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Second Round

Stars look to make improvements against Blues in Game 2

Focus on puck possession, containing Tarasenko when playoff series resumes

by Tracey Myers @Tramyers_NHL / NHL.com Staff Writer

ST. LOUIS -- The Dallas Stars took a lot of positives from their 3-2 loss to the St. Louis Blues in Game 1 of the best-of-7 Western Conference Second Round at Enterprise Center on Thursday.

The Stars had their scoring chances, especially in the third period when they trailed the Blues 3-1, and didn't give St. Louis a lot of high-quality opportunities. 

But there is one thing Dallas coach Jim Montgomery wants to change in Game 2 on Saturday (3 p.m. ET; NBC, TVAS, SN).

 

[RELATED: Complete Blues vs. Stars series coverage]

 

"Being harder on their best players," Montgomery said. "I do think that's an area where we can get better."

The Stars can draw some inspiration from the first round, when they effectively shut down the Nashville Predators' top line of Filip Forsberg, Ryan Johansen and Viktor Arvidsson. The three combined for four points (a goal and an assist each for Forsberg and Johansen) in six games, thanks mainly to the work of the Stars third line of Andrew Cogliano, Radek Faksa and Blake Comeau.

But the Blues present different challenges.

"They have lots of big bodies," Faksa said. "It's different hockey than against Nashville. It's more physical, it's harder around the net."

A big part of Dallas' defensive focus is Vladimir Tarasenko. The Blues forward has played well against the Stars in his NHL career, with 25 points (18 goals, seven assists) in 28 games. He was tough to contain on Thursday, when he scored two goals, including one eight seconds into a Blues' power play.

Video: Tarasenko scores twice, Blues take Game 1 vs. Stars

"We don't want to let that happen; a guy like that catching fire is dangerous," Dallas forward Jason Dickinson said. "If we can take away his time and space, he's going to get frustrated and losing opportunities to score, and that's going to benefit us."

Faksa said the Stars also must have more than one player covering Tarasenko.

"Be smarter, have better angles on him and just be aware," Faksa said. "And the second guy helps as well on him because he's really good 1-on-1 and we have to have good layers."

But Dallas cannot have Tarasenko tunnel vision; defenseman Alex Pietrangelo has been good at setting up teammates and leads the Blues with seven assists in seven playoff games. Center Ryan O'Reilly and forward David Perron each is also an offensive threat; each has two goals and two assists in seven games in the postseason.

And once the Blues get the puck, it's difficult to get it away from them. 

Video: DAL@STL, Gm1: Benn cleans up rebound on power play

"They had quite a bit of zone time," Cogliano said. "That's the strength of their team. They're good in creating cycles and that's one thing I felt was really strong with them last night.

"When they get going and when they get moving and when the have the puck down low, it's tough to contain them. When we get opportunities to pin them, get bodies on them and separate them from the puck down low, it could be important for us."

Great players are going to get their scoring opportunities. It's about keeping them to a minimum, and the Stars are going to try and do that against the Blues in Game 2.

"It's a team buy-in," Dickinson said. "Everybody's got to take responsibility to make it hard for them."

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