The St. Louis Blues are now one win away from hoisting the Stanley Cup for the very first time, after grabbing a momentum-stealing 2-1 Game 5 victory Thursday night to take a 3-2 series lead in the Final.
Boston returned to TD Garden with a prime opportunity to retake a series lead following a 4-2 loss in St. Louis in Game 4, and Bruins fans had added reason for hope at home with defenseman Zdeno Chara gritting his way through a broken jaw. But an unusually stagnant first line, which has largely failed to jump-start Boston outside of the power play during the series, remained quiet while Blues goalie Jordan Binnington fended 38 of the 39 shots he faced.
Questionable calls were littered throughout the contest, with St. Louis' Zach Sanford getting away with a couple of apparent high hits on Torey Krug and Tyler Bozak receiving no penalty for a blatant trip of Noel Acciari right before the Blues' second goal of the night. But even with the contested officiating, which at one point had Bruins fans hurling things onto the ice in protest, Boston seemed mostly lifeless for much of the night.
Binnington, of course, deserves some credit for that. The 25-year-old net-minder had one of the best games of his young NHL career, shielding St. Louis from a late offensive attack that saw Boston narrow its deficit to one goal on a delayed-penalty score by Jake DeBrusk. Most headlines will assuredly focus on Bozak's trip en route to David Perron's game-winning goal, but the Blues were powered just as much by Binnington's work against in net as their penalty kill, which has allowed exactly zero scores since the Bruins scored four times on the man-advantage in Game 3.
The Bruins have been equally as ineffective in 5-on-5 competition as of late -- a serious concern for a team that employs Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak. And if they don't fix it soon, there won't be another chance for redemption in Boston.
Relive all of it and more -- the entire slate of Game 5 action -- right here:
Game 5 updates
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Early pass and score saps energy from Bruins as Blues up 2-1
The Blues and Bruins went a whole 20 minutes without pushing the puck into the net to start Game 5, but St. Louis needed less than one minute to break the scoreless tie in the second, largely thanks to Zach Sanford. Driving around the back of the net 55 seconds into the period, the 24-year-old forward weaved a beautiful backhanded pass through his legs to Ryan O'Reilly, who did the rest to work around Tuukka Rask and put St. Louis up 1-0.
The Blues were likely also thankful that Sanford didn't warrant a call or two for some questionable high hits on Boston's Torey Krug later in the period. But it's not necessarily like Boston would've done much with additional power plays, either, as the early O'Reilly score appeared to completely sap Boston -- and its TD Garden crowd -- of energy throughout the rest of the second. St. Louis wasn't overly dominant, managing just two shots on goal in a 13-minute stretch following its score, and yet the Bruins were even more lifeless, blanking on each of their extra-man advantages with still no signs of explosion from their big-name top line. More top-notch play from a locked-in Jordan Binnington assuredly made things harder for the Bruins.
An uncalled tripping penalty on Tyler Bozak helped pave the way for some insurance in the third, when David Perron laced one past Rask to put St. Louis up by two, but the Bruins then finally got on the board with a shot from Jake DeBrusk on a delayed penalty.
Superb goaltending highlights scoreless first period
The biggest story entering Game 5 turned out to be longtime Bruins defenseman Zdeno Chara taking the ice despite a broken jaw, and after one period of play, it's Chara's side of the ice that's dominated. Although Boston spent much of the final two minutes of the opening 20 killing off a debatable Brad Marchand slashing penalty, the first action of this pivotal tie-breaking clash was marked by superb goaltending from both sides. The Blues' Jordan Binnington halted 17 shots from Boston, five of which came in the last six minutes, whereas the Bruins' Tuukka Rask stopped all eight of St. Louis' shots thanks in part to some highlight-reel work in the net.