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Agnew: Stars must 'get more numbers' around Elliott

Former NHL assistant says Dallas has to get to net against Blues in Game 6

by Amalie Benjamin @AmalieBenjamin / NHL.com Staff Writer

For additional insight into the Western Conference Second Round series between the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues, NHL.com 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.

ST. LOUIS -- It was a game of missed opportunities, at least for the Dallas Stars. And for the St. Louis Blues? It was all about goaltender Brian Elliott.

That added up to a 4-1 win for the Blues on Saturday, giving them a 3-2 lead in the best-of-7 Western Conference Second Round series.

Asked which was more prominent, the missed chances or the play by Elliott, former NHL assistant Gary Agnew said, "I think it was more of a combo platter, where the chances [the Stars] had that they didn't finish then sort of magnified into [Elliott] making big saves when they did have the opportunity.

"But I still think when you run into a goaltender the way Elliott's playing right now, you have to outwork him in the crease, you have to get traffic, you've got to beat him to the rebounds. If he makes a save and he's trying to control the rebound, you've got to be there quicker than him. It's going to be a matter of trying to get more numbers and outwork him at the net."

Video: STL@DAL, Gm5: Elliott makes a pair of saves on Eakin

That will be something the Stars have to address in Game 6 on Monday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports) when they try to extend the series to Game 7 in Dallas.

"If you're Dallas, you need your best players to be your best players," Agnew said. "You're going to need those guys. You're going to need all 20. You're going to need your secondary scoring, you're going to need [Jamie] Benn and [Patrick] Sharp and those guys to be on their game.

"And from the other side of it, getting their speed through the neutral zone. I think they've got to rely on what got them there."

And they'll have to do it with elimination staring them down.

Agnew was impressed with what the Blues brought Saturday; they got through a game-tying goal by Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski in the first period (10:58) before Dmitrij Jaskin (10:31) and Troy Brouwer (17:41) each scored in the second. Paul Stastny got an empty-net goal with 1:40 left.

The Blues had some luck on some of those goals, with their first going off the skate of Stars forward Brett Ritchie and credited to Robby Fabbri before Brouwer scored an awkward one.

But that was luck the Blues created, Agnew said.

"I liked the way the Blues played in the offensive zone," Agnew said. "I thought they used the full zone, they were using the back of the net, they were changing sides, they were going high to low, D to D. They were bringing their third forward up a little bit higher along the boards and they were using him as well, and that was what sort of happened on the first goal.

"There's puck luck, but when you throw pucks at the net and you get it to the net - and I thought Dallas did the same, they just didn't get the right bounce - but certainly those things can happen."

Video: STL@DAL, Gm1: Elliott denies Stars in front

That was, in the end, the biggest takeaway for Agnew: the Blues' offensive zone play. And then, after they were able to take the lead, as Agnew said, "St. Louis just battened down the hatches. It looked that way, like they were getting structure and they were sitting back a little bit and didn't really seem to give them a lot of time and space."

They also didn't allow the Stars to score on the power play - again. Dallas went 0-for-2 on the man-advantage, even with two chances in the third period after David Backes and Brouwer each was nabbed for an infraction.

"They've got to at least create some momentum," Agnew said. "Power plays at best are 20 percent, so a lot of times you're not going to score, but you've got to create some momentum, you've got to tire out their penalty killers."

Video: STL@DAL, Gm1: Elliott makes a tremendous pad save

But the Stars weren't able to do so, just as they haven't been able to do so all series. Dallas is 1-for-17 on the power play.

Going forward, in Game 6, Agnew said that the Stars would need to find another level, that they would need to find more emotion and more desire.

"It wasn't enough desperation, probably," Agnew said while discussing missed chances for Jason Spezza and Valeri Nichushkin. "Some shots missed the net, which it happens, all this stuff happens, but I think they're going to have to show it, a bigger sense of desperation and probably, I would say, more desire early. I thought in the third period they had some chances again where they wrapped it up and St. Louis probably sat back a little, but they've got to do that for three periods."

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