakim Nordstrom. But once again, the Blues answered back, with Vladimir Tarasenko following up his own rebound to extend an eight-game point streak.
Though the teams were tied after 20 minutes, the Bruins were technically down a man after St. Louis’ Oskar Sundqvist rammed Boston defencman Matt Grzelcyk’s head against the end boards’ glass. Sundqvist only received a two-minute boarding penalty on the play, but don’t be surprised if the Department of Player Safety meets with him in the next 24 hours and he ends up missing at least Game 3 of the series.
The second period didn’t feature any goals. But that was about the only thing it was missing as both teams ratcheted up the physicality.
The bodies were flying. Sammy Blais took back-to-back hard hits from David Backes and Nordstrom; Jake DeBrusk took a two-handed chop on the arm from Bortuzzo; Tarasenko briefly went off after landing awkwardly on his shoulder; Rask got run over twice for goalie interference.
And that’s just off the top of our head.
In between, both goalies put on a show.
While Jordan Binnington had looked shaky after allowing first period goals through his five-hole — goals that he probably should have saved — he and Rask shut the door in the second period, stopping everything they faced. Rask had the tougher assignment, as the Blues outshot the Bruins 24-14 through 40 minutes, including a 14-6 advantage in the second period.
The shots kept coming in the third period. But it really wasn’t until the final three minutes when things got interesting.
At one end, Rask robbed Patrick Maroon on a backdoor pass. At the other, Binnington got a blocker on Patrice Bergeron as he spun around in front of the net and tried to sweep a puck into the far side. Then St. Louis’ Gunnarsson had a slap shot ring off the crossbar.
The defenceman had far better luck in overtime, when his shot found the mark. You could say the same thing about the Blues, who are back in this series with home advantage now in their favour.
“It’s exciting,” said Edmundson. “We’re not done yet though.”
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