EDMONTON, Alberta (AP) — The Vancouver Canucks brought a bright, young team to the Western Conference bubble, lacking in postseason experience but boasting several budding stars.
They’re playing like they’re planning to stay awhile.
The Canucks sent St. Louis goalie Jordan Binnington to the bench early with three scores in a span of 6:03 in the second period, eliminating the defending champion Blues with a 6-2 victory in Game 6 of their first round series on Friday night.
“It always feels good when you play like that and it pays off,” said Jay Beagle, who scored just 3:45 into the game to get the Canucks going.
Blues coach Craig Berube put Binnington, the rookie star of last season’s out-of-nowhere run to the franchise’s first Stanley Cup, back in the net after winning two of the last three with Jake Allen.
“He had some practice there and worked on his game,” Berube said, “and it’s a gut feeling.”
Binnington gave up four goals on 18 shots and was pulled for Allen at the 8:06 mark of the second period after Brock Boeser’s power play goal gave the Canucks a commanding 4-0 lead.
“After the whole pandemic, everyone came back to camp in shape and worked extremely hard,” Boeser said. “We’re all super committed, and I think you can see that on the ice.”
Antoine Roussel and Troy Stecher also scored on Binnington, who went 0-5 in the Edmonton bubble including three losses in this series. After Berube emptied the net with about eight minutes left, Tyler Motte tacked on two more goals after a two-goal effort in Game 5.
Brandon Sutter had three assists, Elias Pettersson had two assists and Jacob Markstrom made 34 saves for the Canucks, who are the only one of the seven Canadian clubs among the final eight teams still alive in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Vancouver advanced to play the Vegas Golden Knights in the second round.
Pettersson, an integral part of the talented young core, matched Colorado’s Nathan MacKinnon with a league-high 13 points in this most unusual postseason.
“His overall game has been unreal. What makes him special is just his compete,” Beagle said.
Jaden Schwartz had two goals in the third period for the Blues, who went 2-6-1 in the Western Conference bubble while missing several key players to injuries. They were 0-2-1 in seeding games.
The Canucks took an aggressive tack from the opening faceoff. The Blues were about to escape their zone after a heavy forecheck by Vancouver, but left wing Jacob de la Rose accidentally stepped on the puck as he tried to start a rush the other way.
Beagle snagged it, pivoted toward the slot and snapped a shot that clipped Binnington’s left shoulder on the way into the upper corner of the net. The Canucks scored first in all but one game in the series.
“We did terrible stuff helping him out. We have to defend better,” Blues center Ryan O’Reilly said. “It’s on us, the guys in front of him. It wasn’t good enough for him. It’s embarrassing by us.”
For much of the night, the Canucks had the Blues on their heels. The third goal, by Stecher, was set up by a tic-tac-toe sequence including Sutter and Pettersson that was so slick NBC Sports Network announcer Kenny Albert exclaimed on the broadcast, “They look like the Globetrotters out there!”
“I’m seeing a lot of sacrifices and a lot of unselfish players who are willing to take the extra stride,” Markstrom said. “I just see a tight group in front of me.”
NOTES: Pettersson tied Mikael Samuelsson’s record for most points by a Canucks player through his first 10 postseason games. … The Blues won three elimination games in the postseason last year, two against Dallas in the second round and one against Boston in the Stanley Cup finals, all with Binnington allowing one goal apiece. … This was the last of the eight first round series to be decided, none of which went the seven-game distance. Five of them were done in five games. Only one of the eight qualifying series went to the five-game maximum. … Blues center Tyler Bozak was a late scratch, hurt by a blocked shot in the previous game.
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