Between the third and overtime period of Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final Wednesday night, St. Louis Blues defenseman Carl Gunnarsson had a message for his coach.
“All I need is one more chance,’’ he said he told Craig Berube.
With less than two minutes to go in regulation, and the score tied at two apiece, Gunnarsson fired a slapshot past the glove of netminder Tuukka Rask only to have it clang off the post. Gunnarsson said he saw the puck sitting in the crease, with hopes that someone would poke it in for the game-winner. No luck.
To the dressing rooms the teams went to prepare for 20 minutes of extra time. According to Berube, there was no fiery pump-up speech or inspirational address during the intermission. But there was a chat, between Gunnarsson and Berube, that took place, in the words of teammate Oskar Sundqvist, at “the pisser.”
— St. Louis Blues (@StLouisBlues) May 30, 2019
“I can’t deny that,’’ Gunnarsson said after the Blues’ 3-2 victory. “That’s where it took place.’’
Not known for his goal scoring — he’s netted 28 over the course of his 10-year career — Gunnarsson said he told Berube he just needed “one more.’’ And he got it. Less than four minutes into the overtime period, the 32-year-old veteran sent a one-timer past Rask.
The Blues were able to create a 6-on-5 man advantage thanks to a delayed tripping call on Bruins’ defenseman Brandon Carlo, and Gunnarsson capitalized. No need for the power play. The goal marked Gunnarsson’s first-ever postseason score — he called it the biggest of his career “no doubt’’ — and leveled the series at one game apiece.
“He had a hell of a game,’’ Berube said of Gunnarsson. “I’m really happy for him that he ended up getting that game-winner. He hit the post in the third there, and he felt good about himself obviously. Which he should have.’’
“It’s a massive goal,’’ added center Ryan O’Reilly. “He’s obviously a big piece of this team. He played an unbelievable game. To see that puck go in, to see the celebration, that’s inspiring for us all. It’s an incredible play from an incredible player.’’
Gunnarsson wasn’t the only defender to notch one for the Blues Wednesday. Defenseman Robert Bortuzzo launched an outside missile that sailed above Rask’s shoulder to tie things at one apiece in the first period, quieting the TD Garden crowd that was buzzing after center Charlie Coyle put the Bruins on the board early.
“Anybody can step up,’’ Berube said. “We use everybody. Everybody’s counted on, for sure. Our defense has done a great job all year, and in the playoffs, of producing offense for us.’’
After citing time spent in their own offensive zone as an area for improvement after Game 1, the Blues certainly made adjustments. St. Louis registered 37 shots on goal in Game 2, up from 20 just two nights prior.
St. Louis faced a pair of one-goal deficits in the opening frame, but responded within five minutes each time they went down. After Bruins defenseman Matt Grzelcyk exited the ice with a head injury late in the first period, the Blues made it a point to press on Boston’s depleted corps.
“As the game went on, we progressed,’’ O’Reilly said. “We kind of worked them. We kind of broke them down.’’
“Shift by shift from the start of the game, we made it hard on their D tonight,’’ echoed team captain Alex Pietrangelo.