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Binnington savors Blues win in homecoming against Maple Leafs

Makes 32 saves in front of family, friends in Toronto

by Mike Zeisberger @Zeisberger / Staff Writer

TORONTO -- Jordan Binnington skated onto the ice at Scotiabank Arena after being named the game's Second Star and peeked up into the stands.

This was the same building where the St. Louis Blues goalie had come to watch the Toronto Maple Leafs while growing up in nearby Richmond Hill. Now, having just helped the Blues defeat the Maple Leafs 3-2 on Monday, he looked up to see his friends and family applauding him.

Not a bad way to wrap up your first NHL appearance in your hometown arena.

"It was cool," Binnington said. "I saw a couple of my buddies in the stands. Pretty exciting. Pretty special."

Binnington said there were at least 50 people in his entourage cheering him on. Many had seen him on TV hoisting the Stanley Cup with his Blues teammates on the TD Garden ice after a 4-1 win against the Boston Bruins in Game 7 of the Cup Final on June 12. Most of the same group attended his Cup parade in Richmond Hill, 23 miles north of Scotiabank Arena, on July 12.

For many of them, this was their first chance to see Binnington play an NHL game. Like he's done for most of his brief NHL career, he didn't disappoint.

To Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo, who scored the winning goal at 7:51 of the third period, Binnington's 32-save performance was yet another example of Jordan being Jordan.

"There's a lot of pressure coming home, right?" Pietrangelo said. "You guys have written about 50 stories, right? Ice in his veins, right? Tonight is no different."

Told of Pietrangelo's ice-in-veins comment, Binnington smiled.

"I like that quote. It's kind of a good one," he said.

It was a special evening for Pietrangelo too. He grew up in King City, about 35 miles north of Scotiabank Arena, and held his Cup party there on July 14. After the Blues' morning skate Monday, he was interviewed by his brother David, a news anchor/reporter with CITY-TV and 680-News Radio in Toronto.

"It's always special to come here in front of friends and family," Pietrangelo said. "Of course you get up for these games.

"I think that was my first goal here."

Video: STL@TOR: Pietrangelo scores to notch 400th NHL point

Pietrangelo's game-winner gave him 23 for his career, passing Hall of Famer Al MacInnis for the most game-winning goals by a defenseman in Blues history. It was also his 400th NHL point (95 goals, 305 assists in 691 games).

"To do it in front of friends and family was nice," Pietrangelo said. "I'm sure Jordan feels the same way."

Binnington was beaten twice in a span of 24 seconds in the second period by Maple Leafs forwards Frederik Gauthier and William Nylander when Toronto took a 2-1 lead.

Through it all, Binnington remained as he usually is: calm, cool, collected.

"I kind of laughed to myself," Binnington said. "They can come so fast. So much skill. We just had to stay composed and we did that."

Video: Pietrangelo's go-ahead goal lifts Blues to 3-2 win

Blues forward Brayden Schenn tied it 2-2 late in the second period before Pietrangelo's game-winner in the third.

Thirty minutes after the final horn, Binnington wandered up into the stands and was swarmed by well-wishers.

He embraced his dad, John, who had taken him here for games as a boy. He hugged his niece Audrey, who'd made a sign that said: "BINNERS #1 FAN. He high-fived Mike Vallescuro, the coach of the then-Vaughan Rangers who switched him from forward to goalie when he was 8.

"I never cease being proud of him," Vallescuro said. "It's amazing what he's done since he got the opportunity to play in the NHL."

Binnington, whose first NHL start was a 3-0 win against the Philadelphia Flyers on Jan. 7, was 24-5-1 with a 1.89 goals-against average, a .927 save percentage and five shutouts in the regular season. He became the first rookie goalie to win 16 games in a single Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Tuesday will be another surreal day for Binnington. He'll be at the Hockey Hall of Fame with his Blues teammates where the team will donate one of their Cup rings.

"That'll be cool moment too," he said.

Just another to add to his list.

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