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Agnew: Blues stuck to their game against Stars

Former NHL coach likes the way St. Louis reacted to early Dallas goal in Game 2

by Amalie Benjamin @amaliebenjamin / Staff Writer

For additional insight into the Western Conference Second Round series between the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues, has enlisted the help of Gary Agnew to break down the action. Agnew will be checking in throughout the series.

Agnew, 55, was an assistant with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Blues and Columbus Blue Jackets. He also served as interim coach of the Blue Jackets for five games during the 2006-07 season, and he has been coach of Syracuse of the American Hockey League and London and Kingston of the Ontario Hockey League.

HAZELWOOD, Mo. -- The big moment -- or at least one of the big moments -- for the St. Louis Blues in their Western Conference Second Round Series against the Dallas Stars came early in Game 2.

The Stars took a 1-0 lead on defenseman Alex Goligoski's goal 3:36 into the game.

But the Blues didn't fold, and 35 seconds later Patrik Berglund scored to tie it. That provided the Blues with some energy and the result was a 4-3 overtime win that tied the series.

Game 3 at Scottrade Center is Tuesday (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, TVA Sports, SN).

"I wasn't sure what their reaction was going to be after Goligoski scored the goal, but they just stayed with it," Agnew said of the Blues. "Berglund's goal was big because it kind of relaxed them again."

The Blues took a 3-1 lead after the first period on goals by Joel Edmundson at 7:02 and Troy Brouwer at 18:40.

 Video: STL@DAL, Gm2: Brouwer slams home PPG

"The game plan was really obvious right off the bat," Agnew said. "Getting pucks in deep, make the Dallas defense turn, try to establish their forecheck and finish their checks. Get back to sort of what St. Louis does.

"And even though Goligoski's goal sort of derailed it briefly, I thought St. Louis really stuck with it. They were determined to keep getting pucks in and keep establishing their forecheck."

The Blues followed that by shutting down the Stars in the second period, playing one of their best second periods of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. It had been a period in which the Blues had struggled against the Chicago Blackhawks in the Western Conference First Round.

But their second period of Game 2 was a marked difference from Game 1, in which the Blues had looked less mentally engaged than they needed to be, allowing the Stars to dictate the style of play.

"I thought they did a good job, too," Agnew said. "It may have cost them the second goal, [Mattias] Janmark's goal, but I thought they did a good job of taking away the middle of the ice but without giving up wide long plays," Agnew said. "[Dallas] would try the long pass but [Blues defenseman Jay] Bouwmeester would be there with his stick or they would pick it off or whatever. It seemed that they had a conscientious thought of taking the outside speed. I thought they did a good job on that until that big push by Dallas after halfway through the period in the third."

That push by Dallas, including the Janmark goal and a goal by Jamie Benn with 2:36 remaining in the third, pushed the game to overtime. Agnew said he noticed Benn raise his play during the third period.

Video: Ja. Benn nets rebound, ties game

He also noted a significant improvement by Dallas in faceoffs in the third period. St. Louis had won 14 of 18 faceoffs (77.8 percent) in the second period, but won 12 of 23 (52.2 percent) in the third. Dallas improved from 22.2 percent in the second to 47.8 percent in the third to 57.1 percent in overtime.

"When you're up two goals like that in a playoff game, or any time in a third period, you're subconsciously saying, 'OK, let's not give up the big play,'" Agnew said. "It's like a football prevent defense. You're not doing it; it's just subconscious. You don't want to give up the big goal.

"So you give a team like Dallas that sort of time and space, which they didn't have throughout the first two periods, for sure they'll make you pay and you could just see it coming."

Dallas started getting possession off those faceoff wins, which meant chasing the puck less.

Agnew feels the Stars still need to do better on the power play, including simplifying their approach, as the Blues have. But even so, the Stars were able to tie the score in the third period.

St. Louis won the game in overtime on David Backes' power-play goal.

"The momentum shifted a little bit," Agnew said. "I think St. Louis was certainly, I felt anyway, more determined in the overtime to attack and make things happen and [force] some penalties and the power play wins the game. I thought they were more determined. I thought the leadership group in the locker room did a good job of making sure they were ready to come out firing on all cylinders because they didn't want to go home down [2-0 in the series]."

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