Tuesday, November 30, 2021

Berube sticks with Binnington, goalie rewards coach with clutch performance

Fluky goals could have been enough by defending Cup champ Lightning 
to put Blues away, they rally from them to pull out improbable 4-3 shootout win

ST. LOUIS -- When the flukiest of goals that got past him, it was only natural for Jordan Binnington to give a quick glance to the bench after composing himself.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues goalie Jordan Binnington (right) makes a save during a 4-3 shootout
win over the Tampa Bay Lightning.

After all, when Erik Cernak's rim around of a puck following a face-off after a goal of all things that gave the Tampa Bay Lightning a 2-0 lead at the time, took a crazy bounce and found its way off Binnington's right leg and through him to give the Lightning a 3-0 lead and two goals allowed in five seconds, the natural reaction from the Blues bench would have been to get Binnington out, his fault or not.

"He’s our guy. We know that," Blues coach Craig Berube said of Binnington, who rebounded from the horrific start to the game and bounced back in a big way to help the Blues rally to a 4-3 shootout win. 

"There was no reason to pull him other than the momentum swing maybe for our team," Berube added. "But I didn’t want to take him out for that purpose. I didn’t feel that that was the right move. I can’t fault him on the goals, so I’m not going to pull him."

And regardless what restless fans may have thought at the time, even at one point giving Binnington a Bronx cheer after a harmless dump-in on goal, Binnington rewarded not only his team but his coach for the vote of confidence. 

The Tampa third goal came on their ninth shot. Tampa's remaining 24 shots in the game would not get past Binnington, who made several key stops, including what appeared to be a sure wraparound goal by Boris Katchouk in the second period and three saves in overtime when the Blues had to kill off a 4-on-3 shorthanded situation.

"It's part of life of being a goaltender," Binnington said. "It's not always going to go your way. The funny thing was I felt good and we were down 3-0 pretty quick. I just stayed with it and the mission was to try to give the team a chance to win and I think I did that. We really stepped up."

What was strange about the game was the Blues (12-7-3) fell behind 3-0 but really weren't playing poorly in doing so against the two-time defending Stanley Cup champs.

The first goal, scored by Anthony Cirelli, came off a puck that bounded high into the air, then it gets swatted down into the crease where a mad scramble ensued before being poked in at 2:02 of the first period.

Then the five goals in five seconds, a Lightning record, came when Corey Perry's power-play goal came at 5:24 on a one-timer that caromed off Cirelli, hit the post, fell back into a fortuitous spot for Perry, who was there to backhand the loose puck in for a 2-0 lead.

Then came the really crazy.

The Lightning would win the ensuing face-off, Ross Colton would get the puck back to Cernak. All the Lightning defenseman was doing was throwing it around the glass, but the puck hit a stanchion and took a crazy carom towards Binnington, who never located the puck and it squirted through after he finally located it too late.

"I was kind of trying to track it around the glass and I heard it hit the stanchion and I kind of didn't see it," Binnington said. "It's the first time that's happened to me. I get it now. 

"The boys really stepped it up and turned it around to a victory. That stuff's going to happen. It's good to see people stepping up for each other throughout the game."

That's all the Blues could do at that point.

"Yeah, that's just a bad bounce," Blues captain Ryan O'Reilly said. "You've got to give Binner credit for that. That's a tough one. There's nothing you can do, it’s just a bad bounce. And to shut the door like he did, he made some key saves, especially in the final second period. … That’s his win tonight. He deserved that one.

"The coaching staff was positive with us, had a good message of just sticking with it and build it up and knowing that there's a lot of game left. That's exactly what we did. I thought everyone did a good job of not being fazed. It's not what we wanted, but it's a long game. And we built it back up and some big plays by guys. That's what happens sometimes. Those are the hands that are dealt to you and you've got to find a way to win and tonight we did."

But Binnington, who improved to 5-0-0 against the Lightning in his career, was the one that had to rebound more than any other skater. It was up to him to pick the torch back up and carry it, which he did as soon as Berube chose not to pull him.

"The mindset was to stay in the fight and obviously I wanted to be there for the boys and be there for the coaches and just play hard and give the team a chance to win," Binnington said. "I'm happy that it came around tonight."

And when the players saw Binnington was giving them a chance, they rode the momentum of their No. 1 goalie.

"I think everyone's got confidence in 'Binner' and I think 'Chief', it was a great play," O'Reilly said. "We know what 'Binner' is like and the game he played after the bad bounces was just incredible. And that's tough to do. That's tough to do when things aren’t going your way, but he came in and won us that game tonight. I was very impressed by him."

O'Reilly started the rally scoring 3:15 of the second period off former Blues goalie Brian Elliott to make it a 3-1 game, and Logan Brown, the hometown kid playing in his first game with the Blues, snapped a wrister home from the left circle at 6:15 to make it 3-2 and the momentum shifted big time.

"Yeah, first goal was big," Binnington said. "Got people into it. The mindset was just chip away one shift at a time, one play at a time. 

"I think (Niko) Mikkola's hit at the end of the first period kind of gave us some energy and got the crowd into it a little bit on our side. I think that's a moment that would pop into my head."

And Ivan Barbashev completed the comeback with a power-play goal 1:11 into the third, and the game was on a level playing ground again at 3-3.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
The Blues didn't pull goalie Jordan Binnington (50) after they fell behind
3-0 to Ross Colton and the Tampa Bay Lightning. Binnington would go on
to stop Colton in the shootout and earn a 4-3 win.

But when the Blues killed the Lightning power play in overtime, with Binnington making three quality saves, including one on Alex Barre-Boulet, the momentum swung back for the shootout, and Binnington was perfect there, making saves on Perry and Ross Colton to end it after Victor Hedman hit the post on Tampa Bay's first shootout attempt.

O'Reilly's goal in the shootout was enough for the Blues to win it.

"We had resiliency tonight for sure," Berube said. "Came out in the second and played a real good period, got us back in the game. And then that big power play goal in the third. Really good penalty kill obviously in the third, too, and in overtime. Those are big things. Special teams did a good job. 

"I thought 'Binner' did a hell of a job. It’s tough. A couple of their goals are a little bit lucky. But that happens. I thought our guys stuck with it and ended up coming out with a victory."

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