Blues forward Pat Maroon (7) and his teammates share in jubilation after the double-overtime game 7 winning goal clinched the series against the Dallas Stars. (Robert Cohen, STL Post-Dispatch photo)
ST. LOUIS, MO – Game 7. All or nothing. Go big or go home, whatever it takes.
The St. Louis Blues and Dallas Stars faced off for the final time in the second round in front of a roaring Enterprise Center, where it was win or go home in game 7. The result was nothing more than one of the most spectacular games of the NHL postseason.
Both teams got on the board early in the first, but the game winner wouldn’t come until the second overtime when St. Louis native Pat Maroon sealed the deal for the home crowd.
The goal clinched the series for St. Louis with a 2-1 2OT win and advances them to the Western Conference Final after they similarly defeated the Stars in game 7 back in 2016. St. Louis will patiently await the victor of the Colorado-San Jose series Wednesday evening to see who their opponent in the Conference Final will be.
The Blues started with fantastic energy, controlling play in the offensive zone with crisp puck movement and cohesive structure. The Stars couldn’t get a handle on the Blues’ play down low and it contributed to some early chances, but St. Louis struggled to register a lot of shots. Dallas was able to get some chances of their own after the opening five minutes, but the defense of the Blues in their own zone was alert and clicking. Whatever the Blues failed to defend, netminder Jordan Binnington was there to pick up the rest.
After a scary shot to his collarbone in game 6, Stars goaltender Ben Bishop was ready for everything. The Blues’ puck possession was dominant in the first half of the period, and 13:30 into the first it paid off. Defenseman Vince Dunn netted his first career playoff goal thanks to a perfect deflection off a Stars player in front.
Dunn’s goal came courtesy of Alex Pietrangelo and Robert Thomas and put the Blues up 1-0. The Stars would not go down quietly, however, and the speed of both teams only continued to ramp up. Shortly after Dunn’s goal, a wild sequence involving Binnington losing his stick and a puck bouncing off a referee lead to Mats Zuccarello easily burying his fourth of the postseason.
Zuccarello’s goal tied the game with six minutes remaining in the first, but neither team could grab extra momentum. The period remained hard-fought and tilting in St. Louis’ favor, but the score remained 1-1 after the opening 20. Dallas outshot St. Louis 13-10 in the first period but blocked nine of the Blues’ shot attempts.
The Blues came ready for an all-out assault, and the defensive forechecking gave the Blues an exorbitant amount of opportunities. Their play in their own end was nearly perfect as well: St. Louis held Dallas to one single shot through 20. However, even with two power play chances, Ben Bishop was nothing short of spectacular in his own cage.
The defense was able to cover the rest, and despite a one-sided 18 shots to 1 for St. Louis, the period was scoreless. St. Louis and Dallas headed to the locker room, preparing for the final war.
The Blues were just as dominant as they were in the second period. Their legs were quicker and their hits were heavier, but the Stars were able to weather an absolute storm. St. Louis generated chances all over the ice but Ben Bishop continued to stand on his head. The Stars were beginning to look winded, but they found their fourth gear in the final five minutes. Binnington made some stops of his own, but the defense kept most everything out of the scoring areas.
Mats Zuccarello nearly gave his team the lead late in the game, but the defensive play of St. Louis right in front of Binnington kept them in it. Despite thirty-five minutes of onslaught, the 3rd game 7 of the postseason would require overtime. St. Louis dominated the shot total again, 41-17 through regulation.
Enterprise Center was on their feet for the entirety of the first overtime as Dallas seemed to be getting a second wind. The Stars took advantage of the tired Blues players, who started out the overtime sluggish on the defensive side. That sloppiness converted into some grade-A chances, but Jordan Binnington, even after taking a scary collision into his own cage, looked anything but nervous.
Afterwards, the Blues got back to the formulas that worked for the second and third periods, but the tide was starting to balance out. Ben Bishop made some jaw-dropping stops again for his club to keep the playoffs hopes alive. After wild chances on both sides, the Blues and Stars needed another overtime period to settle it. St. Louis outshot Dallas by a narrow 11-10, registering a record-high 52 shots through four.
The Stars were finally turning the corner, and the Blues were running dangerously low on energy as Dallas took every chance they could get. However, as he had through 80 minutes, Jordan Binnington played spectacularly, stopping everything coming his way. The Blues refused to give in, and 5:50 into the second overtime, a St. Louisan beat a St. Louisan: Pat “Big Rig” Maroon scored from his front office in front of Ben Bishop after cashing in Robert Thomas’ rebound.
That was all she wrote for the series. Maroon’s third goal of the playoffs was assisted by his linemates Robert Thomas and Tyler Bozak on the 54th shot and 103rd attempt on net that finally beat Ben Bishop. The goal won the series for St. Louis, advancing them to the Western Conference Final for the second time in four years. St. Louis will play the winner of the San Jose/Colorado series, which concludes Wednesday evening with game 7.
Pat Maroon’s game-winner, with his son and whole family present, was as expected: emotional. “What a rollercoaster. It’s emotional for sure,” Maroon told the STL Post-Dispatch after the win. “It’s probably the biggest goal I’ll ever score in my career.”
“You don’t see the hometown kid getting that goal too often, so it’s pretty cool for him,” captain Alex Pietrangelo commented.
The stupefying goaltending on both sides was something players and coaches recognized as well. “Bishop looked solid, he looked on his game all night… I thought [Binnington] had a remarkable game, I really did,” coach Craig Berube said postgame. “When there’s a spurt of chances all of a sudden, it’s hard to make those saves.”
AROUND THE PLAYOFFS
COL@SJS – The Colorado Avalanche are in the Shark Tank for their game 7, with the winner playing St. Louis. Captain Gabriel Landeskog scored an overtime winner in game 6 on Monday to force the final game.
CAR@BOS – The Eastern Conference Final begins on Thursday between the Bruins and the Hurricanes. Carolina swept the Islanders to move on to their first Conference Final in a decade. Boston finished off Columbus in game 6.
MLB – The Cardinals were far less successful in St. Louis after losing 11-1 to the Phillies in the series opener. Bryce Harper got a grand slam in his first game against St. Louis as a Philly.
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