Blues vs Jets Live :The St Louis Blues opened with a Blues vs Jets lackluster start to their quest for the 2019 Stanley Cup against the Winnipeg Jets. One good thing is they, The Blues will Blues vs Jets meet the Winnipeg Jets in what promises to be an exciting first-round matchup. The puck drops for Game 1 on Wednesday.
And then along came Tyler Bozak with the game-winning goal with just two minutes five seconds to play, giving the Blues a heart-pounding 2-1 victory Wednesday over Winnipeg. Bozak turned the lights out on the Jets’ Whiteout in the opening game of this Western Conference playoff series.
In the annals of Blues playoff history, it was the fourth-latest game-winning goal scored in regulation. Better late than never, right?
During an otherwise highly successful regular season, the Blues were 2-23-6 when trailing after two periods. They picked a good time for No. 3, getting goals from David Perron and then Bozak to erase a 1-0 Jets lead at Bell MTS Place — one of the league’s toughest venues on visiting teams.
“I had a lot of chances tonight, so I knew the puck was kind of following me around a bit,” said Bozak, who led the Blues with six shots on goal, matching his season high. “It’s always fun when that happens. So after the few I missed it was definitely nice to get one in there.”
Oakville’s Pat Maroon did the heavy lifting on the play, carrying the puck into the offensive zone despite some determined checking by Winnipeg, then winning a puck battle behind the net to set up Bozak.
“The D-man poached me and I tried to chip it over his stick,” Maroon said. “Got with it, and there were three guys on my back there. I was just trying to find the puck in my feet and I got loose and Bozy was high slot.
Maroon played with a heavy heart because his grandfather, Ernest Ferrara, passed away Tuesday. His nickname was “Jocko” and he was 94. That’s a long run, and a great nickname.
“He was behind me tonight. … He was watching above,” Maroon said. “Obviously that was for him. It’s been emotional, tough days for me. Being with the guys and having them by my side has been really good.”
Following Bozak’s goal, the Blues still had to negotiate 125 seconds of harrying hockey against one of the NHL’s most explosive scoring teams, including the last 100 seconds with Jets goalie Connor Hellebuyck pulled in favor of an extra attacker.
“The mindset was just compete to the end and give the team a chance to win,” goalie Jordan Binnington said. “That buzzer couldn’t have come sooner. We were just battling throughout in our D-zone. It was a grind right till the end. So it was a good win.”
Just 34 seconds into the game, Jets star Mark Scheifele tried to take a bite out of Binnington, slamming into him behind the net as the Blues rookie tried to clear the puck.
And with just 13 seconds left in the game, Binnington bit back, robbing Scheifele of what looked like the game-tying goal with the save of the night — sliding over from his left to right in the crease.
“They were moving the puck around,” Binnington said. “It went down to Scheifele and I had to make a little bit of a desperation save there and hope for the best, with the boys coming and clearing out the rebound. That’s all I remember.”
From the opening faceoff — before it actually — it was the world against Binnington. Well, at least the corner of the world known as Manitoba.
During the week, there were comments from the Jets’ locker room about how they wanted to make him nervous. Then there was the unearthing of culturally insensitive tweets made by Binnington six years ago — on the eve of Wednesday’s playoff game, by a former Winnipeg resident.
Then came Scheifele’s hit, which brought a two-minute minor for interference. Then came the booing. Loud booing e-v-e-r-y time Binnington touched the puck.
Asked if he’d ever been booed before, Binnington replied: “I don’t think so. Yeah, they were all over me, but it’s a part of the game. It’s exciting. They’re passionate. … So whatever. We gotta handle it. Stay composed, so on to the next game.”
The victory was a study in perseverance for the Blues, who were literally knocked off their game for most of the first two periods. This wasn’t a case of Winnipeg’s speed or firepower causing trouble. It was their physical play and hitting — 24 hits in the first two periods alone and 36 in the game.
“Obviously an exciting building,” Bozak said. “The crowd was awesome. We were nervous at the start, but I thought we found our game as the game went on. I thought everyone did a great job.”
Midway through the opening period there were only three shots on goal apiece for the teams. But as the frame wore on, Winnipeg started to get the best of the hitting and most of the offensive zone time.
It paid off for the Jets at the 13:28 mark of the period, when Patrik Laine — name sound familiar? — ripped a wicked wrist shot past Binnington from the slot. Laine, you may recall, tied a Blues’ opponent record with five goals against St. Louis in an 8-4 victory at Enterprise Center on Nov. 24.
“Their goal gave them momentum a little bit and got the crowd into it even more,” Perron said. “We just kept climbing, climbing, grinding. Our second intermission, I thought we were calm and composed in (the locker room). It was good to see.”
Perron stopped the Winnipeg momentum with his game-tying goal off a drop pass from Colton Parayko at the 4:05 mark of the third. That seemed to get the Blues back on their game. By game’s end, they had negated Winnipeg’s home-ice advantage in the best-of-7 series.
“Well it’s one win, but it’s a good win for sure,” interim coach Craig Berube said. “We come in here, this is a tough building and it’s an excellent team over there. It’s going to be a battle. We were on the right side tonight.”