The consequence was near-certain death.
Travelling back to Boston to confront an elimination clash inside one of the more harrowing and uncharitable settings in hockey, it was imperative that the St. Louis Blues brought their best performance so far in the Stanley Cup Final to Thursday’s most critical Game 4.
In theory, such execution could have been led by any one of the skaters chosen by head coach Craig Berube. Though once it was over, it seemed obvious who it was that really needed to inspire it.
Quiet at points as the Blues fell behind twice to this point in the series, Ryan O’Reilly and Alex Pietrangelo led St. Louis’s season-saving 4-2 victory over the Bruins, the franchise’s first ever home-ice win in the NHL’s championship series preventing a deficit surely too deep to erase.
For O’Reilly, the two-way prowess that will see him bag his first major award was on full display. Scoring 43 seconds into the game with a wraparound, and again just past the halfway mark of the third to devastate the deadlock, O’Reilly busted out from an offensive standpoint after seeing his postseason production sag. He backed that attack work up with a 65 percent possession night, and lent his helping hand to a penalty kill that finally sorted things out against the Bruins’ vaunted special teams.
As brilliant as O’Reilly was, there was no stronger influence on the game than Pietrangelo’s. The captain logged nearly a half hour, and within that heavy workload tilted the ice considerably in the favour of the Blues.
Boston was limited to just 10 shot attempts in Pietrangelo’s bloated even-strength minutes, while the Blues racked up 21 attempts while he was on the ice at 5-on-5. He placed five shots on goal and created three rebounds himself, two of which were swatted in behind Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask.
One by Vladimir Tarasenko, and again on the winner from O’Reilly.
It was more about the results than the process for St. Louis’s leaders up front and on the back end — even if O’Reilly did snap an eight-game goal drought in Game 4. There were adjustments and improvements in support of the Blues’ constants.
Staging Vince Dunn’s return from a facial injury, promoting Zach Sanford to the second line and sacrificing Robby Fabbri to welcome back the suspended Oskar Sundqvist, Berube, in particular, seemed to press all the right buttons. It was a more physical, more structured and, very importantly, more disciplined team that he rolled over the boards as St. Louis erased its second deficit of the series.
“We were relentless. We were desperate, and it showed in our game,” said Jaden Schwartz, via NHL.com.
Goaltender Jordan Binnington had a response, too, as St. Louis erased its second deficit of the series. He made 21 saves to handily out-play Rask and improve his record after a loss to 7-2 throughout this postseason run.
When the game sheet is completed on a Game 4, it’s either over, basically over, or all square.
Thanks to two supreme performances, and a cast that followed suit, intrigue exists in the Stanley Cup Final, yet.
More NHL coverage on Yahoo Sports