The defending Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues find themselves on the brink of elimination heading into Game 6 of their Western Conference first-round matchup with the Vancouver Canucks on Friday night.
St. Louis trails the best-of-seven series 3-2 after blowing a 3-1 second-period lead in a 4-3 loss on Wednesday night at Rogers Place in Edmonton.
However, the Blues rebounded from a similar position in the second round of last year’s playoffs against the Dallas Stars. They moved on to defeat the San Jose Sharks in the Western finals and later captured Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final 4-1 at Boston to hoist the coveted trophy.
“We’ve got to use our experience from last year,” St. Louis forward Jaden Schwartz said. “We’ve been here before. Just got to rest up (Thursday). Going to look at a few things and get ready for Game 6. That’s all we’ve got to focus on is get our energy and look at some adjustments we can make.”
It looked as if the Blues were well on their way to taking a 3-2 series lead when Zach Sanford’s power-play goal at the 5:51 mark of the second period gave them a 3-1 lead. But Jacob Markstrom kept the Canucks in it with a handful of big saves, and Vancouver scored three goals in the span of 6:23 near the end of the period to pull out the victory.
“Honestly, I think it was close to getting out of hand,” Vancouver center J.T. Miller, who started the comeback with his fifth goal of the playoffs, told the Vancouver Sun. “We were turning pucks over. I felt like they were tilting the ice.”
But inspired by Markstrom’s play, including one stop on a point-blank shot by Robert Thomas, it was Vancouver that quickly tilted the ice the other way.
“We had a couple chances to make it 4-1, and obviously we didn’t,” Blues forward Brayden Schenn said. “Fell asleep there for 10, 15 minutes of that period. Quit moving our feet. Quit playing hard in our own D-zone. Made some mistakes, and before you knew it, it was 4-3.”
St. Louis coach Craig Berube, “You’ve got to play for 60 minutes, and we didn’t do that tonight, and we lost the game because of it.”
And put themselves one more loss away from elimination.
“Obviously, today is frustrating, but we’ve got a resilient group and guys have been here before,” Schwartz said. “Get ready for that next game. That’s all were worried about.”
“We haven’t done anything yet,” said Markstrom, who finished with 36 saves. “We’ve got to recharge our batteries and come ready to play because it’s going to hurt and (Game 6 is) going to be a tough game.”
Berube, who benched last year’s playoff star, Jordan Binnington, in favor of Jake Allen after falling behind 2-0 in the series, was asked if he might make a switch back to Binnington for Game 6. Allen had 26 saves Wednesday but allowed a bad-angle goal to Jake Virtanen that tied it.
“We think all our players can play well,” Berube said. “That’s the best way I can put it to you.”
“(Allen) was fine,” Berube added. “I think he’d want the one goal back from the side of the net maybe.”
Two other goals by Vancouver fourth-line center Tyler Motte, including one that was short-handed, came after defensive breakdowns.
“Motte walked in twice and scored on breakaways basically,” Berube said. “So, Jake wasn’t the problem.”
Berube said Thursday that he still hadn’t made up his mind who would start in goal on Friday night.