Though they reside in different conferences, the St. Louis Blues and Tampa Bay Lightning are playing the roles of familiar foes this week.
Two days after the Blues were triumphant in their first meeting in St. Louis on Tuesday, the teams will face off again in Tampa to conclude the season series.
Thursday’s game is expected to have the feel of a match in a best-of-seven playoff series, however the 4-3 win by the Blues in St. Louis was completed in the area that’s not part of the postseason at all: the shootout.
Blues captain Ryan O’Reilly scored the only goal in the shootout, firing a wrist shot that got past backup goalie Brian Elliott on the blocker side.
Down at the other end of the rink, netminder Jordan Binnington denied attempts by defenseman Victor Hedman, Corey Perry and Ross Colton.
O’Reilly complimented Binnington for sticking with it after a few bad bounces led to three Lightning goals inside the game’s first 5 1/2 minutes.
“You’ve got to give Binner credit for this game,” O’Reilly said. “For him to shut the door like he did was unbelievable. He made some key saves in that third period when they hemmed us in.
“That’s his win tonight. He deserved that one.”
Binnington, who ran his record to 8-5-3, will not be available for the rematch after entering COVID-19 protocols on Thursday.
“It’s not always going to go your way,” Binnington said after Tuesday’s win. “I just stayed with it, and the mission was to try to give the team a chance to win, and I think I did that.”
Logan Brown scored in his first game with St. Louis, which has won five straight against Tampa Bay.
The Lightning played with just 11 forwards after learning a few hours before puck drop that captain Steven Stamkos flew back to Tampa for the expected birth of his second child.
According to coach Jon Cooper, all three opposing goals were the result of mistakes after his club scored a trio in the game’s first 5:29.
The NHL’s longest-tenured coach, Cooper felt St. Louis did not have to earn its goals.
“We made just colossal mistakes,” Cooper said. “First goal was a huge error. Second was a turnover, just a bad decision coming up ice. Third one was another (penalty kill) error.
“I wouldn’t wrap the whole game around ‘we played poorly.’ It went to overtime; we had our chances. We didn’t get it done. In this league when you get a lead like that, should you shut it down? No question you should.”
With Stamkos home and Mathieu Joseph out with an injury, rookie left wing Gabriel Fortier made his NHL debut and registered one shot on goal and a minus-1 in 9:37 of ice time.
Perry and Erik Cernak scored just five seconds apart — setting a franchise record for the fastest two goals in history. The previous mark was nine seconds.
Cernak (upper body) returned to the lineup after an eight-game absence and served as the seventh defenseman. He notched his first goal.
The Lightning, who finished 8-2-3 in November, have played an NHL-high nine games past regulation.
With Cernak back, the team reassigned defenseman Sean Day to Syracuse of the American Hockey League on Wednesday.
With Binnington out, Ville Husso will make his fifth start of the season for St. Louis. Husso is 3-1-0 with a .936 save percentage, a 1.76 goals-against average and one shutout.
–Field Level Media