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Boom! Gunnarsson Goal Evens Series

Blues defensemen and goal scorers, Carl Gunnarsson and Robert Bortuzzo, celebrate Wednesday night in Boston. (Canadian Press photo)

BOSTON UNBEATABLE?

Entering game two of the Stanley Cup Finals in Boston, the St. Louis Blues needed a win to even the series before turning towards home for games three and four. They needed to play a better game than they had two nights prior. Although the Blues jumped out to a 2-0 lead in game one, Boston man-handled them for at least the final 40 minutes and scored four unanswered goals for a 4-2 win.

Pundits and confident Bruins fans were talking as if this Blues team might not belong in the same breath with the greatness of this Bruins team. St. Louis could ill-afford to go down two games to none in this series.

St. Louis fans and supporters knew that the Blues just needed to play their game. If they could get to their style of hockey, the result could be different. And different, it was. This game was a ‘grind it out’ hockey game and the Blues looked like the better team for most of this game.

FIRST PERIOD

One thing that hindered the Blues in game one was penalties, unnecessary penalties. If they were going to win this game, they needed to clean up that part of their game. But, at the 3:55 mark Sammy Blais was called for goaltender interference as he crashed the net hard on a scoring chance.

If you’re going to take a penalty, one like this is easier to swallow than a cross-check at center ice. It was a good aggressive play with the puck, and Blais has been an aggressor all season. You don’t want him to stop now.

But the lethal power play of Boston is dangerous and at the 4:44 mark, former Minnesota Wild center, Charlie Coyle got his 7th goal of the playoffs on a goal that Jordan Binnington probably should have stopped. Coyle found a soft spot in the slot, and Jake Debrusk centered the puck. The shot wasn’t that hard but leaked through between the pads of Binnington. You could tell the St. Louis tender thought he had it.

BLUES ANSWER

Nearing the half-way mark of the first period, the Blues got their forecheck game going. The Tyler Bozak line with Pat Maroon and Robby Fabbri was instrumental in getting the offensive pressure ramped up. At the 9:37 mark Robert Bortuzzo’s shot from the right boards at a sharp angle hit something on a defenseman and redirected into the net over Tuukka Rask‘s shoulder, and we were tied 1-1.

BOSTON’S RESPONSE

Joakim Nordstrom found himself in Binnington’s personal space and poked another one through the five-hole just 40 seconds after the Blues had tied it. The goal came just seconds after a sloppy backhand pass attempt by David Perron was picked off, and Boston’s 4th liners scored in their second straight game.

Vladimir Tarasenko knotted the score once again at the 14:55 mark on a goal that was the result of sheer determination and incredible skill. Brad Marchand misplayed the puck at center ice, which led to a 2-on-1 rush with Jaden Schwartz. Schwartz took the initial shot, and Tarasenko cleaned up the rebound. Watch the highlight. Not many guys could make the second effort he made and get that puck under the bar with his backhand while falling away.

Before the period would end, Oskar Sundqvist  put a hit on Matt Grzelcyk. Sundqvist served a two-minute penalty for boarding. Grzelcyk went down and needed help to get off the ice. He did not return, and Boston played the rest of the way with just five defensemen.

The Blues killed off the penalty to end the first, but the loss of Grzelcyk would play a part in how this game would end.

SECOND & THIRD PERIODS

Each team had two penalties in the second. St. Louis was called for another late in the third. Neither side could capitalize. Both goalies made big saves.

The Blues outhit the Bruins 33-19 through two periods, and just as it did in the San Jose series, the physical play seemed to be affecting the Bruins’ execution of their game.

Late in the final minutes of regulation, line after line of the Blues offense was getting scoring chances. Thirteen minutes into the final frame, St. Louis had seven scoring chances to Boston’s one. Probably the closest either team came was when Blues defenseman, Carl Gunnarsson hit the post with under two minutes to play.

But neither team could solve the other team’s goaltender, and it would take extra time to decide the winner in this one.

OVERTIME WINNER

It seemed inevitable that the Blues would win this game. Boston looked gassed, and it was all St. Louis in the overtime. The Blues had four shots on goal to Boston’s zero, and it was #4 who scored on the 4th shot of overtime.

As he is affectionately known, Carl “Boom Boom” Gunnarsson sent Blues fans home happy, scoring the game-winning goal at the 3:51 mark. It was Gunnarsson’s first-ever playoff goal in his 57th playoff appearance.

FINAL THOUGHTS

The Blues got their game going tonight. If they can continue to impose this style of play on the Bruins, they can win this thing. I think if we’ve learned anything about this team, it’s that you should never count them out of anything.

It would be difficult to imagine it staying this way, but the top line for Boston has been relatively quiet thus far. The Blues have done an excellent job on the Marchand-Bergeron-Pastrnak line. They have one assist and an empty-net goal thus far.

Robert Thomas didn’t play in this one. He absorbed a big hit from Torey Krug in game one but was said to have been nursing an injury recently and couldn’t go in this one. Robby Fabbri filled his spot nicely.

Think about this: If Vince Dunn had played in this one the likely scratch would have been Carl Gunnarsson, the guy who scored the game-winning goal.

With Enterprise Center selling out games one and two for watch parties, Ballpark Village packed to the gills, and now an outdoor viewing party coming up for games three and four, the city of St. Louis is rockin’, and it should be a lot of fun. Let’s go Blues!

 

 

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