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Stanley Cup Final

Krug, Bruins quickly overcome rust in Game 1 of Stanley Cup Final

Defenseman provides spark with hit after shaky first period against Blues

by Nicholas J. Cotsonika @cotsonika / NHL.com Columnist

BOSTON -- One play summed up the Boston Bruins' 4-2 win against the St. Louis Blues in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final at TD Garden on Monday.

Midway through the third period, Bruins defenseman Torey Krug battled with Blues forward David Perron in front of the Boston net. Perron ripped off Krug's helmet, fell on top of him and climbed over him.

"Got up without a helmet and wasn't too happy about it," Krug said.

Krug noticed Perron going to the bench, so he raced up ice, hoping to be the second wave of attack with the puck in the St. Louis end. He was going with the flow, and the flow was going with him.

"He just got hair cut couple days ago, so he was looking pretty good," Bruins forward David Pastrnak said.

The puck came back up the left-wing boards to Blues forward Robert Thomas. Just as Thomas touched the puck with an outstretched stick, Krug crushed him. Krug is a 5-foot-9 offensive guy, but in that moment, he was as big and bad as any of the Bruins.

Video: STL@BOS, Gm1: Krug lays huge check on Thomas

It was Krug and unusual punishment. TD Garden roared. Thomas didn't play again after that.

"You don't want to mess with that guy," Bruins defenseman Connor Clifton said. "Don't make that guy mad."

Don't poke the bear.

The Bruins have won eight straight games in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. They are undefeated since April 30, when they lost to the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-1 at Nationwide Arena and fell behind 2-1 in the Eastern Conference Second Round. They won three straight against the Blue Jackets, swept the Carolina Hurricanes in the conference final, didn't play for 10 days and looked rusty for, oh, maybe a little more than 20 minutes Monday.

Early in the second period, Pastrnak reversed the puck behind the Boston net, and no one was there. Blues center Brayden Schenn picked off the puck and passed in front, and forward Vladimir Tarasenko scored at 1:00.

The Blues led 2-0 and had a 9-8 edge in shots at that point. The rest of the game? The Bruins outscored the Blues 4-0 and outshot them 30-11.

Total domination.

"To be honest, the second goal, it was my bad," Pastrnak said. "It's not like they made a great play or something. It was always my bad turnover. So we didn't give them much. We were pretty good in our [defensive] zone. We know we have a lot of skills in our group, so we knew the goals would come eventually."

 

[RELATED: Complete Stanley Cup Final coverage | Blues lament sloppy play in Game 1]

 

The Blues tempted fate by taking penalties and giving the Bruins five power plays, when the Boston power play entered the series humming at 34 percent. Bruins defenseman Charlie McAvoy tied the game 2-2 on the power play at 12:41 of the second.

Blues goalie Jordan Binnington has been incredible, coming up from the minors and leading St. Louis from last in the NHL standings the morning of Jan. 3 to the playoffs. But he failed to control a rebound when a shot hit him in the chest, and that turned into what would be the winning goal by Bruins center Sean Kuraly at 5:21 of the third period.

Most alarming for the Blues, they couldn't generate anything after taking that 2-0 lead. The Bruins held them without a shot for 12:49 in one stretch from the second period into the third.

"We picked up our game a little bit," Bruins forward Marcus Johansson said. "We got more physical and we started moving our feet, moving the puck, and we ended up spending more time in their end and didn't give them as much room. That's kind of when we started taking the game over."

Video: Bruins shake off early rust, top Blues in Game 1

Four years in a row, a great story has come out of the West. In 2016, the San Jose Sharks made the Final for the first time in their history. In 2017, the Nashville Predators made the Final for the first time in their history. In 2018, the Vegas Golden Knights made the Final in their first season in the League. This year, the Blues are in the Final for the first time since 1970.

The past three seasons, those great stories have been crushed in the Final. The Sharks and the Predators each lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins in six games. The Golden Knights lost to the Washington Capitals in five. Can the Blues avoid a similar fate? Not if they play like this again. The Bruins are too good.

Game 2 of the best-of-7 series is at Boston on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS).

"They pressure you," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "They come hard. They're a quick team. They get on you. They do a lot of good things. We've got to be better. They're going to continue to do that."

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