Jordan Binnington won his first playoff game in nearly three years on Sunday, backstopping the St. Louis Blues to a 5-2 win over the Minnesota Wild in Game 4 to even their first-round Stanley Cup playoff series at 2-2.
Prior to Sunday, Binnington's last playoff win was on June 12, 2019, the day St. Louis won its first Stanley Cup by defeating the Boston Bruins in Game 7.
Binnington then went 0-9 in the postseason, with a 4.20 goals-against average and a .875 save percentage. Ville Husso, who replaced Binnington as the Blues' starter during the regular season, was in net for the first three games of this series. But coach Craig Berube, who was behind the bench when the Blues won the Cup in 2019, turned to Binnington after Husso posted back-to-back losses in Games 2 and 3.
The switch paid off as Binnington outdueled Marc-Andre Fleury at the other end with a 28-save performance.
"That's why we play. These are fun moments," Binnington said. "There's adversity, and it's just backing it up and picking yourself up and trying to get back at it again. It was an opportunity for me tonight, and we played a heck of a game, we kept it tight. Now we just shift our focus to next game and prepare."
Binnington said he knew on Saturday he'd be going in for Game 4. After two straight defeats, Berube wanted to lean on Binnington's past success in the postseason to get St. Louis back on track.
"I thought he was really good tonight, played the puck exceptionally well," Berube said. "Looked real calm and cool in net. He's always the same. He doesn't show a lot of emotion (when I told him he was in). He just goes and plays."
Internally at least, there were a few more feelings involved for Binnington. The afternoon start time meant no morning skate for the Blues before Game 4, and Binnington had to keep himself calm leading up to the pivotal contest.
"Definitely had to be patient, right? Nothing (happening) this morning, just waiting for the game," he said. "Hanging out at home. Just prepping. I felt prepared; we had a good start to the game, a good first period. Definitely a big win, a hard-fought win. Felt pretty good."
It was a positive development in what has been a challenging season for Binnington. He had been the Blues' regular-season incumbent until Husso took over the starting job more permanently in mid-February. At the time, Binnington was 11-10-3, with an .898 percentage and a 3.35 GAA, while Husso was 9-3-1 to go along with .940 and 1.90.
When the series against Minnesota began, Binnington didn't know if another chance would come his way. All the netminder could do was prepare for the possibility.
"However it played out, you've got to be ready for whatever is to come," he said. "I was just putting in that work and building that resiliency for whenever that time came."
And to make his return on home ice, in front of fans who well remember Binnington's clutch role in the Blues' Cup run, was even better.
"Definitely special," Binnington said of the Blues fans' reaction. "That's 'The Show,' as I say. It's a lot of fun being out there and competing. The crowd after we scored, after saves, big plays, big kills. They know the game here, so it's always fun to play in front of this crowd."
While the Blues' goaltending came up big in Game 4, the team's blue line took another big hit.
Marco Scandella exited early in the first period after reaggravating a lower body injury and did not return. That further depletes St. Louis' back end, already muddling through the losses of Nick Leddy (upper body) in Game 1, Robert Bortuzzo (puck to the face) in Game 2 and Torey Krug (lower body) in Game 3.
Leddy and Bortuzzo have since resumed practicing, and Berube acknowledged there's a chance they'll both play in Game 5 on Tuesday. Berube said Krug will be out "for a bit" with his undisclosed ailment.
The Blues did get rookie Scott Perunovich back from injury, and he made his NHL playoff debut on Sunday after not playing a game since Jan. 15. Berube opted to dress seven defensemen for the tilt because Scandella wasn't 100 percent going in, and that allowed St. Louis to still rotate six defenders when Scandella left.
"They did a good job today," Berube said. "There were some inexperienced guys in there. I thought Parayko and Faulk logging [big minutes] did an excellent job. Along with all of them. They all did a good job."
"Those guys are machines," Binnington said. "We fought hard right to the end. All D played well. It was pretty good."