While everything was going Boston’s way in the Bruins' 7–2 rout, the wheels were coming off for St. Louis in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final.
ST. LOUIS — The snake video was a bad sign.
Less than five minutes until the end of the second period, seeking to inject some life into an increasingly listless crowd, the video screen at Enterprise Center showed a highlight package of Blues goalie Jake Allen, spliced together with close-ups of a serpent. (Jake … snake … get it?) Just one small problem: Allen is the backup, and his presence at that moment—both digitally and on the ice down below—indicated that something had gone horribly wrong for St. Louis.
Or, as Bruins defenseman Torey Krug framed it later, “It was just a night when everything went our way.”
Nearly five decades in the making, the first Stanley Cup Final game held here since 1970 began with a raucous party along Market Street, a rousing citywide singalong of “Gloria” and an ideally rollicking start to the opening frame for the Blues. Then the wheels came off and rolled straight into the Mississippi River. By the time coach Craig Berube summoned Allen as a mercy move to replace icy-veined starter Jordan Binnington, the Bruins were ahead four goals and barreling toward a 7–2 rout, the most lopsided Stanley Cup final victory by a visiting team since ‘93–94.
Now halfway toward their second title in eight years, the Bruins found an ideal formula in Game 3 on Saturday night. After weathering an early storm from the hard-hitting Blues, including a successful kill of winger Jake DeBrusk’s kneeing minor at the 72-second mark, their stars shined bright. “Assertiveness, good decision-making, and our skill guys came through,” said Krug, whose four points—one goal, three primary assists—set a franchise Cup final record. “When we have those contributions, we’re a tough team to beat.”
Prior to the puck drop, video messages from alumni like Bob Plager and Brett Hull had cranked the sellout crowd to max volume. After David Pastrnak pushed the lead to 4–0, capitalizing on a power play gifted by a failed offsides challenge from Berube, a fan tried to coax a LET’S GO BLUES chant with three blasts of a vuvuzela. It went unanswered, sounding more like a sad trombone. “It was loud in here,” Boston blueliner Brandon Carlo said, “but we did a good job silencing it.”
With Binnington relegated to doorman duty on the bench, the Blues mustered a modest third-period push but got next to nowhere against Boston goalie Tuukka Rask (27 saves). Now they must regroup, as they did so often while rocketing from last place league-wide on New Years’ Day, before Game 4 on Monday night. “We’ve been a team that responds well, but at the same time we’re not happy with that,” Binnington said. “We’ve got to be better.”
The first quick hook of Binnington’s NHL career shouldn’t be an issue; he is 12–2 following losses in the regular season and playoffs combined. More troubling, though, was the man-advantage beast that awoke on the other side. En route to winning the Cup in 2011, Boston became the first team ever to win a seven-game series without scoring a power-play goal (opening round, Montreal, 0 for 21). Now the Bruins are clicking at 35.9%, the second-highest rate in history behind the ‘80–81 Islanders, bolstered by a preposterous Game 3 performance: Four power plays, four total shots, four goals, four different ways.
The mind boggles at the efficiency. There was Patrice Bergeron, killing the Blues’ early buzz with a tip in the high slot halfway through the first period. Next came Pastrnak, the right side of the so-called “Perfection Line” centered by Bergeron, baiting a pokecheck from Binnington before smoothly scooping a backhander from the doorstep. Then Krug ticked a wrist shot off defenseman Jay Bouwmeester’s stick to chase Binnington in the second period. Finally, adding insult to Noel Acciari’s empty-netter, winger Marcus Johansson hammered a one-timer as Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo sat in the box for slashing with 1:25 left.
“I can tell you, as a penalty killer in practice … it’s a lot of fun to watch them,” Carlo said. “When they start out hot, it definitely carries.”
Whether they stay hot may well decide the series. As it was, the Blues had enough issues with Boston at even strength, getting outshot 11–4 in the first period alone. Aside from an organ-rattling hit from Sammy Blais on former St. Louis captain David Backes less than a minute after the puck dropped, the Bruins deftly handled the Blues’ physicality with quick zone exits and strong support along the walls until their firepower took over.
Rask, the runaway Conn Smythe trophy favorite should Boston ultimately clinch, was also excellent; both goals that he allowed on 29 shots deflected off teammates before hitting the net. After the game, he was asked about a picture that the team’s equipment staff had hung inside the visiting locker room, part of a larger series of previous Bruins triumphs intended to inspire their current players. Snapped during the victory celebration in 2011, the image shows a grinning Rask with his head tilted back as booze is poured from the Stanley Cup. “I have the same one in my man cave,” replied Rask, now two more wins from adding another to the wall.