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Stanley Cup Final

Blues' first Cup Final win thrills Plager

Former St. Louis defenseman basks in historic OT victory in Game 2 against Bruins

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

BOSTON -- Bob Plager couldn't watch. He never watches, because he's too nervous.

He played defense for the St. Louis Blues when they made the Stanley Cup Final in each of their first three seasons: 1967-68, 1968-69 and 1969-70. He endured three straight sweeps in the Final, the first two to the Montreal Canadiens, the last to the Boston Bruins.

And here he was Wednesday, in the ninth-floor press box at TD Garden, following with his ears instead of his eyes as the Blues went to overtime against the Bruins in Game 2 of their first Cup Final in 49 years.

 

[RELATED: Complete Stanley Cup Final coverage]

 

Plager heard the crowd react and looked up at a television. Did the Blues score? Did they win a game in the Final for the first time in 14 tries? The broadcast was behind a few seconds, so he watched on the screen as defenseman Carl Gunnarsson's point shot sailed past Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask at 3:51 to give St. Louis a 3-2 win.

"You know how long I've been around," said the 76-year-old, who played for the Blues until 1977-78 and has had several roles in the organization since. "I want to win so bad. So to see that goal go in …"

So what if he didn't see it live?

"Don't worry," Plager said, smiling. "I'm going to watch it many, many times."

Video: STL@BOS, Gm2: Gunnarsson wins it for Blues in OT

About 1,200 miles southwest, the horn sounded at Enterprise Center in St. Louis. Thousands of fans roared as if Gunnarsson had scored on the ice in front of them, not on the scoreboard screen. They sang and danced to the Blues' victory anthem, "Gloria," and walked out chanting, "Let's go, Blues!"

The best-of-7 series is tied 1-1 with Game 3 at St. Louis on Saturday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS). Can you imagine the atmosphere for the first Cup Final game in St. Louis since 1970?

"It's really cool for us to be in the locker room and be a part of history for the St. Louis Blues, because obviously our organization is so close," Blues defenseman Colton Parayko said. "We're the ones on the ice, but we're all in it together -- players, coaches, staff, fans and alumni.

"That's the best part of it. It's exciting for everybody, the whole city of St. Louis, anybody who has been a Blues fan for a long time."

Video: Gunnarsson lifts Blues to first-ever Cup Final win

In Game 1, the Blues blew a 2-0 lead and were dominated over the final two periods. They lost 4-2.

But this is a team that was last in the NHL standings on Jan. 3 and made the Stanley Cup Playoffs. This is a team that was down 3-2 to the Dallas Stars in the Western Conference Second Round and won the series in double overtime in Game 7. This is a team that was down 1-0 and 2-1 to the San Jose Sharks in the conference final and won the series in six.

"I think that for a long time now, this team's really become a really good hockey team and a tight hockey team," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "They play for each other night in and night out, and they care. We've always responded to not a very good game. So going into Game 2, I knew that we'd be a hard team to play against tonight, and we were."

The Blues weren't perfect in Game 2. Goalie Jordan Binnington gave up two goals on the first five shots he faced, and they fell behind 1-0 and 2-1. They gave Boston five power plays.

But they got in on the forecheck, outhit the Bruins 50-31 and outshot them 37-23, including 14-6 in the second period and 4-0 in overtime.

"That's our game," Berube said. "That's when we're at our best. We have to get pucks in deep. There's no room to make [many] plays anyhow. They're a very good defensive hockey team. They reload well. They've got gaps. There's not a lot of room. So we need to put pucks in deep and go get them, and we did that."

Video: STL@BOS, Gm2: Berube speaks about overtime win

It took a toll on the Bruins, who lost defenseman Matt Grzelcyk because of an undisclosed injury in the first period.

"When we're in on the forecheck fast and we get to the puck, it's effective and it's hard on their players," Parayko said. "Obviously, they went down a [defenseman], and when you have five [defensemen] and we continue to press and press and press, it's hard. I thought we did a good job of continuing to do that."

Now they have to continue to do that at home.

"Right now, what's going on in St. Louis, it's unbelievable," Plager said. "Our rink is packed tonight. They have all the people in there, and parties.

"In St. Louis, you walk around there, and every time you talk to somebody, it's 'we.' It's their team. They've been waiting a long time, and they deserve it. I mean, they've been great fans. I've always said, I'd love to win the Stanley Cup. The players would. But we owe it to the fans, the people.

"We're hungry for one. We deserve one in the city. It's another step."

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