ST. LOUIS — Most eyes were on the masked men and for good reason.
When a series starts to take on a life of its own, eventually one of the goalies is going to be asked to steal the show.
There was some extra attention being paid to Blues goalie Jordan Binnington, since the rookie hadn’t lost consecutive games in the NHL all season long.
How would he respond after giving up six goals for the first time?
Truth be told, were it not for the strong play of Binnington in the first period of Game 3, the score could have been far more lopsided.
Binnington posted excellent numbers during the regular season after a loss, going 6-0 with a .935 save percentage.
But the playoffs are a different animal, so there was additional pressure on the youngster to come up big.
As for Connor Hellebuyck, he had a tough outing in Game 2 and then wasn’t exactly overworked in Game 3.
The goalies at both ends did their part as this game required overtime for the first time in the series.
That’s where Kyle Connor went hard to the net and knocked in a pass from Mark Scheifele for the winner at 6:02 of the first overtime period.
“It’s just kind of a sense of relief,” said Connor. “Excitement, honestly. Nothing better than celebrating with your teammates.”
Hellebuyck did his part, making 31 saves — several of the highlight-reel variety, while Binnington stood tall as well, making 37 stops.
With the win, the Jets have evened the series 2-2, with Game 5 is set for Bell MTS Place at 7:30 pm CT.
The road team has won all four games in this series so far.
“Now we’re fired up. Obviously, we came in here with a hole, with a job to do and mission accomplished,” said Jets captain Blake Wheeler, who had a pair of assists. “Those guys (the Blues) are playing awesome and we’re playing well. It’s a hell of a series.”
Because of how well Blues centre Ryan O’Reilly has been playing, the Jets top line knew they would need to be at their best in this one — and that’s exactly what they accomplished.
Connor had a quiet start to the series, but after scoring twice in Game 3, the speedy left-winger was involved on both goals on Tuesday — using his skating ability to create a lane before finding Scheifele for a perfect redirection on the tying goal at 7:35 of the third period.
Wheeler chipped in assists on both goals and is up to five points in the series, while Scheifele has two goals and five points as well.
“They drive for our team — all three of those guys and Mark, in particular, took his game to another level,” said Jets defenceman Josh Morrissey. “Looking at last year’s playoffs, that’s what we see. We definitely like to see that out of him.”
With Mathieu Perreault sitting in the box serving a minor penalty for cross-checking, the Blues struck on the power play early in the third period to break the scoreless deadlock.
After some good puck movement at the top by Alex Pietrangelo and O’Reilly, Vladimir Tarasenko walked in and ripped a shot high over the glove of Hellebuyck.
It was a perfect shot and gave Tarasenko a second power-play goal in as many games.
The Jets answered at 7:33 of the third period, as Wheeler started the play in the neutral zone, sidestepping a body check from Blues captain Pietrangelo before finding Connor streaking down the left wing.
Perreault took another penalty in the third period for tripping Blues defenceman Vince Dunn, but the Jets were able to kill it off to get the game to overtime.
Hellebuyck also got an assist from the post early in the second period as a Pat Maroon redirection beat him but couldn’t beat the iron.
The Jets ran into their own difficulty with the iron as Brandon Tanev broke in on a breakaway during the second period.
Tanev made a good move to the backhand, but Binnington got a piece of his shot with the glove before it hit the crossbar and went out of play.
A late turnover by Jets defenceman Jacob Trouba led to a glorious scoring chance for Robert Thomas, but Hellebuyck stopped him with his right shoulder.
Knowing what was at stake, it was no surprise both teams were committed to their defensive structure.
“Two fairly similar styles, similar teams,” said Jets defenceman Ben Chiarot “There’s not a lot of room out there and there’s not a lot of clean plays. Two teams that play that way and then you ramp it up to a playoff type of intensity. It’s been a good, tight series so far.”
The series is down to a best-of-three, with the Jets regaining home-ice advantage, for whatever that might be worth.
“It’s going to look to like this quite possibly for the next three games,” said Jets head coach Paul Maurice. “It’s going to be very, very tight. The whole team is going to have to play well. But you’re going to need one guy to put you over the top.”
On Tuesday, that one guy was Scheifele — with big-time assists to his linemates, plus Hellebuyck.
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