Carl Gunnarsson’s rocket of a winner for St. Louis in Game 2 last night understandably gets all the love and applause this morning —it gave the Blues their first-ever Stanley Cup Final win and sent them back home with hope instead of despair. But back in the first period, long before Gunnarsson’s goal sent the Boston fans home unhappy, it was Blues sniper Vladimir Tarasenko who tied the game at two with an utter beauty of a rebound goal—the kind of unyielding, almost desperate goal scored by a limitless player when he knows for a fact that his team cannot afford to drop another game. It was Tarasenko’s 10th point in his last eight games, and his 10th goal overall these playoffs, second on the Blues behind Jaden Schwartz. More importantly than that, it looked amazing.
The brilliance started before Tarasenko even crossed center ice. With the puck near the boards as he exited his own zone, Vladdy was approached by none other than the despicable, evil Brad Marchand, clearly up to no good as he closed down his opponent for a check.
But Marchand couldn’t touch him. Instead of getting bodied, Tarasenko passed cross-ice to Schwartz, and suddenly, the Blues had a two-on-one, with Marchand left in the snow and only the plodding Zdeno Chara to beat. Schwartz’s first shot got denied by Rask, and so did Tarasenko’s initial follow-up. But in a stunning bit of body control I’ve been thinking about for the last 12-plus hours, Tarasenko pivoted on his left skate to immediately slow all the momentum that was taking him away from the net. As the puck just sat there tantalizingly, Tarasenko fully extended himself backwards, past the point where he could actually maintain his balance, and managed to lift it up above and beyond Chara’s stick and Rask’s pad for the game-tying goal that kept the Blues alive through the rest of regulation. Watch it in super slow-mo and tell me you wouldn’t trust this man to save your life, whether you were down in a Stanley Cup Final against Boston or trapped in your car after a crash:
Tarasenko has been holy for the Blues in this postseason, especially over the past few games, and his scoring abilities mean that he remains the most aesthetically pleasing part of this roster. Thanks to him, and Gunnarsson, and their punishing play as a whole unit, this series hasn’t ended before it could really start. As long as Tarasenko’s doing everything he can to deliver Blues victories, they’ll always have at least a chance against these Bruins.