The St. Louis Blues are one win away from lifting the Stanley Cup for the first time in franchise history.
St. Louis defeated the Boston Bruins 2-1 in Thursday's Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final at TD Garden and seized a 3-2 lead in the series with its performance in the swing game.
Ryan O'Reilly opened the scoring in the second period for the Blues, while David Perron added insurance in the third in controversial fashion after a missed tripping penalty earlier in the play. The Bruins fought back with a late Jake DeBrusk goal, but he was the only one to solve goaltender Jordan Binnington.
The rookie saved 38 of the 39 shots he faced and preserved the victory in dramatic fashion even after the Bruins pulled Tuukka Rask for an extra attacker.
Binnington was brilliant throughout, further cementing his status as a St. Louis legend after leading the franchise to its first Stanley Cup Final appearance since 1970.
He also made history in the process:
The goaltender stole the show, but a major storyline heading into Thursday's contest was the status of Boston captain Zdeno Chara, who was left bleeding after he was hit in the face by a puck during a Game 4 loss. He didn't return for the third period, but he started Game 5 and drew a massive ovation.
The veteran helped the Bruins dominate the first period from a statistical perspective, leading a physical defensive effort that stifled St. Louis' best chances. The visitors managed just eight shots on goal in the first 20 minutes, while Boston countered with 17 on the other end.
Even an average showing from Binnington would have allowed the Bruins to seize control of the game and series, but the rookie stood strong and didn't allow a single one of those 17 shots into the net, and when he was beaten, Brad Marchand rang the post.
It was a welcome development for the Blues since Binnington has dealt with spats of inconsistency while making history. He allowed six goals in a first-round game, five goals in two of the first three games of the Western Conference Final and five goals in Game 3 against the Bruins.
However, he has made a habit of bouncing back and allowed a combined two goals in the last three games of the Western Conference Final against the San Jose Sharks and just two goals in the Game 4 win over the Bruins.
That the dominant version of Binnington showed up against Boston's initial onslaught was critical because it allowed the visitors to weather the storm and find the scoreboard first.
While Rask saved 19 of 21 shots overall and stuffed a Vladimir Tarasenko breakaway in the opening minute of the second period, he didn't have a chance when O'Reilly sneaked into the crease to meet a beautifully placed Zach Sanford pass from behind the net.
Breaking through against Rask after a Boston loss has been no easy task in these playoffs.
The veteran goaltender entered Thursday's showdown with a 5-1 record, .940 save percentage and 2.01 goals-against average following a loss in the 2019 postseason, further proving himself as one of the league's premier players at his position. He also hasn't allowed more than three goals in a single game since the first round and is a primary reason the Bruins are still playing.
St. Louis would have beaten Rask twice in the second period were it not for a heroic effort from David Krejci. The center threw his body in front of the net to preserve a 1-0 deficit after Rask fell to the ice on a previous save attempt.
It was the type of play that could swing a game, especially with Boston continuing to create the majority of the chances despite trailing on the scoreboard.
Binnington and his best friend, the post—which Steven Kampfer also found with a shot—made sure the game didn't draw level in the face of another Boston push in the third period. The St. Louis defense killed an Alex Steen interference penalty and survived multiple odd-man rushes and two-on-one breaks as the Bruins pressed with time running out to even the score.
Boston nearly tied it when a David Pastrnak wraparound attempt drew a replay review, but that met the same fate as so many of its other chances: Binnington's pads.
The continued push on the offensive side for the Bruins left the door open for a counter, which the Blues took advantage of in controversial fashion. Tyler Bozak clearly tripped Noel Acciari, but the officials did not blow the whistle and reward the Bruins with a power play. Instead, Perron's shot thereafter bounced off Rask's pad and into the net to give the visitors some much-needed breathing room.
Bruins fans responded by throwing things on to the ice, but the team responded by climbing back into the game with DeBrusk's goal less than three minutes later.
Not even that could break Binnington's will, as he turned away all of Boston's best chances with the extra attacker to bring his team to within a single victory of the sport's ultimate glory.
The series shifts back to St. Louis for Sunday's Game 6.