Thursday, May 30, 2019

Gunnarsson the unlikely hero, scores in OT for Blues in 3-2 win over Bruins

Defenseman, coach have conversation in restroom to get one 
more opportunity to help St. Louis to first-ever Stanley Cup Final win

BOSTON -- Fifty-two years of agony and waiting, and all it took was a simple conversation between coach and player "at the pisser" to help the Blues rip that Stanley Cup Final monkey off their back.

The unlikeliest of heroes, Carl Gunnarsson, went into the bathroom stall next to Craig Berube, both needing to use the little boys room, and Gunnarsson had one simple request of his coach.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues players congregate to congratulate Carl Gunnarsson after his goal in
overtime helped St. Louis to a 3-2 win at Boston in Game 2.

"I was close in the third with the post and I had a little talk in the locker room between periods there, before the OT, and I just told him I needed one more," Gunnarsson said.

He got one more chance, and made the most of it scoring 3 minutes 51 seconds into overtime, and the Blues earned their first-ever win in the Cup Final with a 3-2 win against the Boston Bruins in Game 2 on Wednesday at TD Garden.

The Blues, who corrected many of the things they didn't accomplish in losing Game 1, 4-2, on Monday, went into the locker room at the end of regulation and Gunnarsson, playing in his 57th Stanley Cup Playoff game, went to his coach looking for one more opportunity after he just missed out on winning it with 1:57 remaining in regulation, a shot from the left circle that dented the cross bar behind Tuukka Rask.

Gunnarsson made no mistake on the winner-take-all shot. 

The Blues were about to go on a pwer play when Alexander Steen was tripped up by Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo after Steen picked off Carlo's clearing attempt. The Blues were able to get a sixth attacker on the ice, worked the zone, and the puck eventually worked its way to Gunnarsson from Ryan O'Reilly, and his one-timer from inside the blue line beat Rask blocker side to win it.

"He hit the post there in the third period, Gunny," Berube said. "He just said he needed one more shot. We were joking around a little bit. But he played a helluva game, Gunny. Great shot."

Blues center Oskar Sundqvist, who got the secondary assist on the Gunnarsson goal, confirmed the conversation.

"Berube came in and said that he used the pisser after the third period, and Gunnarsson came and stood next to him," Sundqvist said. "And all Gunnarsson said to him was ‘I just need one more chance.’ It’s true, apparently. It worked out."

It was a much better result and game for the Blues, who eliminated a lot of the errors that gave them issues in Game 1, such as better puck possession cleaner exits, a more imposing forecheck and extended zone time as a result.

And Gunnarsson put the icing on the cake as a result.

"Big spark. It’s a massive goal," O'Reilly said. "Obviously he’s a big piece of this team and I thought he played an unbelievable game. To see that puck go in and see the celebration from him, it’s inspiring for us all. Incredible play by an incredible player.

"I thought as the game went on, we progressed. I thought we got better and obviously with them having five ‘D’ we kind of worked them, kind of broke them down. I thought it gave us an advantage and we came out and had a bit more gas. As you see, I thought we outplayed them in that overtime and got the big goal."

The Blues talked about better puck movement and being more responsible with the puck. 

Oh, and staying out of the box. 

The Blues had to kill five more penalties, not the most ideal situation, including one with 6:38 remaining on a highly questionable slashing penalty on Brayden Schenn, but they got the job done. But the Blues' forecheck eventually wore down the Boston defense, which was playing with five blue liners most of the game after Matt Grzelcyk didn't return after getting checked by Sundqvist, who got two minutes for boarding.

Sundqvist didn't want to comment on the play, but word is that the Department of Player Safety will look at the incident and decide whether there will be suplemental discipline or not.

The game was tightly-contested after the first period, but boy, was it a wild first period.

Sammy Blais was called for a highly questionable goaltender interference penalty coming in off the right edge, getting some help along the way from Bruins defenseman Torey Krug, and Boston capitalized on Charlie Coyle's goal at 4:44 for a 1-0 lead. 

Sundqvist's failure to get the puck in deep after getting it out of the zone cost the Blues, as Boston was able to come back in with speed, and Coyle came in from the slot and beat Binnington five-hole.

The Blues tied it with one of their patended forecheck shifts from the Tyler Bozak line and Bortuzzo cashed in on a shot from a very sharp angle along the right boards beats Rask high on the short side at 9:37 to make it 1-1, but Joakim Nordstrom put Boston back on top 2-1 after two David Perron giveaways in the defensive zone on clearing attempts, Nordstrom found himself alone in the slot and he dekes and slides another shot through Binnington's five-hole at 10:17 on Boston's fifth shot.

Tarasenko's 10th of the playoffs, extending his point streak to eight games (five goals, five assists) at 14:55 to tie Gary Sabourin (1969) and Brett Hull (1990) for the second-longest point streak in Blues playoff history, tied the game 2-2.

Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz broke out quick and after Rask made saves on Schwartz and Tarasenko, Tarasenko stayed with his effort and from his knees, chipped in a backhand.

"Nice to see the boys responded quickly," Binnington said. "That's huge and I just try to be there when the boys needed me and give the team a chance to win. It was a hard-fought game and the boys played a great game, disciplined game. We played a team game for 60 minutes, well, more than 60 minutes I guess. I think we deserved that win tonight. Happy to go home 1-1."

The Blues were impressive in their attack Wednesday. The forecheck was imposing and the hits kept coming, all 50 of them. They stuck with the plan and executed it.

"Both teams are physical," Blues center Brayden Schenn said. "It's a hard series. A lot of hits out there. ... That's kind of the identity of both teams and you're going to see that moving forward."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Joel Edmundson (6) congratulates Carl Gunnarsson
after the Blues defenseman's goal in OT secured a 3-2
win over Boston in Game 2.

Now it's on to Enterprise Center, where it will be boisterous and booming. If Games 3 and 4 are any indication of what what it was like for the watch parties for Games 1 and 2, the Blues will have a loud crowd behind them.

"It’s a great sports fanbase and a great sports city," Binnington said. "They deserve it. We’re happy to play for them and we’re having fun doing it, playing together. We’re happy to go home and perform in front of them with them on our side."

* NOTES -- The Blues were missing injured players Robert Thomas and Vince Dunn.

Thomas, who was the recipient of a big hit from Krug in Game 1, missed his first game of the playoffs, but Berube said it wasn't a result of the hit. Thomas has been dealing with a lingering undisclosed injury.

Dunn missed his fifth game as a result of a puck to the mouth in Game 3 of the Western Conference Final.

He's been a regular skater the past few days but wasn't ready to play.

Robby Fabbri, who played 10:14 in Game 2, replaced Thomas in the lineup. It was his first game since Game 5 of the second round against Dallas.

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