BOSTON - The Bruins had not lost a postseason game since April 30th. Over the course of the last month, they had built up an eight-game winning streak, the third-longest in franchise history, dating back to Game 4 of the second round against Columbus.
As such, the feeling following Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday night was not a familiar one for the Black & Gold.
Despite holding two separate one-goal leads in the first period, the Bruins struggled to find their game, ultimately falling to the St. Louis Blues, 3-2, on Carl Gunnarsson's overtime winner at 3:51 of the extra session. The series now shifts to St. Louis tied at a game apiece.
"On to the next one...we're 1-1, there's five games left," said Brad Marchand. "We've got to stick with it and stay positive."
With the Bruins scrambling in the opening minutes of overtime and trying to fend off a delayed penalty, St. Louis took advantage with the extra attacker. Gunnarsson, who rang a shot off the post in the closing minutes of regulation, took a feed from Ryan O'Reilly and unleashed a blistering one-timer by Tuukka Rask (34 saves) to give St. Louis its first Stanley Cup Final victory in team history (14 games).
"Some of it was fatigue," said Bruins coach Bruce Cassidy, whose team managed just 23 shots on goal. "It's a screen shot from the point, we didn't get in a shooting lane…they passed it by us up top, they formed a high triangle so…the breakdown to me was before that. Obviously we didn't manage the puck well, even the shift before. We just weren't able to get it out, change type of mentality and it snowballed on us."
Video: BOS Recap: Coyle, Nordstrom score in OT loss to Blues
In the early going, it appeared that a back-and-forth, high-scoring affair was in order, as the teams traded four goals over the opening 20 minutes. The Bruins struck first on Charlie Coyle's power-play tally (Boston went 1 for 5 on the man advantage for the second straight game) at 4:44, before Robert Bortuzzo knotted things at 1 just under five minutes later.
But Boston responded instantly. Joakim Nordstrom and the Bruins' fourth line continued their stellar play, with Sean Kuraly finding the Stockholm native out front for a 2-1 Boston lead at 10:16 of the opening frame. Vladimir Tarasenko tied the game once more with a nifty tally with 5:05 remaining in the first, which is how it remained over the final 40 minutes.
"Kind of a crazy first…we got the lead, tie, lead, tie," said Rask. "Kind of bouncing back and forth. I mean, it probably wasn't our best game today…especially in the playoffs, you know the better team always wins, so they were the better team today."
Video: Marchand talks Game 2 loss to Blues
Late in the first period, Matt Grzelcyk was drilled from behind against the end boards in the Bruins' zone by Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist, who was given a two-minute minor for boarding. The main point of contact appeared to be the back of Grzelcyk's head, sending the blue liner to the ice for several minutes before he was helped to the dressing room by trainer Don DelNegro.
Grzelcyk did not return and after the game, Cassidy confirmed that the 25-year-old went to the hospital for testing.
"Well he got hit from behind," said Cassidy. "That's what was called. His head got driven into the glass. So, he went to the hospital to get some tests. He never returned obviously…we're still waiting for an update."
Video: Cassidy discusses Game 2, mindset moving forward
David Backes was not pleased with the hit by Sundqvist, saying it is not "a hit we want in our game, I think it's from behind, elevated in to his head into the glass. If that's a two-minute penalty, there's going to be a shortage of defensemen in this series by the end of it.
"That's in somebody else's hands. That's something I think that if I'm making that hit, I'm probably watching from the bleachers for a few, but we will see what happens with their player. "
The loss of Grzelcyk - and his 15-20 minutes of ice time - so early in the game, no doubt left Boston's defense corps a bit more taxed than usual.
"It's a lot of work, but nothing we can't get through," said Brandon Carlo, who finished with 22:58 of ice time. "We've had that happen throughout the year. So just have to adjust and continue to play on. No matter what adversity you face, you just have to keep going."
Should Grzelcyk be unavailable for Game 3, Cassidy would turn to either John Moore or Steven Kampfer to fill his spot.
"I'm not worried about them coming in," said Cassidy. "They've played the playoffs, helped us win games. I'm more concerned with Grzelcyk's health right now. I don't have an update. Hopefully he comes back and he's fine. We do have two days between the next game.
"If not, we'll look at Johnny vs. Kampfer. The easy thing to say is Moore is a left stick, keeps everyone on their appropriate side, but we'll deal with that. Next man up, we've done a lot this year. I hate to lose a guy, but if that ends up being the case, then one of those two goes in."
Video: Backes discusses improvements for Game 3
One of the lone bright spots for the Bruins was the play of Nordstrom. The winger picked up his third goal of the postseason, giving Boston a 2-1 lead at 10:17 of the first, just 40 seconds after the Blues had tied the game.
With the B's fourth line once again causing havoc in the offensive zone, Sean Kuraly delivered a nifty feed from behind the net, which Nordstrom corralled with his right skate just above the crease, before finishing things off with a backhander by Blues goalie Jordan Binnington.
Nordstrom also impressed with a courageous penalty-killing shift in the second period. With the Bruins facing a four-minute kill with Connor Clifton in the box for a high stick, the 27-year-old Swede stepped in front of two Colton Parayko slappers, stopping one with the inside of his left foot and another just seconds later with his right leg.
Still a bit hobbled, Nordstrom ended his PK shift by deflecting a Vladimir Tarasenko shot with his stick. On the night, he finished with five blocked shots and four shots on goal in 15:38 of ice time.
Video: STL@BOS, Gm2: Nordstrom blocks three shots in 2nd