ST. LOUIS (AP) — Jordan Binnington is not ready for his whirlwind rookie season to come to an end.
Binnington stopped both shots he faced in the shootout, and the St. Louis Blues remained in the hunt for the Central Division title with a 3-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday.
The 25-year-old finished with 23 saves and closed out his breakthrough campaign with a 24-5-1 record.
“Too much fun right now,” Binnington said. “It’s pretty awesome.”
Vladimir Tarasenko and Brayden Schenn scored in regulation for the Blues, and Ryan O’Reilly and David Perron converted their attempts in the tiebreaker.
St. Louis (45-28-9) finished tied with Winnipeg, a 4-2 winner over Arizona, in the division. The Blues and Jets will face off in the opening round of the playoffs, with Winnipeg earning the home-ice advantage due to a tiebreaker with more regulation/overtime wins.
Nashville claimed its second straight Central Division title.
Elias Pettersson and Tanner Pearson scored for Vancouver (35-36-11). Pettersson tied the game with a power-play goal with 2:09 left in regulation.
Binnington, one of the leading candidates for Calder Trophy honors, was named the NHL’s Rookie of the Month in January and February. He has played a key role in the turnaround.
The Blues had a league-worst 34 points on Jan. 3. They have reeled off 65 points since and will return to the postseason after missing out last year.
“He’s been amazing ever since he stepped in there,” Schenn said.
Added St. Louis forward Alexander Steen “He’s been stellar for us all season long, our backbone. He’s got some good swag to him and he’s played tremendous for us.”
Binnington stopped Pettersson, also a Calder candidate, and Brock Boeser in the tiebreaker.
“I just try and compete and see what happens,” Binnington said. “We did what we could today. Now, it’s time to prepare for the dance.”
St. Louis interim coach Craig Berbue said the rise from the cellar to the playoffs in just three months took a total team effort.
“From where we were, and where we are now, those guys deserve a ton of credit for the turnaround,” Berube said.
Thatcher Demko made 34 saves for the Canucks, who missed the playoffs for the fourth season in a row.
Vancouver trailed 1-0 before Pearson scored his 18th goal 3:53 into the third. Demko picked up his first assist of the season on the play.
Tarasenko then got his 33rd goal when he drove a wrist shot past Demko with 9:31 left.
Tarasenko also set up Schenn’s 17th goal with a cross-ice pass in the opening period. O’Reilly earned his 48th assist on the opening score and finished his first season with St. Louis with 76 points, the most for the Blues since Pavol Demitra had 93 in the 2002-03 campaign.
The Blues are 38-19-6 under Berube, who took over after Mike Yeo was fired in November.
“The last couple months, we’ve been getting ourselves ready,” Steen said. “We’ve been pretty dialed in on what we want to do.”
Vancouver won the first two meetings between the teams this season by a combined 11-2.
“It’s (like) two different teams,” Pettersson said of the Blues resurgence. “They found their game, they play hard, they have a lot of skill guys. Whatever they’re doing, they should continue doing it.”
NOTES: St. Louis C Tyler Bozak was involved in an auto accident heading to the game and did not play. ... The Blues have earned a point in 10 of their last 13 home games against Vancouver. ... St. Louis has outscored its opposition by a league-best 25 goals in the first period. ... St. Louis D Colton Parayko missed his second straight game with a mid-body injury. ... Four of the Blues’ last five games have been decided in overtime or a shootout.
Blues: Return to postseason after missing out last year.
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