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Stanley Cup Final

Blues poised for rebound in Game 2 of Stanley Cup Final against Bruins

Remain encouraged facing familiar position after losing opener of best-of-7 series

by Tom Gulitti @TomGulittiNHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

BOSTON -- The St. Louis Blues know they need to play a lot better in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Boston Bruins at TD Garden on Wednesday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, SN, TVAS) and believe they will.

That's because they've done it before.

The Blues trail the best-of-7 series 1-0 and view their 4-2 loss Monday as a wakeup call, but they are not discouraged. After losing Game 1 of the Western Conference Final 6-3 to the San Jose Sharks, St. Louis responded with a compete effort in a 4-2 victory in Game 2 and won the series in six games.

 

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"We know what our best game looks like and we're confident we can win," Blues center Ryan O'Reilly said Tuesday. "We know the first one wasn't what we wanted, and we're going to respond and tie the series up. That's our plan and we're just going to keep taking it one at a time."

The Blues have a lot to improve on from Game 1 after letting a 2-0 lead slip away, beginning with generating more scoring chances against Bruins goalie Tuukka Rask. They were outshot 38-20, including 18-3 in the momentum-changing second period and 30-12 over the final two periods.

During one stretch that bridged the end of the second period and start of the third, St. Louis went 12:49 without a shot on goal. That's not going to cut it against Rask, who leads the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a 1.85 goals-against average and .940 save percentage.

During Boston's eight-game winning streak, Rask has stopped 238 of 249 shots for a 1.38 GAA and .956 save percentage.

"We have to get more shots, but create some traffic," said Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko, whose goal 1:00 into the second period gave St. Louis a 2-0 lead. "He's a good goalie and we need to create some second chances and make his life uncomfortable to go in the hard areas, create some traffic. Obviously, the number of shots we got last game is not enough."

Video: STL@BOS, Gm1: Tarasenko buries one-timer from slot

The Bruins deserve some credit for that. The Blues had trouble breaking out of the defensive zone against the Bruins forecheck, which pressured them into repeated turnovers. Although St. Louis was charged with 10 giveaways (Boston also had 10), that was not indicative of its struggles passing and skating the puck out of the defensive zone.

"Obviously, they're a good forecheck team," Blues coach Craig Berube said. "They pressure, they've got good speed, they're a well-structured hockey team. But our puck support wasn't very good in the second and third period and puck play in general. Just too many turnovers."

Being cleaner on their defensive-zone breakouts would be a good start, but the Blues also need to do a better job getting to the middle of the ice against the Bruins' layered defensive system, which pushes opponents to the outside and makes it difficult for them to generate speed through the neutral zone and create chances off the rush.

Over a stretch of 27:04 that followed Tarasenko's goal, the Blues were credited with three shots on goal: a Robert Bortuzzo snap shot from above the right circle that was probably going wide before Rask gloved it 7:44 into the second period, Alex Pietrangelo's shorthanded slap shot from outside the blue with 8:16 left in the second period and Pat Maroon's wrist shot from outside the blue line 4:33 into the third.

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

"They really defend the middle of the ice very well," Blues center Tyler Bozak said. "It's hard to get into the inside, into those dirty areas around the net and in the middle of the ice. They do a really good job of that. I think to be more successful we're going to have to get into those areas. We're going to have to fight hard to get to those areas. We're going to have to get to the front of the net, get in the slot, create opportunities in those areas."

Looking for positives, the Blues can point to the first period, when they were able to establish their forecheck, pressure the Bruins defensemen into turnovers and create some scoring chances. One of those instances preceded Brayden Schenn's goal that gave them a 1-0 lead 7:23 into the game.

They hope to do that more consistently in Game 2.

"I go off the last series against San Jose," Berube said. "It wasn't our best game, we lost Game 1, but I thought Game 2 we were a lot better. I expect the same thing. I think we're going to get a much better game tomorrow. We've got to be a lot more desperate in our game, especially throughout the whole game. I thought the first period was a good period, but after that I didn't feel like we did enough good things to win the hockey game."

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