The Blues spent most of the past week saying how they couldn’t afford to allow the Bruins to pile up power-play opportunities in the Stanley Cup Final.
That plan — and St. Louis’ defensive discipline — slowly fell apart in their 4-2 loss in Game 1 on Monday night.
With the physicality high on both sides early, the Blues were successful early in holding the Bruins’ top players to few opportunities or power-play chances. The Bruins have been deadly with an advantage this postseason and entered the night with 34 percent success rate on power plays through the first three rounds.
But despite leading 2-0, St. Louis began to pile up penalties, giving life to a sluggish Bruins’ offense.
Chances eventually came for Boston’s third and fourth lines, and culminated in a disastrous second period in which the Bruins scored a pair of goals to get back into the game.
Playing in his first Cup final, Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington was able to play relatively relaxed in the first period, benefiting from some luck and well-placed sticks by his teammates to kill the Bruins’ first three power-play chances Even when Marcus Johansson split two defenders and got a point-blank opportunity in the slot his shot careened off the post.
Binnington’s discipline and his luck didn’t last.
After Connor Clifton got the Bruins on the board off a feed from Sean Kuraly, things began to unravel with 7:19 remaining during a wild second period in which Boston outshot St. Louis 18-3. Charlie McAvoy got into the middle of the Blues defense and slipped an unassisted wrist shot past Binnington with 23 seconds left in their fourth power play of the game. McAvoy was faster and simply outskated an increasingly fatigued St. Louis defense.
St. Louis did its best to give Binnington more support in the third and the teams played relatively even during the first part of the period. That momentum changed after Sammy Blais was called for a penalty with 6:32 remaining for interfering with Charlie Coyle.
The Bruins didn’t get a goal out of that one. But using that momentum, Kuraly was able to finish off Noel Acciari’s pass into the zone and put Boston in front for good.