Jets forward Kyle Connor (81) is all smiles after netting the overtime winner against the Blues in game 4. (Photo courtesy: Jeff Roberson, AP Photo)
ST. LOUIS, MO – It was a full-blown shootout tonight in the Gateway to the Wild, Wild West.
The St. Louis Blues (2-1) did battle once again versus the Winnipeg Jets (1-2) at Enterprise Center in their fourth game of the series. St. Louis scored first, but a tying goal and an eventual overtime winner by Kyle Connor helped the Jets even up the series 2-2.
The goaltenders were absolutely spectacular all night long, and neither gave up a goal until Vladimir Tarasenko scored early in the third period. St. Louis is headed back to Bell MTS Place on Thursday at 7:30 pm in Winnipeg for game 5, with the timetable for game 6 still unknown.
The Blues, after Winnipeg dominated the opening period last game, flipped the tables on their opponents. They played their style of hockey and controlled the puck for the majority of the opening 20, outshooting Winnipeg eight to one in the first ten minutes. However, Jets goaltender Connor Hellebuyck had no interest in allowing anything early and came up big for his squad.
The play of the Jets goaltender fueled them to get back into the game and strike back with a few chances of their own. However, the Blues goaltender was putting his hat in the ring as well, making some phenomenal saves for the home team. The fans were on their feet and cheering hard for Jordan Binnington and the St. Louis Blues, but the game remained scoreless after the first frame. Winnipeg had some late chances but were outshot in the period 10-5.
The Blues came back with some more energy as did the fans, but Winnipeg found some speed to play their game in the second. Winnipeg had far more terrific chances in the opening half, but the defensive discipline and the goaltending of Jordan Binnington kept his team perfect.
That gave the Blues a lot of life as their team started turning a corner midway through the game. Pat Maroon hit a goalpost and the second line for St. Louis all had some great looks, but it was Connor Hellebuyck denying anything and everything that came his way.
In an electrifying building, the period closed with a late Jets penalty, giving the Blues just under 1:30 of power play time to open the third. No goals were scored in forty minutes on a combined 43 shots. St. Louis had 24 of them to Winnipeg’s 19 and also won 26 faceoffs against Winnipeg’s 11.
The Blues opened on the power play in the third period, and after forty minutes and 35 seconds, elation ensued. With not a single shot on net by the top line, Vladimir Tarasenko scored from his from office on a gorgeous wrister. The roof exploded at Enterprise Center as the Blues went up 1-0.
Tarasenko’s second power play goal of the playoffs came with the assistance of Alex Pietrangelo and Ryan O’Reilly. With their backs against the wall, the Jets threw everything they had at Jordan Binnington, but St. Louis was able to match their speed this time. However, Kyle Connor’s move around Pietrangelo allowed him to feed Mark Scheifele right in front of Binnington and he scored a perfect tip-in goal.
Captain Blake Wheeler also grabbed an assist on the goal that tied the game 7:33 into the third. From that point on it was all Jets. The Blues entered scramble mode as Winnipeg’s speed overpowered them and poured it on in their offensive zone. However, Binnington stayed as focused as he was in the opening 40 and stopped chance after incredible chance.
A late power play was awarded to the Blues, but neither they nor the Jets could find twine again in regulation. The Blues and Jets headed to the locker room for the first overtime of the series, with Winnipeg outshooting St. Louis 34-31.
The Blues started with a few strong shifts, but Winnipeg shook things up in overtime. They kept the puck in St. Louis zone and played a relentless, heavy board game. Their forechecking dominated the Blues, allowing them to get their top line in with pucks on net.
It paid off for the Jets after a neutral zone puck battle turn into a race for a chance, and Kyle Connor grabbed a wide-open rebound shot to seal the deal. His goal came six minutes into overtime and tied up the series, with the winning squad headed back home.
Winnipeg’s first ever playoff overtime victory came courtesy of Connor, Wheeler and Scheifele, with all six points coming from the three forwards. The Blues allowed five shots on net in the six-minute long overtime and only registered one of their own. The final shot total was 39-32 in Winnipeg’s favor, with Binnington making 37 saves.
Players and coaches alike recognized the loss was tough, but not for a lack of effort. “It’s obviously tough, but it’s a tight series… It could’ve went either way,” coach Craig Berube told STL-Today after the game. “It’s a best out of three, and we’ll have confidence in [Winnipeg] next game”.
“We’re a strong group, so we’re going to respond and hopefully have a big game next game,” Jordan Binnington told St. Louis media after the loss.
The Blues and Jets are in Bell MTS Place for game 5 at 8:30 pm ET on Thursday, with the time for game 6 still to be determined. To follow the game on Thursday, head to:
STL – FSMW, KMOX 1120, USA, NHL.tv
WPG – SN360, CFRW 1290, USA, NHL.tv
AROUND THE PLAYOFFS
TBL@CBJ – The record-setting Tampa Bay Lightning set one more astonishing record – the first President’s Trophy team to be swept in the first round. The Blue Jackets are the first team to advance in the playoffs after a 7-3 victory.
NYI@PIT – Another series closed out with the Islanders sending the Pittsburgh Penguins home early. The 2016 and 2017 Stanley Cup Champions were swept in a 3-1 loss in game 4, with Sidney Crosby held to a single assist.
SJS@VGK – Vegas became the first team to score a goal in the opening minute of four consecutive playoff periods, which propelled them to a resounding 5-0 shutout victory and gives them a 3-1 lead in the series.
CGY@CAR – Hobey Baker winner Cale Makar scored in his first career NHL game to lead the Avalanche to a 6-2 victory over the Flames, with a chance to take game 3 in Colorado.
NSH@DAL – The Predators grabbed a pivotal road win to lead the Stars two games to one on Monday.
WSH@CAR – The Hurricanes won in front of a resounding fan base 5-0 over the Capitals on Monday, still trailing in the series 2-1.
BOS@TOR – The Maple Leafs scored three goals in the second to take game 3 over the Bruins 3-2. They took the series lead 2-1 with the win.
MLB – The Redbirds dropped yet another game to the Milwaukee Brewers, losing 8-4 and falling to just one game above .500.
For more local Blues stories, insights and more, visit bluesrants.com!