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Conference Final

Binnington, Blues survive frantic finish in Game 4

Maintain defensive composure against Sharks to even Western Final

by Mike Zeisberger @Zeisberger / NHL.com Staff Writer

ST. LOUIS -- Jordan Binnington called it madness.

The St. Louis Blues goalie was referring to the final two chaotic, nerve-racking minutes a 2-1 victory against the San Jose Sharks in Game 4 of the Western Conference Final at Enterprise Center on Friday.

Truth be told, he could also have been describing the previous 48 hours, a span filled with heartbreak and euphoria, frustration and exhilaration for the Blues.

 

[RELATED: Complete Sharks vs. Blues series coverage]

 

It's been that kind of roller-coaster series.

"It's a close series," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "They're a real good hockey team. You have to play well against them."

Not to mention maintain your composure.

To that end, Berube and Binnington have combined to provide the Blues with the glue that has held the team together. They are the rocks within the dressing room who are looked upon to keep their heads when some around them might be losing theirs.

That has never been more evident than in the past two games. And it's a significant reason why St. Louis is level in this series instead of being on the brink of elimination.

Video: SJS@STL, Gm4: Binnington flashes leather on Karlsson

With the series at 1-1, the Blues, 61 seconds from a win in Game 3 on Wednesday, lost in overtime when Sharks defenseman Erik Karlsson scored after an apparent hand pass by teammate Timo Meier. The play was not reviewable.

Even the normally calm Binnington momentarily lost his cool, slamming his stick against the glass before leaving the ice after the 5-4 loss.

Enter Berube, who walked into the dressing room and told his team to look ahead, not back. That's exactly what they did.

"Obviously he's a great leader for us and he knows what to say," Binnington said of his coach. "I think the team did a good job responding tonight."

If there were any doubts that the Blues had put the Game 3 controversy in the rearview mirror, they were erased when forward Ivan Barbashev scored 35 seconds after the opening face-off for a 1-0 lead. The capacity crowd went bonkers, as did the Blues' bench.

"Obviously it's good when you can get the lead like that early," defenseman Colton Parayko said. "I think when we do that we continue to hound and continue to play our game, so getting that one early, it's a confidence boost to start the game.

"It's always nice to play with the lead. I think we did a good job of continuing on after we got the lead, got the second one and just kept going."

The second one came via forward Tyler Bozak, a power-play goal at 17:53. The Blues entered the first intermission up 2-0 and seemed to be carrying all the momentum.

Until they weren't.

For some reason even Berube couldn't explain, St. Louis took its foot off the gas. The Sharks came at Binnington in waves and outshot the Blues 21-12 in the final 40 minutes.

Video: Clutch Performance: Binnington sets franchise record

Fortunately for the Blues, their rookie goalie withstood the onslaught, only allowing a goal by forward Tomas Hertl on the power play that brought the Sharks within 2-1 at 6:48 of the third period.

The final two minutes of madness, as Binnington described it, featured the Blues icing the puck three times and hanging on in desperation.

"I [was] just trying to stay strong and obviously close it out, after last game, especially," Binnington said. "Again, the team did a great job in front of me, battling hard, competing, staying disciplined. Face-offs were huge, and boys were blocking shots everywhere. It's just madness, and you hope for the best and try to close the door."

By doing just that, Binnington set a Blues record for victories in a single playoff season with 10.

"That's a great honor, obviously," he said. "I'm having a lot of fun back here playing with this team, and they're doing a great job. They limited chances tonight. I think we played a complete game, so I just try do to my job."

His teammates felt he did more than that.

"Obviously he gives us a ton of confidence," Bozak said. "We know he's going to make the right play, make the big saves and also handle the puck really well and help us break out."

This series has been unpredictable. No team has won consecutive games. The Blues were probably the better team in Game 3 and lost. The Sharks were probably the better team in Game 4 and suffered a similar fate.

Game 5 is at San Jose on Sunday (3 p.m. ET; NBC, CBC, SN, TVAS).

The only sure thing from a St. Louis standpoint is the stability the Blues will look for from their coach and their goalie.

As always.

"We're in a good spot here," defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. "We played a couple of good games. Obviously we didn't end the last one the way we wanted to, but we feel like we've got some momentum."

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