BOSTON — Down came the yellow rally towels, fluttering over the boards. Down came the water bottles, chucked from the stands. Down came a single Bruins ball cap, though far from the reason that ball caps usually hit the ice. And there in the visiting crease remained a single soul, blanketed by boos, unflinching as always amid the rainstorm of rubbish.
“It’s crazy,” Blues defenseman Colton Parayko said later. “I think he just thrives on that stuff. I’m not sure. But it’s impressive. He just continues to battle it out.”
Over the next 60-plus hours, at least until the puck drops on Game 6 of this rough-and-tumble Stanley Cup Final, the conversation will be dominated by the events that whipped TD Garden into a furious frenzy Thursday night. The blatant tripping penalty on Blues center Tyler Bozak. The swallowed whistle of nearby referee Kelly Sutherland. The decisive goal moments later by winger David Perron. The scathing assessment from Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy once St. Louis had escaped with a 2–1 victory, moving one away from its first-ever championship:
“This is the National Hockey League and they’re getting a black eye with their officiating in the playoffs and here’s another one that’s going to be talked about … It was egregious.”
It was also a shame. Obscured by the blown call—not to mention the ensuing chants of unprintable epithets and the southpaw fastball of Boston president Cam Neely—was another virtuoso performance from Jordan Binnington, the 25-year-old goalie who stops pucks like a brick wall while betraying about as much emotion as one too. Not since 1987 (Ron Hextall) had a rookie recorded more saves in a regulation Cup final game than Binnington’s 38. And no first-year netminder has ever recorded more road wins in a single postseason than his nine.
“Obviously it wasn’t pretty, but we got the job done,” Bozak said. “Binner really bailed us out, like he has all year.”
The Blues needed him most during the opening period. Buoyed by the return of captain Zdeno Chara, wearing a full plastic face shield though looking hardly any worse for the wear, Boston hammered 17 shots over the first 20 minutes but came away empty. Binnington had help, notably from a crossbar that denied winger Brad Marchand, and later teammate Carl Gunnarsson’s sprawling dive to rescue a puck from the goal line. But he is the main reason that St. Louis will flock downtown on Sunday night, hoping to see a clincher. “Very impressive,” Parayko said. “I could talk about that performance all day. It was unreal.”
Clearly the Bruins felt something similar when winger Noel Acciari was hauled down from behind by Bozak in the third period. Play continued as Acciari slowly rose–even though Bozak wheeled around toward Sutherland, clearly expecting to see a raised hand—and it wasn’t long before a fluky deflection off Perron’s centering feed put St. Louis ahead 2–0. “What was being said on the bench was that you missed an effing call,” Cassidy said. “For obvious reasons.”
So continued a comically controversial postseason, between the phantom five-minute major that begat the Bedlam by the Bay in San Jose, and the ignored hand pass that also went the Sharks’ way last round against St. Louis. Both officiating crews were promptly shelved after their respective gaffes, though little time remains for such a fix now. The Blues are headed home, history on the line, with two days to mull over what one more win can accomplish.
“We’ve got a big job ahead of us still,” coach Craig Berube said. “I hope our team looks at it that way … We gutted a win out, which is great, but we’re going to get a great performance from [Boston], and we need to be good, we need to be ready. It’s important that we keep our calm and keep level-headed and know we’ve got a big job ahead of us for Game 6.”