The Stanley Cup and Conn Smythe Trophy were in the building, waiting to be handed out to only one potential champion on this night. The Blues had 11-year-old Laila Anderson in their corner, Charles Glenn was performing the national anthem for the final time, countless Blues fans that have been with them through thick and thin for nearly 52 years. They had so many things in their corner to spell a night St. Louis would never forget.
Television stars — and Blues fans — Jon Hamm and Jenna Fischer were in the house, and that didn’t matter either.
The Bruins had other ideas and spoiled the party with a 5-1 win to force a Game 7 winner-take-all game for the Stanley Cup on Wednesday at TD Garden.
And even those that remained until the end that were chanting “Let’s Go Blues” and “We Want The Cup” in appreciation of everything that the Blues had given the sellout crowd one final time this season, it still was a somber locker room knowing they let a golden opportunity slip through their hands and a chance to make history here.
“They were loud all game,” Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo said of the fans. “They were great from the beginning. So the support has been there. We know it’s there.
“… It’s good support. We’ll be ready to rock in a couple of days.”
Ryan O’Reilly scored the lone Blues goal, his fourth in the past three games in the series, and Jordan Binnington, who came in 3-0 with a 1.17 goals-against average and .947 save percentage in series-clinching games, made 27 saves but allowed a stinker of a goal to Brandon Carlo early in the third period that was crucial in what was a 1-0 game at the time.
The Blues once again had early momentum but gave it away with penalties and Boston made them pay.
Brayden Schenn’s boarding penalty at 7:17 put the Blues down a man, then they were forced to kill off a 58-second 5-on-3 when O’Reilly flipped a bouncing puck into the stands for delay of game all as a result of a failed Pietrangelo clearing attempt. The Blues couldn’t get the necessary kill and Marchand’s one-timer from the low right circle made it 1-0 at 8:40.
“I’ll take a little blame for that. That penalty set them up on the 5-on-3 and gave them a lot of confidence with a big goal there,” O’Reilly said. “We could have killed that penalty and gotten back to work, and hopefully we get that first one.”
The Blues played a pretty good first period despite getting outshot 12-9, but the penalties and power play, which went without a goal in two tries in the first and early in the second and 1-for-16 in the series.
The Blues had two more power plays in the second period, and true to form, wasted those with nothing to show for them, looking once again too passive and hesitant to make plays with the puck, making them 1-for-18 in the series.
They generated 12 shots off the power play but no momentum as a result of not scoring.
“Well, we had 12 shots,” Blues interim coach Craig Berube said. “We did have momentum, we had some good looks. We didn’t score. [Tuukka] Rask made some good saves.
“Can it be better? Yeah, it has to be better. It could have won us the game tonight, but I don’t think it was … we had good looks. We had 12 shots on the power play tonight, but we’ve definitely got to bury a couple.”
The game was still there to be had in the third period, and the crowd was waiting to erupt, but Carlo’s seemingly one-hopper handcuffed Binnington, went off the cuff of his blocker off the post and in for a deflating goal to make it 2-0 at 2:31.
“Well, a lucky bounce, second goal,” Berube said. “A bounce off the ice got under Binner’s arm I believe. That’s tough there and set us back. They get the third one, we got spread out a little bit and you get away from your game a little bit.”
The puck management in the situation was poor by the Blues. Vince Dunn’s drop pass to Pietrangelo was not good, forcing the Blues captain to retrieve it below his own goal line. Then Pietrangelo tried backhanding it off the boards but the puck hit referee Chris Rooney, who was directly in the way, and the puck got to the point, and the rest is history.
“It obviously was tough,” O’Reilly said. “Gave them a little jump. And then they start playing a little looser. It was tough. It was a tough deficit to overcome.”
The Blues opened things up, and that’s a bad recipe. Karson Kuhlman, making his debut in the series, wired a wrist shot top shelf at 10:15 to make it 3-0 and pretty much stamp a Game 7.
O’Reilly got the Blues on the board finally at 12:01, a goal that needed to be looked at before being confirmed, but David Pastrnak, who along with Marchand had a goal and an assist, scored at 14:06 to make it 4-1 when Sammy Blais got knocked off a puck behind his net and Zdeno Chara added an empty-netter at 17:41 to round out the scoring sending the crowd to the exits.
“Most of us have let it go,” O’Reilly said. “Of course we wanted to win. It didn’t happen. We have to move on, get ready for the next one. We’re confident. We’re a great road team. Maybe that’s our story. Maybe we have to get it done on the road.”
“I’m already excited for the next game,” Blues forward David Perron said. “It’s going to be the best game of our life. We’re going to put everything on the line, empty the tank. It’s going to be exciting.
“(The crowd outside) was crazy. We stayed at the hotel there in the afternoon, and you could hear people honking and yelling, ‘Let’s! Go! Blues!’ You could see people walking up and down the street. It was a cool sighting, and cool when we get our police escort around the rink to go around the whole thing. Our fans have been great, and we’re going to do everything we can to get another thing similar, maybe bigger.”