(Reuters) - The St. Louis Blues moved one win away from their first Stanley Cup triumph after a controversial 2-1 win over the Boston Bruins on Thursday gave them a 3-2 lead in the National Hockey League’s best-of-seven championship.
David Perron scored what turned out to be the game winner with just under 10 minutes to play, prompting enraged Bruins fans to litter the ice with debris in protest at a missed penalty call moments earlier.
Blues forward Tyler Bozak tripped Bruins forward Noel Acciari, who fell backwards and slammed his head on the ice, but the referees took no action.
As play continued, Perron’s centering pass hit defenseman Torey Krug’s stick and slid right back to him, opening up a gap that allowed him to score as Boston goalie Tuukka Rask had moved over in anticipation of the pass finding its target.
“The National Hockey League is getting a black eye with the officiating this playoffs and here’s another one that’s going to be talked about,” said Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy.
“What was being said was you missed an effing call is what was being said on the bench for obvious reasons. But after that we had to settle down and play.”
The Bruins, who had a bevy of chances all night, finally broke through when Jake DeBrusk fired a hard one-timer from a bad angle that beat Blues goalie Jordan Binnington with about six-and-a-half minutes to play.
That set up a tense finish but the Blues, who were dead last in the NHL in early January, held on and will get their first chance to hoist ice hockey’s most coveted prize when they host Game Six on Sunday.
“St. Louis hasn’t had anything like this in a long time, they’ve never had it actually,” said Blues forward Zach Sanford. “The place is going to be rocking and we are going to be ready to go and we are excited for that game.”
Blues forward Ryan O’Reilly had opened the scoring 55 seconds into the second period when he flipped a backhand into the top right corner after receiving a nifty between-the-legs pass from behind the Boston net by Zach Sanford.
The Blues nearly added another with six seconds left in the period but were denied when Bruins forward David Krejci, with Rask out of position, slid across the goal line to stop an Alex Pietrangelo shot from in close with his arm.
Binnington was solid in goal for the Blues as he made 38 saves in a pivotal victory given that teams that have won Game Five when the Stanley Cup Final is tied at two games apiece have won the championship series 72% of the time.
The Bruins were given an inspirational lift ahead of the game as captain Zdeno Chara, 42, suited up despite suffering a broken jaw in his team’s Game Four loss three days ago.
Chara, who was with the Bruins when they last won the Stanley Cup in 2011, was hit in the face by a deflected puck on Monday and needed to be helped off the ice. He played on Thursday with a full face shield.
“Inspirational for us,” said Cassidy. “We knew he wouldn’t be 100 percent so we were happy to have him out there. It just speaks a lot to his character and his will to play.”
Reporting by Frank Pingue in Toronto, editing by Nick Mulvenney and Sudipto Ganguly