Bortuzzo becomes unlikely hero as Blues beat Sharks in Game 2

2 Comments

It hasn’t always been pretty for the St. Louis Blues, but they keep getting things done during the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. With that in mind, it’s all too fitting that Robert Bortuzzo ended up being Game 2’s unlikely hero.

During the third period, Bortuzzo came through in the way you’d expect, as the gritty defenseman made a fantastic shot block on what looked like a golden one-time opportunity for the Sharks. But the headliner was Bortuzzo’s game-winning goal from the second period …

… Which was way prettier than anyone would expect from a player who scores as infrequently as Bortuzzo does. Either way, the goal was as pretty as it was important, boosting the Blues to a 4-2 win in Game 2, and tying this series with the Sharks at 1-1.

(Bortuzzo also had a big hit and loudly pointed out a delay of game penalty, so he made the most of his limited ice time in Game 2.)

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

During the relentless grind of the hockey postseason, you’re not always going to get goals from your biggest names. Sometimes, it’s your supporting cast that makes the difference between victory and defeat, and the Blues’ depth players made the difference for St. Louis in Game 2.

That’s not to say that marquee names didn’t come to play on Monday, mind you. The most obvious contributor was actually for the losing team, as Logan Couture continues to be a true clutch player, scoring two goals in quick succession to dissolve a 2-0 Blues lead to a 2-2 tie. Couture now has a remarkable 13 goals during the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Speaking of hot streaks, Jaden Schwartz maintained his by scoring the 1-0 goal, pushing Schwartz’s playoff total to nine goals. It had to be heartening for the Blues to see Vladimir Tarasenko pick up an assist on Schwartz’s tally, while Ryan O'Reilly managed a helper on Vince Dunn‘s 2-0 goal.

Bortuzzo’s surprisingly slick backhanded held up as the game-winner through the third period, as the Blues were able to keep the Sharks at bay. Oskar Sundqvist‘s pretty 4-2 goal late in regulation really diffused much of the pressure in the waning moments. Jordan Binnington also had a bounce-back game for the Blues, making 24 out of 26 saves.

St. Louis still has some room to improve. They’ll likely need more from Tarasenko and O’Reilly if they want to pass the Sharks. And whether it’s “Tank” or ROR doing so, someone needs to wake up a power play that went 0-for-5 in Game 2, and didn’t really generate a lot of dangerous chances despite all of those opportunities.

It’s not about how well you win games during this time of year, just whether you find a way to do it. The Blues did so with some unlikely contributors, and now position themselves for even greater heroics.

The 2019 Western Conference Final shifts to St. Louis for Game 3 on Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET (NBCSN; stream here).

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.