A deep, thunderous cheer greeted the St. Louis Blues just before they took the ice for the third period.
It didn’t matter that they trailed by a goal. Surely they could erase that and march on to history with their first Stanley Cup.
But 2:31 into the period, Boston Bruins defenseman Brandon Carlo sent a soft shot from roughly 60 feet away that skipped past Blues goalie Jordan Binnington, and the arena fell silent.
Boston didn’t just turn down the volume on the Blues in Game 6 of the Final on Sunday. Behind goalie Tuukka Rask and a motivational push from Patrice Bergeron, it turned town the volume on an entire city with a clutch 5-1 win at Enterprise Center to force Game 7 on Wednesday.
The Bruins stared down St. Louis in a heightened situation with 28 saves by Rask and goals by Carlo, Brad Marchand, Karson Kuhlman, David Pastrnak and Zdeno Chara. Bergeron, the face of the team, apparently addressed his teammates beforehand about staying alive.
“We were all a little kid once and we all wanted this bad. And I think it was just an element of savoring this moment and not letting it end tonight. It was exactly what we needed.”
Bergeron’s leadership was representative of a tested Boston team that has been through many of these scenarios. Sunday was as challenging as it gets, though, with the opposing city on the verge of eruption. The watch party at nearby Market Street was filled to capacity and the building was packed for pregame warmups.
Then Boston played exactly the road game it needed, thanks in big part to Rask as he states his case for the Conn Smythe Trophy.
“I think he’s been doing this the whole playoff run,” Bergeron said. “But tonight he was definitely on and made some tremendous saves and kept us in the game for a while.”
Rask was set to become the fourth goalie in NHL history to post a shutout when playing an elimination game in the Final before Ryan O’Reilly broke the bid. O’Reilly got the puck on the left side and fired the puck, but play kept going before replays showed the puck crossed the line with almost eight minutes to go in regulation to make the score 3-1.
But Pastrnak scored with 5:54 remaining when Sean Kuraly won a puck behind the Blues’ net, and Chara scored on an empty net.
St. Louis was presented with generous opportunity in the second period with two power plays, but it fell to 0 for 17 in the series.
Its’ best chance was on Marchand’s tripping penalty. Alex Pietrangelo sent a backhander on net that bounced off the post, went off Rask’s back and was batted away by McAvoy.
“[McAvoy] hit it with his stick and I kind of heard it, and I didn’t know where it was and I figured it might be somewhere behind me, so I just tried to corral it with my hand, behind my back and it stuck in my pants and fell somewhere,” Rask said.
The Blues gained another advantage in the period on McAvoy’s tripping penalty, but St. Louis couldn’t generate anything on chippy ice that made the puck bounce all night. The Blues tried to make complicated plays on the rough surface instead of simple ones, and their strong play on the wall faltered.
St. Louis coach Craig Berube said Rask made good saves but pointed to the special teams.
“Can it be better?” Berube said. “Yeah, it has to be better. It could have won us the game tonight … we had 12 shots on the power play tonight, but we’ve definitely got to bury a couple.”
Boston struck first on a five-on-three advantage gained because O’Reilly sent a puck over the glass, resulting in a delay of game penalty. Marchand one-timed Pastrnak’s feed from the right circle and beat Binnington over the glove side 8:40 into the first period.
That ended a two-game slump on the power play for the Bruins, who went 0 for 5 in Games 4-5.
“Bad play by myself,” O’Reilly said. “It took the wind out of our sails. We took too long to climb back in and obviously their second goal was just a lucky bounce. It just kind of bounced up on ’Binner. There’s not much you can do there.”
Chants of “Let’s Go Blues” still went up after the buzzer. St. Louis will have to carry that support on the road if it wants to make history.
“We’ve been a good road team all year,” Pietrangelo said. “We know we need to play better and we’ve had a good recipe on the road, so we’ll use that.”