St. Louis Blues center David Backes fails to score on Vancouver Canucks goaltender Cory Schneider as he is defended by defenseman Jason Garrison on Tuesday, April 16, 2013, in St. Louis. The Blues won 2-1 in a shootout.
Photograph by: Chris Lee, AP /St. Louis Post-Dispatch
ST. LOUIS – If he could, Cory Schneider would have lifted his hometown. If he could, he would have lifted the whole country.
But all he could really do Tuesday night, far from his beloved Boston and the awful acts of terror that ambushed and transformed the city the previous day, was to try and lift the Vancouver Canucks. And even that failed when a puck bounced wildly behind his defence in the third period and made possible the St. Louis Blues' 2-1 shootout victory in a potential National Hockey League playoff preview.
Schneider did everything he could. He made 35 saves in regulation and overtime, beaten only by Jay Bouwmeester's short-side shot on a 2-on-1 rush halfway through the third period after David Perron's unseen lob through the neutral zone bounced unluckily past Canuck defenceman Cam Barker.
Andy McDonald and Alex Steen scored in the shootout for the Blues, while St. Louis goalie Brian Elliott stopped Canuck shooters Derek Roy and Alex Burrows.
All Schneider did was get Vancouver a point. But he made one, too, writing on the shaft of his goalie stick the words “Pray for us,” the mantra Bostonians have adopted in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombings that killed three people and injured nearly 200 others.
“It seems to be the motto going around for people to show their support,” Schneider told reporters after the playoff-like game. “And while I can't be there and do something to help, at least you can show your support and show everyone back home you're thinking of them and praying for the best.
“It's been really tough, just trying to get in touch with people back home and seeing how everyone is doing. It's pretty surreal. It shouldn't happen, especially in your hometown. They're resilient people and we'll find a way to come back.”
Schneider, 27, grew up in the Boston suburb of Marblehead. He attended Andover Academy in Massachusetts and played at Boston College, which is on the Boston Marathon route. He has been on Boylston Street, where bombs detonated among spectators near the race's finish line, a thousand times.
“It runs right by Boston College,” he said of the race route. “It's on the path . . . right after heartbreak hill. At school, we'd like to go up and watch some of the lead runners fly by you. Sometimes your buddies in college run it and you try and give them support. I haven't been in the finish area before (for the race), but I've seen it along the way.
“I know people who run in that every year and people who go support other people. It's almost too much to think about the near misses – who could have been there or was just there before that. You kind of drive yourself crazy thinking about what-if and you just hope the people who were there can make it through.”
Of learning about the tragedy Monday afternoon, before he watched teammate Roberto Luongo play as scheduled in Nashville, Schneider said: “It was almost surreal. You kind of see a headline and think: What was that? Then you look at it and realize it's an act of terror targeting civilians. Again, it's something that shouldn't happen anywhere in the world. Especially, when it hits close to home, it just scares the heck out of you.”
As far as he knows, his friends and family members are all safe. It will be a long time before his city feels that way.
But Schneider did what the survivors of terror do, carrying on, fighting back by refusing to yield to fear.
That means playing goal for the Canucks, blocking pucks and blocking out thoughts of the tragedy.
“You have to get back to work just like everyone else around Boston and around the country,” he said. “Things may never be the same back there, but you have a job to do here.”
His job included too many point-blank saves to mention as the Blues, behind on Alex Edler's power play goal at 19:47 of the second period, outshot the Canucks 36-22. Schneider robbed Steen and Chris Stewart multiple times.
Under any circumstances, his performance was outstanding. Given the emotions of the previous 29 hours, it was staggering.
There was a moment of silence before the game for the Boston bombing victims.
“It puts this game, puts life in perspective for sure,” Canuck centre Ryan Kesler, who is from Detroit, said. “We don't get to spend much time with our families and when something like that happens, especially for Cory in his hometown, it really hits home. You kind of just have to turn it off when it's time to play. It's our job to focus, and Cory did a good job for us tonight.”
The Canucks played with the intensity and abrasiveness that have been missing in some games recently. They also played without top-four defenceman Kevin Bieksa, who suffered an undisclosed injury during Monday's 5-2 win.
That's why Barker was in the lineup and in position to be victimized by a bad bounce that led to Bouwmeester's tying goal at 10:50 of the third period.
“Unfortunately in the third we got caught – everybody, the players on the ice and on the bench – by that little flip by Perron there,” Canuck coach Alain Vigneault said. “Everybody was looking for the puck and it led to an outnumbered situation.”
Vigneault said the game “was exactly what I think everybody expected – a tough game, hard-fought game. St. Louis came real hard at us and I thought for the most part we responded the way we were supposed to. It was chippy. It was hockey.”
That's all it was.
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