ST. LOUIS — For the St. Louis Blues, the final minutes of Game 4 of the Western Conference finals on Friday night had an uncomfortable similarity to the final minutes of Game 3. As the San Jose Sharks controlled play with their goalie pulled for an extra attacker, creating a parade of scoring chances, the Blues kept icing the puck as they clung to a one-goal lead.
“It’s just madness. You hope for the best and try to close the door,” St. Louis goalie Jordan Binnington said.
But unlike Game 3, when Logan Couture tied the score with just over a minute remaining before the Sharks won in overtime, the Blues closed out Game 4 looking calm and collected, winning 2-1 to push the series back to San Jose knotted at 2-2.
It was an impressive showing, considering how the Blues lost the previous game — on a missed hand-pass by Timo Meier that set up Erik Karlsson‘s game-winning goal, an embarrassing blown call that the NHL has acknowledged its officials missed.
The Blues said that focus tracks back to their coach, Craig Berube, laying down the law after Game 3: There would be no complaining about the missed call, not even as fuel for the next game. Let it go. Move along. Don’t even think about it.
“After the game, I just came in [the dressing room] and talked. We talked about how you just gotta move on. The call, you can’t change it now. It is what it is,” Berube said. “I think we talked in terms of having a one-goal lead in that game. We could have closed it out, and we didn’t. We let it go to overtime. The difference tonight is that we closed it out.”
Center Tyler Bozak said the speech helped the Blues put Game 3 behind them quickly.
“You got big games coming up and you sit there and dwell on something in the past, it’s not going to do you any good,” he said. “We fought through adversity all year, and we usually play our best when we have to respond from something, and again, I thought we did a really good job tonight responding,” he said.
Something else that has happened all year when adversity strikes: Binnington carries the team. He’s 11-2 after losses with a 1.81 goals-against average and a .936 save percentage.
“As soon as people start doubting him, he pulls another sick performance,” winger David Perron said. “We maybe relied on him a little too much the last two periods. That’s something we can look at, but right now we’re happy with the win and the result.”
The Sharks put 30 shots on Binnington, but dominated at even strength in the game, with 65 shot attempts to 25 for the Blues. That included a third period that saw them with 14 shot attempts to just one for the Blues at 5-on-5.
But they said after the game that it’s not about quantity, but quality. They didn’t make him work enough.
“He made some good saves. We had some good chances and we can get a little better,” said captain Joe Pavelski. “If we can get him moving a little bit, some of our opportunities [might go]. But he played well, gave up one goal and we gave up two. What are you going to do about it?”
With the win, Binnington set a new franchise record for wins in a single postseason with 10, and became just the 10th rookie goalie in NHL history to reach double-digits in playoff wins during a postseason year.
“Yeah, that’s a great honor, obviously,” Binnington said. “I’m having a lot of fun back here playing with this team, and they’re doing a great job. They limited chances tonight. I think we played a complete game, so I just try do to my job.”