It’s May 7, Game 7, rally towels with the No. 7 on them, with the drop of the puck between the Blues and Dallas Stars at 7 p.m., a berth in the Western Conference Final on the line. Nothing to it, right?
Don’t tell Maroon that, who took a tough early-season chapter, crumbled it up, pitched it in the trash can and rewrote himself a more fairytale ending.
Maroon’s goal at 5 minutes 50 seconds of the second overtime came after the Blues threw the kitchen sink, their living room furniture, patio furniture, kitchen appliances and anything else at the Dallas Stars and Ben Bishop before Maroon ended it in a 2-1 win in Game 7 of the second round on Tuesday at Enterprise Center.
Maroon drove the net and poked a loose puck past St. Louisan Bishop, who was a brick wall making 52 saves but he couldn’t get the 53rd after Tyler Bozak won a face-off to Maroon, who pushed the puck to Robert Thomas. Thomas used Maroon’s pick to get past John Klingberg, throw a shot off the near post, off Bishop’s back and fall into the blue paint before Maroon was there to poke the loose puck in and end a marathon game as one St. Louisan bested another for the second time in this series.
“Bozie won the faceoff, Thomas made a great move around Klingberg, he hit the post, right off the post, squared it and hit Bishop’s back and I just saw it come around and I had to get there, it was a loose puck,” Maroon said. “Great play. Those guys have been great for us all year and I’m glad I get to be paired with them.They really amped my season. It’s been a tough season for me and being in the situation I am right now, I’m really pleased.
“Just make sure you get the puck in, goddammit. If I miss that, I’d be on the other side of it, not the hero. A lot of boos. What a game. The team deserves that win, we fought so hard, we’re going to continue to fight. It’s not over yet. That’s two series down, now we’ve got the conference finals coming up, which is going to be another test for us. It’s going to be another battle.”
Thomas, who had two assists, said, “We run that play a lot, where I walk around. I saw the d-man was kind of cheating for it and was ready for it, so I was able to make a little cut to the middle, found some space and was able to get the shot off and Patty was able to bang it home. It was just a great play all around.”
With the win, the Blues move to the conference final for the second time in four seasons against the winner of Wednesday’s Game 7 between the Colorado Avalanche and San Jose Sharks.
A Sharks win means the Blues open on the road in California, likely on Friday. A Colorado win means the series likely opens Saturday at home.
But it almost didn’t happen on a night where the Blues completely dominated the Stars from start to finish. They had 103 shot attempts to Dallas’ 57, and even though Jordan Binnington was called upon to make some key saves throughout the game (29 in all), the Blues were one shot away from adding to 52 years of heartbreak despite fully deserving to be the winning side on this night.
“We played well pretty much most of the game,” Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. “I feel like we had control. I mean, at one point, the shots were like 40-15 or something, maybe they had one in the second. The second has been a bit of an issue, but we found a way tonight to just kind of minimize their opportunities. We did exactly what we wanted to do.
“We had some pretty good chances. Look, first overtime, we thought we had a chance to score a few times. But ice gets choppy, you’re running on low energy, you’re trying to make the best plays that you can. Those type of games always find … a puck finds a way to get in. I don’t even know what happened on that goal, but you’ve just got to keep on playing, keep on shooting and hopefully you get a bounce.”
Vince Dunn and Mats Zuccarello traded first-period goals, and the Stars outshot the Blues 13-10.
But the second and third periods, if you thought the series-clincher in Game 6 was a dominating effort in which the Blues, who won 3-2, at one point were outshooting the Jets 27-6 through two periods, outshot Dallas 31-4 in the second and third periods.
“It was a pretty good effort from the get-go,” Blues interim coach Craig Berube said. “We threw everything there and gave it everything we had. They battled and they stayed in it. Their goalie had a great game, but our guys never quit and stayed with it.”
They had no choice, because Bishop, with family and friends in the stands, was the ultimate puck repellant, and the Blues had no answers.
“He played a helluva game,” Pietrangelo said. “‘Bish’ played a helluva series. That’s a lot of rubber for him, but just found a way.”
Binnington also found a way, even though he only faced 30 shots. He made a great save on a Jamie Benn wraparound when Colton Parayko inexplicably almost threw a puck into his own net in the second overtime that created one of the few chances for the Stars, and he also was there to stop Andrew Cogliano in the first overtime after Alexander Radulov ran into Binnington making a power move to the net. Binnington also gloved a Radek Faksa breakaway in the first period after picking off Vladimir Tarasenko trying to glove the puck to himself.
“Big time, big time saves, at key moments,” Berube said. “That’s a credit to him. When you’re sitting there and watching it all, we’re getting a lot of action at the other end, things happen and they come down and get an opportunity, he was there to make a big save for us.
“They did have some real good opportunities at times, and our goalie did a great job making those saves, and that’s not an easy thing to do. I thought Binner had a remarkable game. I really did. When you don’t get a lot of work at times, and al of the sudden, there was a spurt of some chances that they got. It’s tough to stay sharp and he did. He did a great job.”
Dunn scored his first goal of the Stanley Cup Playoffs to give St. Louis a 1-0 lead at 13:30 of the first period on a wrist shot from the left point that went off the right shoulder of Bishop. The goal was the first Bishop had allowed in three career Game 7’s (two shutouts with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2015).
Mats Zuccarello tied it 1-1 at 15:55. After David Perron’s attempt to play the puck around the back of the net caromed off referee Marc Joannette into the slot, Zuccarello got the loose puck and scored off the left post before Binnington, who was looking the other way, could recover.
It was the only puck to get past Binnington, and it was one of those moments that Blues fans have fretted over since the inception of this franchise, one that has been cursed, kicked, snakebitten, you name it, the Blues have been there. Almost like a journey to hell and back, and from the moment Zuccarello scored, one shot hung in the balance that could have been the difference between moving on and seeing your season end.
And the local boy made good.
“This is every kid’s dream, and to do it tonight is very special, especially with my whole family in the stands,” Maroon said. “We deserved that win tonight. It hasn’t really all hit me. What a roller-coaster. It’s emotional for sure. Probably the biggest goal I’ve scored in my career.”