St. Louis Blues goalie Jordan Binnington (50) makes a save against Montreal Canadiens forward Jonathan Drouin (92) during the third period Thursday at Enterprise Center. Photo by Colter Peterson, email@example.com
No one is working on the Ballad of Jordan Binnington just yet. Or asking him if he’s ever stocked shelves at a Hy-Vee grocery store.
But Binnington, the rookie from Richmond Hill, Ontario, definitely is flavor of the month in these parts. OK, flavor of the week — after winning his second NHL start, 4-1 Thursday over the Montreal Canadiens.
His professional hockey scoreless streak, dating back two games in San Antonio, ended at exactly 151 minutes when Montreal’s Brendan Gallagher scored a power-play goal 9 minutes 2 seconds into the second period. And so far, the only player to beat Binnington as an NHL starting goalie is teammate Alex Pietrangelo.
(Gallagher’s goal deflected in off the Blues’ defenseman.)
“He said he was sorry,” Binnington said of Pietrangelo. “He didn’t mean to do it. You can’t really apologize.”
No apologies necessary for Binnington’s work lately, that’s for sure. After shutting out Philadelphia 3-0 on Monday, he stopped 28 of 29 shots against the Canadiens.
Prior to his Jan. 5 call-up from San Antonio, Binnington posted a 3-0 shutout for the Rampage against the Chicago Wolves. In his prior start for San Antonio, a 3-1 win over Manitoba, he finished the game with 2:06 of scoreless hockey.
Of his work Thursday, interim Blues coach Craig Berube said: “Made big saves at big times. He looked really confident in net to me.”
During his earlier stint with the Blues this season, the NHL game looked a little fast for Binnington in a couple of relief appearances in place of Jake Allen. He gave up a total of four goals on 25 shots against Calgary Dec. 16 and Pittsburgh Dec. 29.
Knowing he would get more playing with the schedule intensifying after the holidays, the Blues sent him back to San Antonio for three starts to sharpen up.
Boy, did he sharpen up.
“He’s done great,” defenseman Jay Bouwmeester said. “The first couple games when he got thrown in it’s a tough situation, but the starts he’s been lights out. That’s awesome.
“It seems like you know where he is, he stays in his net, and makes the save. He’s made all the easy ones and made some pretty big ones, too.”
With the Blues trying to protect a 3-1 lead early in the third period, Binnington made two of his biggest.
He had the crowd of 17,839 roaring in appreciation when he stopped Victor Mete with a dazzling save on a 2-on-1 rush 3:42 into the third. Just when the puck appeared to be dribbling through a prone Binnington, he squeezed his legs together to prevent it from crossing the line.
“I got a piece of it and I felt it pop up,” Binnington said. “You kind of just hope for the best and hope the D-man was there to kind of block the goal line, too. It was a fortunate play.”
And that wasn’t even Binnington’s favorite save. With just over six minutes left in the game, he stoned Jonathan Drouin in tight during a 5-on-3 Montreal power play.
“I like that one. You?,” Binnington subtly teased a reporter.
As he headed to the bench after that shot, Drouin looked back at Binnington and the St. Louis goal as if in disbelief.
“I think the whole bench was standing up there after (one) save,” Oskar Sundqvist said. “Obviously he made some really big saves there. He’s been playing really well. Even in practice he’s been really good. You can see that he got a lot of confidence after that win in Philadelphia. So hopefully he can just keep rolling with it.”
If Binnington has shown anything in his two starts, other than a propensity to stop pucks, he tries to keep his emotion under wraps.
“It’s just two (games), right?,” Binnington said. “It’s all about the next one. No one really cares at this level.”
When asked if he could sense that the team is feeding off his play, Binnington replied: “No more than when Sammy Blais scores. When the young guys are working and playing hard, I think people always have a good reaction to that and get behind them. It’s fun for sure and I’m happy to be a part of it.”
In just his second game back with the Blues since his latest call-up from San Antonio, Blais scored his first NHL goal of the season—_ and just his second overall in the NHL — at the 9:19 mark of the third to push the lead to 4-1.
Sundqvist assisted on that goal, and scored the Blues’ second goal of the night late in the first period for his second game-winner in a week.
The other Blues’ goals came from rookie Robert Thomas, on a power play less than two minutes into the game, and Bouwmeester on a 2-on-1 rush six minutes into the second period.
So the four Blues goals came from players who combined to score four goals all of last season in the NHL. Sundqvist and Blais had one goal apiece during the 2017-18 season for St. Louis; Bouwmeester had two. As for Thomas, he was playing junior hockey last year.
The only down note of the evening was what looked like a shoulder injury to Thomas, who crashed into the end boards trying to catch up with Sundqvist pass on the finishing end of a 2-on-1 rush. That came just 6½ minutes after Thomas scored his fifth goal of the season.
The Blues (18-20-4) had a lot of odd-man rushes against the Canadiens (23-17-5), something that hasn’t been the case for a while. By their standards, they had a lot of speed and tempo to their game.
“They’re a team that just wants to go back and forth, feed off your turnovers and things like that,” Bouwmeester said. “We did a good job of taking care of the puck. ... Took advantage of some chances.”