Binnington, Blues will rebound for better outing in Game 4

This was far from the Stanley Cup homecoming the long-suffering sports fans of St. Louis hoped for their beloved Blues.

They had waited for more than 49 years since the city known as the Gateway to the West played host to a game in the NHL championship series —  17,924 days to be exact. The blue notes had whipped the city on the west side of the Mississippi River into a fevered frenzy, thick with anticipation.

There was team executive vice-president Brett Hull sitting ringside. Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes also enjoyed the festivities. There was 81-year-old former NASCAR King, Richard Petty, taking in the bash.

More importantly, adding her presence to the emotional evening, was 11-year-old Laila Anderson. She was diagnosed last fall with hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis, a severe systemic inflammatory syndrome that can be fatal.

The Blues have lifted her spirits in these difficult times, and she has served as inspiration for them. There she was on this memorable night, thanking St. Louis on the house-mic before the game for its “love and support” and then saying, “Let’s go Blues.”

WATCH | 11-year-old thanks Blues for support prior to Game 3:

Laila Anderson, the Blues superfan who struggles with a rare disease called hemophagocytic lymphohistiocytosis, led the St. Louis crowd in a “Let’s go Blues” chant before puck drop in Game 3. 0:40

But the party inside and outside the Enterprise Center was a short one on Saturday evening. The Boston Bruins returned to form. They were back to being the deep team that had reeled off eight wins in a row before their setback in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup final on Wednesday.

The Bruins scored an impressive 7-2 victory for their fourth straight road win in this remarkable playoff run to take a 2-1 series lead. Boston did something the Winnipeg Jets, Dallas Stars and San Jose Sharks failed to do in the first three rounds: the Bruins chased the Blues brilliant rookie goaltender Jordan Binnington to a seat on the bench.

After Binnington allowed five goals on 19 shots, Blues head coach Craig Berube replaced his freshman with backup goalie Jake Allen in the second period. Allen’s last action? He was in goal for a 4-3 shootout loss in Chicago against the Blackhawks on Apr. 3.

The thing about June 1 was this game could have gone the Blues way. They fed off the party atmosphere and were the better club early on. But Boston goalie Tuukka Rask, now two wins away from a Stanley Cup championship and likely a Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP, was spot on. His teammates eventually caught up to his level.

Veteran Patrice Bergeron led the charge. The decorated centreman, who has a Stanley Cup ring, a world championship gold medal, two Olympic golds, a world junior gold as well as a World Cup of Hockey title, struggled along with his two linemates Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak in the first two games.

Bergeron, uncharacteristically, only won five of 13 face-offs in Game 2. But Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy had faith. He predicted Bergeron and the top line would be better. They were.

After Boston survived the opening Blues barrage, the Bruins went on the power play thanks to a David Perron interference penalty. Bergeron won a draw, and he then deflected a shot from defenceman Torey Krug for a 1-0 lead midway through the first period.

WATCH | Bruins top Blues in Game 3:

Torey Krug has a goal and 3 assists as the Boston Bruins pumped the St. Louis Blues 7-2 to take a 2-1 lead in the Stanley Cup Finals. 2:01

A few shifts later Marcus Johansson hit Charlie Coyle with a no-look pass off the rush for a 2-0 lead and fourth-line centre Sean Kuraly fired in a backbreaker with 10 seconds remaining in the first period. In the second period, the Bruins sandwiched a couple more goals around one from Blues fourth-liner Ivan Barbashev. 

Yes, as this game evolved a familiar winning formula for the Bruins came shining through. They were good at the face-off dot, effective on special teams (Boston has 21 power-play goals in this playoffs and has killed off 19 man-short situations in a row before a St. Louis power-play goal from Colton Parayko in the third period), received production from all corners of the lineup and Rask was first-rate.

For those of you who like these sort of stats, the winner of Game 3 when the championship series is tied 1-1 has gone on to capture the Stanley Cup 79% of the time (22-of-28 ). However, the Chicago Blackhawks lost Game 3 in 2013 against the Bruins and again in 2015 against the Tampa Bay Lightning.

On both occasions, Chicago rebounded to win the title. You can bet Binnington and the Blues will rebound for a better outing in Game 4 at home on Monday.

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