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BOSTON — Time folded on itself for Bob Plager. Back here in Boston, in the Garden, in the Stanley Cup Final. Back here for a game where a left-shot defenceman wearing No. 4 froze the clock in overtime.

There aren’t many (any?) similarities between Carl Gunnarsson and Bobby Orr. At least there weren’t for the original St. Louis Blue until he saw Gunnarsson deliver a victory a half-century in the making.

“[Sweater] number,” said Plager. “And a winning goal in this building in overtime.”

Orr’s clinched the 1970 Stanley Cup for the Boston Bruins and produced an iconic celebration that is now commemorated with a statue outside TD Garden. Gunnarsson’s tied this championship series 1-1 on Wednesday and boosted the Blues’ chances of lifting that trophy for the first time ever.

It came after a physical, grinding Game 2 that nearly saw the unheralded Swedish defenceman score late in regulation. He beat Tuukka Rask clean with two minutes to play, but the Bruins goaltender was saved by his right goal post.

In the break before overtime, Gunnarsson and Blues head coach Craig Berube had an encounter that will go down in Stanley Cup lore. They ended up crossing paths in the washroom — of all places — when Gunnarsson called his shot.

“Berube came in and said that he used the pisser after the third period, and Gunnarsson came and stood next to him,” said Blues forward Oskar Sundqvist. “And all Gunnarsson said to him was ‘I just need one more chance.’

“It’s true, apparently. It worked out.”

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“I can’t deny that,” said Gunnarsson. “That’s where it happened, so that makes it even more fun, I guess. It’s a good story.”

The 3-2 winner came with an extra attacker out and a delayed penalty about to be called. That produced chaos in the Bruins zone while Gunnarsson hammered a point shot over Rask’s glove and up under the bar at 3:51.

“It’s a shot that all of us defencemen, we practice every pre-game skate,” said Joel Edmundson. “So it was nice to see that go in and it couldn’t happen to a better guy.”

Gunnarsson had to be the least likely player to end it. He had never previously scored in 56 career playoff games and he’s only managed to put three pucks on net this entire spring.

Then you factor in that the 32-year-old was a healthy scratch as recently as the Western Conference Final and only appeared in 25 regular-season games during a season that started a month late because of surgery to repair a torn ACL in his left knee.

“No doubt,” said Gunnarsson, when asked if it was the biggest goal of his life. “I don’t score too many. Nothing comes even close, so it’s a pretty good feeling right now.”

Berube chuckled when asked if he even believed Gunnarsson when he told him he was one more chance away from tying the series. The veteran coach appreciated the expression of belief on a night where the native of Orebro, Sweden had been bumped into the Blues top-four because of Edmundson’s struggles.

“He had a hell of a game, I thought, and I’m really happy for him that he ended up getting that game-winner,” said Berube. “He hit the post in the third there and he felt good about himself obviously, which he should have.”

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It’s a hell of a story — the kind these Blues have become accustomed to penning. They were at the bottom of the NHL standings on Jan. 3 and will now host a Stanley Cup Final game on June 1.

For Plager, now a Blues ambassador, it feels like a chance to write a better ending. He thought back to the first three Stanley Cup Final appearances for the expansion-era Blues — his teams that failed to take even a game from powerhouses in Montreal (1968, 1969) and Boston (1970), and were just happy to be there. This time it’s different.

The 76-year-old Original Blue gets so nervous that he usually paces around the press box rather than watching the games and was beaming in the excited aftermath outside the visiting dressing room.

This was a game St. Louis had to win and they erased two deficits to do it. Alex Pietrangelo, the Blues captain, approached Plager afterwards and said: “Sweatin’ or what?”

“My legs are gone,” Plager replied. “But it’s worth it.”


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