The Vancouver Canucks have burst the bubble of the defending Stanley Cup champions, beating the St. Louis Blues 6-2 Friday to knock them out of the NHL playoffs.
Tyler Motte, with two goals, Jay Beagle, Brock Boeser, Antoine Roussel, and Troy Stecher scored for Vancouver to capture the best-of-seven opening-round series 4-2.
They scored once in the first period, then stunned the Blues with three goals in just six minutes in the second frame, chasing St. Louis starting goalie Jordan Binnington from the net.
Jaden Schwartz, with two goals, replied for St. Louis.
Vancouver goaltender Jacob Markstrom, in his first playoffs, made 34 saves in his 10th start.
Binnington allowed four goals on 18 shots when he was pulled midway through the second period in favour of Jake Allen.
The Canucks opened the scoring less than four minutes into the game when Blues forward Jacob de la Rose, trying to kick the puck out of his end, stepped on it instead and slipped. Beagle picked it up and whipped it high glove side past Binnington.
Roussel put the Blues up 2-0 early in the second period. Blues’ defencemen Vince Dunn and Robert Bortuzzo, getting harassed by Brandon Sutter, fumbled the puck. Roussel grabbed it and zipped it low by Binnington, who looked skyward as the goal horn boomed in the fan-free Rogers Place.
Stecher made it 3-0, one-timing a shot off the post and in from in close on a tic-tac-toe passing play. Boeser then one-timed a shot above the face-off circle shortside, chasing Binnington from the net.
Schwartz got the Blues on board in the third period before Motte scored shorthanded on a two-on-one with Beagle to restore the four-goal lead.
Schwartz scored again with just over a minute to go after the Blues pulled Allen for the extra attacker. Motte quickly replied, putting the puck into an empty net for his second of the night.
Elias Pettersson recorded two assists, giving him four goals and 13 points in the post-season, including the series win over the Minnesota Wild in the qualifying round.
Binnington was the hero of the 2019 Stanley Cup run, winning 16 post-season games, but didn’t win a game in this year’s return-to-play tournament. He took two losses in the round-robin seeding portion and was in net for three losses against Vancouver.
The Canucks won with a balanced offence and Markstrom’s calm under fire. The Blues had more than 30 shots on goal a night, and often were well north of that number.
J.T. Miller, the veteran traded to Vancouver from Tampa Bay in the summer of 2019, gained a point in each of the first five games. He has five goals and 10 points in the playoffs.
Against St. Louis, Bo Horvat recorded four goals and Tanner Pearson added a goal and three points.
Rookie defenceman and Calder candidate Quinn Hughes has a goal and nine assists in the post-season.
It’s the Canucks’ first playoff series since 2015 and their first playoff series win since 2011, when they beat the San Jose Sharks in the final four but lost to the Boston Bruins in the Stanley Cup final.
— Vancouver #Canucks (@Canucks) August 22, 2020
Vancouver will play the top-seeded Vegas Golden Knights in the next round, and is the only Canadian team left in the tournament.
All Western Conference games are being played in front of no fans at Rogers Place. The players are isolating between games to prevent contracting COVID-19.
It’s a tough loss for the Blues given they were rolling before the COVID-19 pandemic prompted the NHL to suspend, and eventually end, the regular season on March 12. At that time, the Blues were 42-19-10, first in the conference and second only to Boston in the overall standings.
When the play resumed, they went winless in the round-robin seeding tournament, then dropped the first two games to Vancouver before winning the next two.
The Canucks (36-27-6) were 18th in the NHL in the regular season. They have never won the Stanley Cup in their 50-year history. If they do, Lord Stanley’s mug will be coming north of the border for the first time since the Montreal Canadiens won it in 1993.
Dean Bennett, The Canadian Press