By Michael Hurley, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — For all 58 minutes that Jordan Binnington stood between the pipes on Monday night, not a single one of Boston’s top five goal scorers from the regular season managed to get on the score sheet. David Pastrnak had four shots, but no goals. Prior to potting the empty-net cherry, Brad Marchand had three shots, but no goals. Patrice Bergeron: three shots, no goals. Jake DeBrusk had a single shot, David Krejci had two; neither scored.READ MORE: Massachusetts To Provide Weekly At-Home COVID Tests For Students, Staff At Schools
Together, that quintet accounted for 60 percent of the Bruins’ scoring during the regular season. They were held in check in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. Nobody from the top-eight in postseason goals for the Bruins managed to beat Binnington, either. But it hardly mattered.
With heavy contributions from fourth liners and defensemen, the Bruins managed to generate just enough offense to earn a 4-2 win over the Blues.
“That’s the NHL today. If you get contributions from your back line, if you get contributions from your bottom-six forwards, you’re going win a lot of hockey games and you’re going to have a chance to go far in the playoffs,” Torey Krug said. “And that’s what we’ve had up to this point and that’s what we had tonight. And that’s why we won the game. It’s crucial.”
The first bit of offense came when Connor Clifton made the right choice to drive to the net, as Sean Kuraly carried a puck with speed over the center ice dot and into the the Blues’ end. Kuraly pulled up at the right faceoff dot and put the puck on his forehand, sending a pass to Clifton’s skates at the goalmouth.
Clifton — who scored zero goals in his 19 regular-season games and had one goal in 12 playoff games — managed to get enough of his stick on the puck to deflect it past a helpless Binnington, cutting St. Louis’ lead in half early in the second period.
“You saw Cliffy’s goal – he plays fearless and it’s great to see,” Tuukka Rask said of Clifton. “Great character as a young player.”
The game-tying goal came from a player who has a bit more offensive prowess but nevertheless scored just seven goals in 54 games played this season. It came on the power play, when Charlie McAvoy opted to step up himself, skate into two Blues, and fire a shot toward net. The puck changed directions ever so slightly off the stick of St. Louis’ Alex Pietrangelo, and just like that, the game was tied.READ MORE: Walt Anderson And The NFL Cooked Up A Whopper Of A Lie For Football Fans On Wild Card Weekend
With the score knotted at 2-2 in the third, Kuraly was once again in the right place at the right time to do what was necessary. It was certainly no coincidence.
This time, fellow fourth-liner Noel Acciari fought for a rebound after Binnington couldn’t contain a Zdeno Chara shot. Acciari scraped the puck free from the crease, bought himself some space, and then fired a pass across the front of the crease. Kuraly kicked the puck to his blade and slipped the puck through the legs of Joel Edmundson and past a sprawling Binnington.
It would stand as the game-winner.
“He’s been doing it all year,” Bergeron said of Kuraly’s knack for coming through with a well-timed goal. “That line got us going, obviously, and got us the game-winner. We are a team that has relied on everybody all year and tonight was another great example.”
Of course, the definition of a “fourth liner” has morphed quite a bit over the past decade of hockey, as speed and skill have gradually worked to replace size and grit. Kuraly’s performance in Game 1 was obviously reflective of that change.
“Really, I think we’re just trying to play as hard as we can, and the role or whatever it is, is something I think that maybe other people talk about or whatever,” Kuraly said. “We’re just trying to play good and play as hard as we can, and wherever — we’ve got a lot of good players on the team, so it’s kind of where we’re put in the lineup, and we just want to do the best that we can for the team. We’ve got a heck of a team in there, and a lot of guys that have been around for a while, so we’re just trying to do the best that we can and wherever they want to put us is all good.”
And even though the Blues stopped those top scorers from finding the back of the net (empty-netters excluded), Kuraly said the work of the rest of team helped allow him to do what he needed to do.
“Just trying to enjoy the moment, enjoy the game, and we’ve got a group that makes that pretty easy and our leadership and the guys that have been here before kind of take a lot of the burden and kind of just let us just play,” Kuraly said. “And that’s kind of, I think, the result tonight.”MORE NEWS: Maura Murray's Family Says FBI Putting Out Nationwide Bulletin For Missing UMass Student