From worst place on Jan. 2, the Blues are one win away from winning the Stanley Cup. Jordan Binnington’s 38-save record and Ryan O’Reilly’s third goal in two games propelled St. Louis past Boston in a 2–1 Game 5 victory.
Zdeno Chara—one third Frankenstein, one third gladiator and one third who knows what else—stepped onto the ice with a possible broken jaw, and Boston saw the 6’9”, 250-pound colossus and roared. Patrice Bergeron, Brad Marchand and David Pastrnak turned the energy into an offensive assault, pelting Binnington with seven of the Bruins’ 17 first period shots.
Whatever steel wasn’t used to repair Chara’s jaw could be found in Binnington’s nerves. Postured at the edge of the crease throughout Game 5, the 25-year-old rookie goaltender stopped Marchand with a sliding blocker save five minutes in and aggressively snapped up scoring chances. Tuukka Rask also remained flawless, until a certain New Englander slid a no-look, between the legs pass into the slot. Zach Sanford’s feed found O’Reilly, who received the puck on his blade’s broken-nose shaped toe and roofed a backhander over Rask’s left glove less than a minute into the second period.
Alex Pietrangelo almost doubled the Blues’ 1–0 lead but David Krejci, sliding upright across the crease, plugged an open net and made the save of the night with six seconds left in the period. The Bruins would have to wait for a better opportunity. David Perron didn’t: the 12-year veteran powered past Sean Kuraly to the left faceoff dot, threw a pass off Torey Krug, regained the puck and scored with Rask drifting the other way. Tyler Bozak tripped Noel Acciari immediately before but it went uncalled, prompting Boston fans to throw garbage onto the ice while Bruins president Cam Neely launched a water bottle at a nearby wall.
Bruins winger Jake DeBrusk responded and one-timed his first goal of the Stanley Cup Final with 6:28 remaining in the third period. Behind a stickless Binnington, Carl Gunnarsson swiped away a puck squeaking towards the net and the Blues went on to survive Boston’s final flurry.
The Blues are one win from etching the NHL’s best, full-fledged comeback story into the Stanley Cup. One band above where Binnington’s name would be engraved sits the 2013–14 Kings, who rallied back from being down 3–0 and won three Game 7’s on opposing ice en route to the Cup. Fifty-two years of franchise-wide letdowns and what-ifs trounce two months of white-knuckled thrillers and triumphs. The 1941–42 Leafs had already won three titles and were the league’s second-best team when it became the only team in sports history to win a championship after falling behind three games to none.
Teams, like Boston, that lose Game 5 at home have gone on to lose the series 75.5% of the time, according to Hockey Reference. A word of caution: The Bruins are a perfect 100% in that situation and elimination games this postseason. Boston outscored the Leafs 9–3 and siphoned hope after trailing 3–2 with the series going back to Toronto. Rask shut out and eliminated the Blue Jackets’ in Game 6 and then relegated the Hurricanes to sweeping duty. The Bruins’ Stanley Cup trail is filled with shards of smashed glass slippers from the NHL’s faux-Cinderellas, enough to even make Disney’s Wicked Stepmother blush.
Craig Berube’s tenacious Blues don’t fancy glass slippers, though. The most coveted silver trophy in sports will do just fine.