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playoffs

Blues don't panic after difficult third period

St. Louis can't hold two goal lead, defeats Dallas in overtime

by Amalie Benjamin @amaliebenjamin / NHL.com Staff Writer

DALLAS -- It is hard to fight against nature, against the mind and its tricks and its tendencies. That's what the St. Louis Blues were doing in the third period of Game 2 against the Dallas Stars. They weren't acting on orders from coach Ken Hitchcock, forced into a failing vision of a prevent defense against the NHL's most potent offense.

No, they were falling into a mental hole, tracing a path that led to a goal against and another goal against and an overtime they didn't want.

The Stars had come back from a two-goal deficit in the third in Game 2 on Sunday, negating the play of the Blues in the second period, one of their best in these Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Stars scored at 4:35 on a Mattias Janmark breakaway. They scored again at 17:24 on a shot by Jamie Benn. They tied the score 3-3 against a team that was doing everything in its power to keep them from tying the score, which in the end was exactly the opposite of what they should have been doing.

"It's human nature," Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said, after the Blues prevailed, 4-3, in overtime to even the best-of-7 series at 1-1. "It's tough to say, but it is human nature. There's no different system being implemented once we go up by a few goals. It's really just not wanting to let them [score].

Video: STL@DAL, Gm2: Backes buries OT PPG to even series

"You feel like you have to be all five guys back on your side of the red line. And that's what's going to prevent goals, but really it's the opposite. It's controlling the puck, it's forechecking them, not allowing them to have that time and space to build up their speed."

But the Stars had that time and built that speed and scored, tying the game. The clock ran out. Regulation was over.

Then, intermission.

Breath.

Breath.

Breath.

"What we needed was an intermission," Hitchcock said. "We needed the intermission. We gathered ourselves, went back at it and went back on our toes, which was a good sign."

That was where the Blues picked it up and turned it around, coming at the Stars in the overtime, forcing chances on Antti Niemi and finally beating him, with David Backes getting the game-winner on the power play at 10:58 of the extra session after Antoine Roussel was penalized for interference. Game 3 is at Scottrade Center on Tuesday (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports)

Video: STL@DAL, Gm2: Ja. Benn cleans up mess, ties game late

The same team that had gotten two shots on goal in the third period equaled that on a power play early in overtime, eventually finishing with eight shots on Niemi in a little more than half a period.

But they shouldn't have been there.

"You're playing -- last series and this series -- two very offensively gifted teams," Shattenkirk said. "Their ability to score causes you to sit back. You're worried about, with the two-goal lead, giving up goals. And that's really just the truth behind it.

"We're realizing that once we sit back, it just allows them to have more time and space to skate with pucks and feel more comfortable out there. It's a process, but we've got to get over it."

Because it happened in the last series too, particularly in Game 6 against the Chicago Blackhawks. It was in that game that the Blues, once again, jumped out to a 3-1 lead in the first period. They appeared to be cruising to a win, which would have locked up the series and prevented the teams from having to return to St. Louis for a Game 7.

But the Blues couldn't hold the lead, watching Chicago score and score and score again. As Backes said, "Rather than turning the knife and twisting it and really opening up that wound, we start playing back into their hands."

It should have taught the inexperienced Blues. It didn't teach them enough.

Video: Backes buries OT winner, evens series at 1-1

"That seems to keep creeping up on us," Backes said. "We can't do that against high-powered teams like they are. They shoved it right down our throat, the way that you expect a team to when you start sitting back."

Still, it's hard to fight yourselves, hard to fight those tendencies and those inclinations. Hard to break through. As Shattenkirk said, "No one was placing those shackles on us but ourselves."

But, fortunately for St. Louis, they got their intermission, hanging on in the final minutes of regulation. They took their breaths. They figured out they needed to press. They returned to the ice.

Backes got the next goal. The Blues got the win. The series is tied.

"It would have been a huge hole," Hitchcock said. "They're playing with house money. Now, this is game on."

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