Before the 2019 Stanley Cup final began on Monday, the last time St. Louis Blues defenceman Carl Gunnarsson had performed in a playoff game at TD Garden was with the Toronto Maple Leafs in that embarrassing Game 7 collapse six years ago.
You remember it, don’t you? The Maple Leafs went ahead 4-1 on a Nazem Kadri goal five minutes and 29 seconds into the third period against the Boston Bruins, only to have Boston score three times to tie the game on a Patrice Bergeron goal with 51 seconds remaining in the third period.
Bergeron ended the game and the series early in overtime.
Gunnarsson and his defence partner Dion Phaneuf were on the ice for the Bruins’ goal from Milan Lucic that made it 4-3 and the tying goal from Bergeron.
His next post-season trip to Beantown went much better. Gunnarsson drove home the overtime winner in Game 2 for a 3-2 win to tie the championship series at 1-1 on Wednesday.
The goal gave the Blues their first win in the final in franchise history and, more importantly, stopped a Bruins eight-game win streak in this playoff run.
Blues coach Craig Berube ran into Gunnarsson in the dressing room washroom and he told his coach “all I need is one more chance.” He made good on that chance.
WATCH | Carl Gunnarsson scores OT winner in Game 2:
He almost won the game in regulation time. With just under two minutes remaining, Gunnarsson slammed a 45-foot slap shot off the post.
Gunnarsson called it the biggest goal of his career. It was his first in 57 career playoff games, and he looked like Bobby Orr in the late going of Game 2.
“I haven’t scored too many,” said the Swede, who has 28 goals in 581 career regular-season games. “Nothing comes even close.”
Gunnarsson was only in the Blues’ lineup because teammate Vince Dunn took a puck to the mouth in Game 3 of the West final.
On the game-winning play, he made a dandy play to keep the puck in Boston’s zone, exhibited some nifty puck handling to shake free. With Boston on a delayed penalty, he slid the puck to Ryan O’Reilly, who passed it back for a Gunnarsson one-time drive that beat Boston goalie Tuukka Rask with the Bruins on a delayed penalty.
Rask was the Bruins’ best player in Game 2. The Blues made him work hard. They outshot Boston 37-23.
They were the better team. The Blues were the much better team in overtime.
They played as well as they did in the opening 21 minutes in the series opener. Only this time, they didn’t pack it in early.
They kept up their soft dump-ins to establish the forecheck. They skated hard on the backcheck. And, even though the Bruins opening goal from Charlie Coyle came on the power play, the Blues were much better on the penalty kill, shutting down the Bruins in their final four man-advantage situations.
Game 2 was a board-loosening, hard-hitting and gritty affair. There also was some excellent shot blocking, especially from Bruins fourth-line left wing Joakim Nordstrom on a double-minor to Boston defenceman Connor Clifton late in the second period.
WATCH | Blues’ Sundqvist gets controversial penalty for slamming Grzelcyk into the boards:
The Bruins lost mobile defenceman Matt Grzelcyk late in the first period when he was hit from behind into the end boards by St. Louis fourth-liner Oskar Sundqvist.
Sundqvist received a boarding penalty. Grzelcyk went to the hospital. Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy didn’t have an update on his defenceman afterwards, but there are two days off before Game 3 in St. Louis on Saturday.
The Bruins led 1-0 and 2-1, but St. Louis tied the game for a second time on Vladimir Tarasenko’s goal when Boston’s Brad Marchand allowed his opponent to get free at 14:55 of the first period.
Boston’s top line of Marchand, Bergeron and David Pastrnak continued to struggle in this series. There is speculation Bergeron is suffering from a possible lower-body injury.
Boston needs a Bergeron who was so clutch against Gunnarsson and the Maple Leafs in Game 7 six years ago.
Gunnarsson, however, was quite happy to take away the spotlight for one night anyway.