BOSTON - Tuukka Rask didn’t even see the game winning goal.
Carl Gunnarsson ripped a slap shot from the point past Rask to give the St. Louis Blues their first Stanley Cup Final win in franchise history and even the series at one game apiece.
After drilling the post late in the third period, Gunnarsson told head coach Craig Berube that he needed one more shot. It only took him one more to send the series to St. Louis all tied up.
“Our game plan is to get our forwards to the net and for our defensemen to get our shots through,” said Blues defenseman Joel Edmundson. “So like I said, it couldn’t have happened to a better guy [Carl Gunnarsson]. Carl practices that shot all the time and it’s nice to see it go in.”
After a delayed penalty was whistled against the Bruins, the Blues settled the puck down and set up shop with a six skater and the man advantage. The puck was jettisoned around the outside before finding Gunnarsson on the blue line, estranged from the Bruins’ forwards. Alex Pietranglo’s screen took away Rask’s eyes and Gunnarsson redeemed his prior miss.
“I think it was more about the shooting lane,” said Bruce Cassidy, speaking about the game’s final play. “They passed it by us up top, they formed a high triangle. They made a good play. The breakdown to me was before that. Obviously we didn’t manage the puck well, even the shift before, we weren’t able to . It was a get it out and change type of mentality and it snowballed.”
That mentality of just trying to survive and weather the storm dogged the Bruins the entire contest. The team only mustered 18 shots on goal (compared to St. Louis’ 29) and was out-attempted 53-37. Despite occasional moments of brilliance, the Bruins were skated out of their own building.
“...I thought they were on top of us, tighter than the first game. They didn’t allow us to get to space,” said Bruce Cassidy. “As a result, we didn’t win as many races as we did Game 1 to pucks. Some of that is on us. I don’t think we managed it well enough. I think we got spread out all over the ice, so give them credit for being tighter than us and getting to pucks first. As a result, we spent a lot of time in our end, so that was self-inflicted. Some of that was how they play, they’ve done that to other teams. Give them credit for playing their game well.”
Charlie Coyle opened the scoring less than four minutes into the first period, as he finished a slick pass from Jake DeBrusk to beat Jordan Binnington on the power play. DeBrusk’s rush lured the Blues’ penalty killers out of position, which allowed Coyle to roam free in the slot.
Robert Bortuzzo evened the score when he launched a tough angle chance off the stick of Matt Grzelcyk and past Rask.
Joakim Nordstrom potted his third goal of the postseason, sliding the rubber through Binnington’s legs after a slick move. Sean Kuraly found Nordstrom separated from defenders on a nifty pass behind the net with his back turned. Nordstrom had a fantastic game, throwing the body around and blocking two thunderous shots from point on the penalty kill.
Less than five minutes later, Vladimir Tarasenko scored his tenth goal of the postseason, burying a rebound out front. Brad Marchand chose to pinch on Tarasenko on a transition through the neutral zone. Tarasenko took the time to find Jaden Schwartz streaking through the middle of the ice, which isolated Zdeno Chara. Chara’s unfortunate position left him unable to properly defend either play, leading to a broken play and a St. Louis goal.
Matt Grzelcyk was forced from the game after being boarded from behind by Oskar Sundqvist at 17:57 of the first period. Bruce Cassidy confirmed that he went to the hospital for observation and had not yet heard results of the testing.
A look at the hit on by Oskar Sundqvist on Matt Grzelcyk. Didn't look good. pic.twitter.com/3yjlbhgkvs— Conor Ryan (@ConorRyan_93) May 30, 2019
Sundqvist only received two minutes for the infraction. Grzelcyk remained down on the ice for several minutes before being helped to the locker room. Here’s to hoping that he makes a full recovery and is feeling alright.
The Blues took away all time and space from the Bruins and pressured them with physicality, totaling 45 hits on the night. The Bruins were not the better team, but have a chance to reclaim the series lead Saturday night in St. Louis.