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Blues blow by Stars to take 2-1 lead in series

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

To say it wasn’t pretty for the Dallas Stars in St. Louis Tuesday night might be an understatement. It was ugly. The Stars got crushed 6-1 by the Blues in Game 3 of their second-round playoff series, which St. Louis now leads 2-1.

“We just have to be better as a group. That is the bottom line,” said Stars captain Jamie Benn. “I have a lot of faith in the guys in here. We had a slip-up. It happens. We just have to be better as a group.”

The loss was the most lopsided of the season for the Stars, whose largest margin of defeat during the regular season was four goals.

“You lose 3-2 in overtime or lose 6-1, it all counts the same,” said Stars center Jason Spezza. “It will give us motivation; they’re feeling pretty good about themselves over there.”

After the Stars scored first in the game, the Blues rattled off six straight goals. St. Louis again won the special teams battle, scoring twice on the power play while the Stars went 0-4 with the man-advantage. The heavy St. Louis forecheck forced turnovers that resulted in pucks ending up in the Dallas net.

“We handed them plays in our own end. That hurt us,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff.

For the second straight game, Ruff used both his goaltenders. Antti Niemi got the start and was pulled early in the second after allowing three goals on 12 shots. Kari Lehtonen played the rest of the way and allowed three goals on 27 shots. But Ruff wasn’t putting this one on the goalies.

“They’re not at the front of this one,” said Ruff.

“It hasn’t been a goalie issue,” said Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski. “We’re giving up some big chances, at bad times, early in games. We’re putting pucks in places we’re not supposed to, and they’ve been a little harder on some battles and put them in the back of our net, so give them credit.”


       Ruff on tonight's game
       Benn: "I have a lot of faith in these guys"
       Spezza on the loss creating motivation
       Razor: Stars need to blow that kiss right back

Alex Steen and David Backes both scored twice for the Blues. Vladimir Tarasenko had one goal and two assists and goaltender Brian Elliott stopped 25 of 26 shots.

“This is the game that we wanted to play all the way through,” said Blues forward Troy Brouwer, who had one goal and one assist.

“Probably [our most complete game], but still it counts as one win,” said Tarasenko. “We’re up 2-1 now, more important games coming.”

Colton Sceviour opened the scoring for the Stars, taking a backhand pass from Spezza, putting a shot on net that was blocked and then scoring on the rebound to put Dallas up 1-0 at 4:44 of the first period. But the Blues answered 57 seconds later. Brouwer forced an Alex Goligoski turnover in the Dallas zone, and Steen ended up scoring from close range to make it 1-1 at the 5:41 mark.

The Stars went on the game’s first power play at the 13:08 mark, but couldn’t get a shot on goal. St. Louis then got a chance on the power play, and Backes tipped a Kevin Shattenkirk shot into the net to put the Blues up 2-1 at 16:10 of the first.

The Stars appeared to tie the game late in the first when the referee signaled a Jason Demers shot entered the net, but replays showed the puck hit the crossbar and never crossed the goal line, so it was no goal.

“The game changed on the non-goal,” said Blues coach Ken Hitchcock. “We played pretty well and made a mistake in our own zone. We could have gone in tied and we ended up going in up and that was a big swing in the momentum of the game. Instead of being discouraged, I thought we were in a different mental frame, so you know, inches or whatever, but that crossbar gave us a different attitude coming out for the second period.”

The Blues scored two goals in a 1:16 span of the second to extend their lead to 4-1. Brouwer got by Dallas defenseman Kris Russell on the rush, drove the net and scored on Niemi to make it 3-1 at the 2:34 mark. That ended the night for Niemi. Lehtonen took over in net, and 76 seconds later another turnover resulted in a goal. The end result was a Tarasenko centering pass going in the net off the skate of Goligoski, and it was 4-1 St. Louis.

The Blues got a power play late in the second when Antoine Roussel put the puck over the glass for a delay of game penalty. And the Blues cashed in, making it a 5-1 game when Steen scored from the slot ten seconds into the advantage at the 18:03 mark.

Lehtonen made several sharp saves in the third to keep the score from getting even worse for the Stars, but the Blues did tack on another goal late in the period. Backes scored off the rush with the two teams playing four-on-four to make it 6-1 with just under two minutes left in the game.

“It’s never good when you lose like that in the playoffs,” Benn said. “But the good thing is it’s a seven-game series and in the playoffs, you have to have a short memory. We’re going to move onto the next one.”

*Stars forward Curtis McKenzie and Blues forward Ryan Reaves picked up fighting majors late in the game. Reaves blew a kiss at the Stars bench as he headed off the ice.

*The Stars have allowed four goals or more in five of their nine playoff games, including four of the past five games.

*St. Louis’ five previous wins in the post season had all been by one goal.

*The Blues outshot the Stars 39-26 and had a 59-53 advantage in attempted shots.

*St. Louis Vladimir Tarasenko had a game-high 8 shots on goal and 12 shot attempts.

*The Blues outhit the Stars 34-28.

*The Stars were 0-4 on the power play and are now 0-11 in the series.

*The Blues are 4-14 on the power play in the series.

*The Blues won 42 of 73 faceoffs (58 percent).

*Vernon Fiddler won 7 of 11 faceoffs (64 percent). Jason Spezza won 8 of 16 (50 percent). Cody Eakin won 9 of 21 (43 percent). Radek Faksa won 4 of 13 (31 percent). St. Louis David Backes won 13 of 18 (72 percent).

*John Klingberg led the Stars with 23:43 of ice time. Alex Pietrangelo was tops on St. Louis with 25:29 of ice time.

Game 4 is Thursday in St. Louis. Start time is 7 p.m. The game will be broadcast on NBCSN.

Schedule (Blues lead series 2-1):

Game 1 – Apr. 29: Stars 2, Blues 1

Game 2 – May 1: Blues 4, Stars 3 (OT)

Game 3 – May 3: Blues 6, Stars 1

Game 4 – May 5: Dallas at St. Louis, 7:00 p.m.

Game 5 – May 7: St. Louis at Dallas, Noon

*Game 6 – May 9: Dallas at St. Louis, TBD

*Game 7 – May 11: St. Louis at Dallas, TBD

*If necessary

Jamie BennCody EakinPatrick Sharp

Mattias JanmarkJason SpezzaColton Sceviour

Antoine RousselRadek FaksaAles Hemsky

Curtis McKenzieVernon FiddlerTravis Moen

Alex Goligoski
John Klingberg

Johnny OduyaStephen Johns

Kris RussellJason Demers

Antti Niemi

Kari Lehtonen

Patrick Eaves (leg), Tyler Seguin (lower body)

Scratched: Valeri Nichushkin, Jordie Benn, Patrik Nemeth, Jamie Oleksiak, Brett Ritchie, Jack Campbell

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.

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