ST. LOUIS — A St. Louis Blues victory almost seemed inevitable in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final Monday night at Enterprise Center.
“We were relentless, I thought,” coach Craig Berube said after his team’s 4-2 victory that evened the series, 2-2. “Like, we didn’t stop for 60 minutes. That’s how I look at the game. Guys were just hounding pucks, on pucks, working, reloading, and doing all the little things right.”
Less than two minutes remaining in the game, center Brayden Schenn’s empty-netter served as the capper to a night that was the Blues’ to blow. The sellout crowd at Enterprise Center rejoiced, proudly caroling “Gloria” and whipping its rally towels with great fervor.
Moments earlier, center Ryan O’Reilly had notched the game-winner when he knocked home a rebound off the pads of Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask. The score was O’Reilly’s second of the night, as his goals sandwiched an aggressive, effective stretch of hockey by the Blues. Forty-three seconds after puck drop, O’Reilly pushed a wraparound goal past Rask for an early spark. The attack continued throughout the night, with the Blues out-shooting the Bruins 38-23.
“I was just kind of getting back to that mindset of leaving it all out there,” O’Reilly said. “Stop overthinking the game and just kind of trust yourself more. That’s kind of as a team what we did. From start to finish, guys kept playing.”
Increased discipline allowed the Blues to find their offensive rhythm as the game went on. No penalties were called in the first period, much to the delight of Berube, who had cried foul over the officiating just a day prior. Only seven penalties — four on the Bruins and three on the Blues — were whistled in the game, a series-low.
“I felt our team had a calmness about them today,” Berube said. “Practice was crisp and calm. I thought it was really good. I knew our guys were going to be ready tonight.”
For nearly two-thirds of the contest, St. Louis also was able to take advantage of a depleted defensive corps. Bruins veteran defenseman Zdeno Chara exited the game after getting clocked with a puck to the mouth early in the second period. After falling to the ice, he rose with blood dripping from his mouth and was quickly escorted to the dressing room.
Down to just five defensemen for the second time in three games, Boston managed to survive the remainder of the frame without Chara, who returned to the bench — sporting a new helmet with a protective face shield — for the third period. His presence ultimately proved to be solely for moral support, as he did not return to action.
Though Boston didn’t surrender any goals in the second, Chara’s void was certainly felt. The Bruins failed to clear the puck out of their zone for nearly three minutes, generating an exhausting shift for rookie Connor Clifton. The span ultimately ended when Clifton was sent to the penalty box for high sticking.
Berube said the second period was “as good as [he’s] seen [his team] play in a while.”
The Blues trailed in their series against Dallas and San Jose, in each case winning critical games to eventually advance. That resiliency remains, and showed itself again on Monday night.
“We’re a good team that responds pretty well,” left winger Pat Maroon said. “I’m happy. This team never gives up. When our back’s against the wall, we just keep fighting, keep grinding. We do a good job of just sticking with it.”
“The city’s been waiting a long time for this,” added team captain Alex Pietrangelo. “We weren’t too proud of the last game, so we really had to grab it.”