The Blues players congratulate their goaltender Jordan Binnington (50) after his first career Stanley Cup playoff victory. (Photo courtesy: Terrence Lee, USA Today Sports)
Round one. Game one. The best time of the year has begun.
The St. Louis Blues and Winnipeg Jets commenced the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs tonight at Bell MTS Place with a 2-1 win for St. Louis. Patrik Laine scored the opening tally towards the end of the first period, but David Perron and Tyler Bozak scored late in the third to take the win. Jordan Binnington was spectacular in his first career playoff start, making 24 saves. Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck made 24 saves but couldn’t secure the win for Winnipeg.
The Blues take the opening game of the first round 1-0. The Jets and Blues are back in Bell MTS Place on Friday for game 2 at 8:30, with Winnipeg looking to even the series on home ice.
The opening period of the first game of the playoffs started the way you would expect it: Full Throttle. The Blues and Jets came out all guns blazing, skating fast and hitting hard. An early hit on goaltender Jordan Binnington gave the Blues their first powerplay of the game, but the Jets made the kill look easy, holding them to one late shot. The Jets used their speedy game to overpower the Blues, but they stayed right there with them. The goaltending was exactly what it needed to be in the postseason: superb. Hellebuyck and Binnington both stood tall, but a defensive miscue led to Winnipeg drawing first blood. Patrik Laine roofed a wicked wrist shot into the top corner of the net for his first goal in seven games.
Laine’s goal, assisted by Little and Byfuglien, gave the Winnipeg Jets their first goal of the playoffs at 13:28. The Jets and Blues continued fighting tooth and nail in the opening 20, but the score remained 1-0. The Jets were outshot by one, 7-8, but clung to a 1-0 lead.
After the intensity of the opening 20 minutes cooled off, the Blues were able to slow down the rush and play their style of hockey. Their lines played with the chemistry that gave them success in the latter half of the season and threw everything at Hellebuyck. However, even with two more power-play chances, the Ohio-born goaltender was stout and poised, stopping everything. Winnipeg got their fair share of chances as well, including a shorthanded odd-man rush that was one of Binnington’s biggest saves of the game.
Despite the chances on both ends, neither team could find the net through two. The Jets outshot the Blues 11-8 and still held a 1-0 lead by the skin of their teeth.
The Blues had one of the worst records in the NHL after trailing two periods, but that didn’t matter now. St. Louis turned on the jets and pressed Winnipeg back hard until they finally broke Hellebuyck. David Perron’s point blast went from the blue line to white twine and evened the score in the third, 1-1.
Perron’s first goal of the playoffs and 1000th goal in Blues playoff history was assisted by Parayko and Sundqvist. The Jets and Blues didn’t bat an eye: the game continued just like it had in the first, with heavy hits and glorious chances. The emotion was starting to wither at Bell MTS, however, as St. Louis was turning the tide in their favor. Tyler Bozak, who had 5 shots on goal all game, would not be denied on his 6th: He gave the Blues a 2-1 lead with just two minutes left to play.
With the opening game on the line, Winnipeg threw everything they had: with Hellebuyck pulled, it was a shooting gallery against Binnington, and the save of the game came in the dying seconds of game 1.
The Blues stole game 1 from the Winnipeg Jets on the road and took the 1-0 series lead. St. Louis outshot Winnipeg by a narrow 26 shots to 25.
Despite a slow start, game-winner Tyler Bozak recognized the team’s turnaround in the second and third. “I thought we found our game [in that second period],” he told St. Louis media. “As the game went on, I thought everyone did a great job”.
Captain Blake Wheeler knew they lost a step in the third but still played hard overall in front of a white-out crowd. “The crowd was into it, I thought everything was good. They just made one more play than we did,” Wheeler told Winnipeg Jets media after the loss. “Our goalie made some big saves, but obviously they won that [third] period”.
The St. Louis Blues are back at Bell MTS Place on Friday at 9:30 ET for game two. To listen and watch game 2, head to:
WPG: SN, CNBC, 1290 CFRW, NHL.tv
STL: FSMW, 1120 KMOX, NHL.tv
AROUND THE PLAYOFFS
CBJ@TBL: Columbus scored four unanswered goals after giving up three in the first to take game 1, 4-3.
PIT@NYI: Four different Penguins defensemen left today’s game with some form of injury after the Islanders took game 1 in overtime, 4-3.
DAL@NSH: Rookie Miro Heiskanen netted a pair of goals in his first career playoff game to lift the Stars over the Predators, 3-2.
VGK@SJS: Mark Stone grabbed two goals, but five different players for San Jose scored in a 5-2 victory for game 1.
MLB: The Cardinals grabbed their fourth win in a row against LA, 7-2.
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