New St. Louis Blues chairman Dave Checketts had guaranteed in August that the team would win its home opener. Stempniak made that happen by scoring late in regulation and then adding the game winner in the shootout to lift the Blues to a 3-2 victory over the Boston Bruins in their home opener Thursday night. The Blues were aware of Checketts’ guarantee, but they had to rally to make it happen, scoring twice in the final 3:57 to send the game into overtime.
“We were just trying to play with heart and win the game,” said Blues forward Jamal Mayers, who tied the game two at 18:33 of the third period. “Certainly we were excited to send it to overtime.”
Bruins goalie Tim Thomas held St. Louis scoreless for the first 56 minutes, but the Blues, who were shut out in their last game, came up with the two goals in a 2:30 span late in the third period.
The outburst caught Bruins coach Dave Lewis by surprise.
“As a group, I thought we played textbook hockey for 55 minutes,” Lewis said. “I thought we were in control of the whole game, except until the end.”
Stempniak snapped a scoreless drought of 143:02 for St. Louis when he converted a centring pass from Bill Guerin at 16:03 to cut Boston’s lead to 2-1.
“It was a great play by Billy,” Stempniak said. “I slid it to Billy, and he tried getting the wraparound. It ended up being passed right to me, so it was an open net.”
Mayers tied it when he swatted home the rebound off a shot by Keith Tkachuk at 18:33.
The Bruins felt they were their own worst enemy in the last few minutes.
“A team that’s down two goals is going to come at you hard,” Bruins defenceman Brad Stuart said. “They started forcing things and we tightened up a bit.”
Manny Legace stopped 16 shots during regulation and overtime, and three of four attempts in the shootout to record his first win as a member of the Blues.
“I just tried to be patient,” Legace said of the shootout. “These guys are so skilled, they can put it under the crossbar in a minute. I was just lucky to get a piece of three of them.”
Thomas was pulled after 48 minutes in the Bruins’ season opener in Florida when he allowed seven goals on 34 shots in an 8-3 loss. He made 33 saves Thursday but gave up shootout goals to Tkachuk and Stempniak, who beat him with a backhander on the Blues’ fourth chance.
“I felt pretty good,” Thomas said. “It took a lot of chances for them to break the seal.”
Marc Savard and Patrice Bergeron scored in regulation for the Bruins, who have dropped three of four on their season-opening, five-game road trip.
Thursday’s game was the first at home under the team’s new ownership, Sports Capital Partners, LLC, which purchased the Blues during the off-season. Checketts addressed the crowd before the game.
Boston was the perfect opponent for Checketts’ guarantee, as the Blues have not lost to the Bruins at home since Oct. 17, 1995, a span of seven games.
Bergeron gave the Bruins the lead 5:55 into the game when Blues defenceman Jamie Rivers gave up the puck just inside the blue line, allowing Bergeron to walk in alone. He took his time, faked Legace out of position and slid it into the open side of the net.
Savard scored off a give-and-go with Stuart at 3:09 of the third period to make it 2-0.
Notes: Legace played in his 200th NHL game. … No. 1 draft choice Phil Kessel assisted on Bergeron’s goal, giving him two points in four games. … Thursday’s game was one of only three the Bruins will play outside the Eastern time zone. … The Bruins conclude their road trip at the New York Islanders on Saturday night.