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Stars trying to regroup for Game 4 against Blues

Ruff says there's 'no secret' why St. Louis won big in Game 3

by Amalie Benjamin @amaliebenjamin / Staff Writer

ST. LOUIS -- When told that St. Louis Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said the 6-1 final score on Tuesday wasn't necessarily indicative of how the teams played, and that the game was closer than the score, Dallas Stars coach Lindy Ruff all but scoffed.

"I think Hitch is like the peanuts on top of the bar," Ruff said. "They're complimentary."

Which is to say: Yeah, right.

The Stars turned over the puck too many times, had too many miscues, got too involved in a couple of calls, all of which led to the win by the Blues in Game 3 of the Western Conference Second Round that gave St. Louis a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 series.

Video: Steen, Backes lead Blues to 6-1 win in Game 3

"I think that for the most part it was us," Ruff said Wednesday. "We gave the puck away, there was no secret there. I think some of our puck support wasn't very good, which hurt us. But I think you look at the game, with two minutes left [in the first period], we had two point-blank opportunities; make it 2-2 and I think it's a different game."

But that didn't happen, and so the Stars will have to figure out how to correct their mistakes in Game 4 here on Thursday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports).

The biggest questions for Ruff relate to defense and goaltending. Will he make a change among his defensemen? Who will he start in goal? It appeared that the answer to the second question was Kari Lehtonen, with Antti Niemi staying on the ice long after Lehtonen on Wednesday. But there was no official word.

"I'm just trying to stay consistent with what we have done all year," Ruff said. "We've had two goalies that have played really well that have got us to where we are. And last time I checked, it was in a pretty good place.

Video: DALST, Gm3: Elliott extends pad to rob Benn in front

"Do they stumble every now and then? Yeah, they do. But the alternative is I have another guy to go to all of the time."

Lehtonen and Niemi were pulled early in starts in each of the past two games; Lehtonen was pulled after one period on Sunday and Niemi was replaced by Lehtonen two minutes into the second period on Tuesday.

"We've had some bad periods. We've been able to flush them and be ready to go," Ruff said. "The atmosphere in that room is great. There's always disappointment. We're a team that's learning how to balance the emotional getting too high and not getting low. We've played some pretty good hockey when we've played a disappointing period here and there."

Plus, perhaps there's a little added motivation. The Stars certainly took note of the kiss blown in their direction by Blues forward Ryan Reaves late in Game 3 after Reaves fought Stars forward Curtis McKenzie.

"I think the players note that; yeah, I think they do," Ruff said. "Our guys were embarrassed [Tuesday] night, and that's stuff you take to heart. That's stuff you use. We're a proud team."

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