BOSTON (AP) — The Blues spent most of the past week stressing how they couldn’t afford to allow the Bruins to pile up power-play opportunities in the Stanley Cup Final.
That plan — and St. Louis’ defensive discipline — slowly fell apart in their 4-2 loss in Game 1 on Monday night .
With the physicality high on both sides, the Blues were successful early in holding the Bruins’ top players to few opportunities or power-play chances. The Bruins have been deadly with an advantage this postseason and entered the night with 34 percent success rate on power plays through the first three rounds.
But despite leading 2-0, St. Louis began to take penalties, giving life to a sluggish Bruins’ offense.
“When that first goal went in, they got some momentum and made a big push there,” goaltender Jordan Binnington said. “We held it to a tie game going into the third. It wasn’t the outcome we wanted. We’ve got to figure it out and get right back at them for Game 2.”
Ironically, the chances that Boston did eventually get came from its third and fourth lines, and culminated in a disastrous second period for St. Louis in which the Bruins scored a pair of goals to get back into the game.
Playing in his first Cup final, Binnington was able to play relatively relaxed in the first period, benefiting from some luck and well-placed sticks by his teammates as the Blues killed off the Bruins’ first three power-play chances. When Marcus Johansson split two defenders and got a point-blank opportunity in the slot on Binnington, his shot careened off the post.
Binnington’s discipline and his luck didn’t last.
After Connor Clifton got the Bruins on the board off a feed from Sean Kuraly, things began to unravel with 7:19 remaining during a wild second period in which Boston outshot St. Louis 18-3. Charlie McAvoy got into the middle of the Blues defense and slipped a wrist shot past Binnington with 23 seconds left in their fourth power play of the game. McAvoy was faster and simply outskated an increasingly fatigued St. Louis defense.
“We started to get spread out, weren’t winning pucks and turned the puck over,” Brayden Schenn said. “Whether it was by accident or we were nervous, we’ve just got to take care of it.”
Binnington said he wasn’t surprised to see the Bruins pushing the action with some of their unusual suspects.
“They’ve got some depth there and some offensive defensemen. It’s the Stanley Cup Final, both teams are good,” he said. “We’ve talented players, too. I think we need to find our game and we’ll be alright.”
Blues coach Craig Berube said turnovers were a big contributor to his team getting put into bad spots.
“The second period I don’t think we skated very well,” he said. “We got pucks, we just didn’t skate. Turned them over. It gave them momentum.”
Forward David Perron said the accumulation of penalties stunted almost everything they wanted to do offensively after taking the lead.
“When you get into penalty trouble, a lot of guys sit on the bench and it’s hard to get going. That’s what happened a little bit,” Perron said.
St. Louis did its best to give Binnington more support in the third and the teams played relatively even during the first part of the period. That momentum changed after Sammy Blais was called for yet a penalty — the Blues’ fifth of the game — with 6:32 remaining for interfering with Charlie Coyle.
The Bruins didn’t get a goal out of that one. But using that momentum, Kuraly was able to finish off Noel Acciari’s pass and put Boston in front for good.
Still, Berube said the message heading into Game 2 is a simple one: keep doing what they’re doing — minus the mistakes.
“We’ve been real disciplined most of all playoffs, pretty much,” he said. “We weren’t tonight, obviously, with five penalties. We’ve got to be better there.”
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