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Finnish trio shines bright, helping Stars to Game 2 win

With the top line shut down by St. Louis, Heiskanen, Hintz and Lindell step up as Dallas ties the series

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

ST. LOUIS -- The Gateway Arch, the icon of St. Louis, was designed by Finnish-American architect Eero Saarinen.

That seemed appropriate Saturday.

While the work of one of America's great mid-century designers glistened in the sunlight outside Enterprise Center, a few of his countrymen dazzled inside.

Three Finnish players -- Miro Heiskanen, Esa Lindell and Roope Hintz -- led the Stars to a 4-2 win over the Blues to even up the best-of-seven second-round playoff series at one game apiece. And, in doing so, helped build the confidence of Stars fans going forward.

Had you said beforehand that the Blues were going to shut down the Stars' top line for much of the game, you would have surely predicted a loss for Dallas. Instead, Heiskanen, Lindell and Hintz (along with goalie Ben Bishop) stepped up and carried the team.

Video: Bogorad, Razor break down Stars' Game 2 win at Blues

It was the kind of performance that shows the Stars are growing as a team.

"If you look at all of the teams in the league, and at the playoffs in general, it's so hard on the top guys. Usually, you need the secondary scoring," said Bishop, who had 32 saves in the win. "From what I've seen, it's usually those secondary guys who end up carrying a team through the playoffs and getting those big goals.

"For the big guys, usually people play them hard and most of the time, you need that secondary scoring."

Hintz has come on strong after bouncing between the minors and the NHL during the season. He and linemates Jason Dickinson (in his first full year of NHL play) and Mats Zuccarello (acquired at the trade deadline and playing in just his 10th game in Victory Green) have provided the depth that was missing for much of the season.

With nine goals now in eight playoff games, the second line has proven a frustrating match for both Nashville and St. Louis. That not only allows the top line of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov more space, as it did against Nashville, it allows the Stars to succeed when big dogs aren't scoring, as it was in Game 2.

Video: DAL@STL, Gm2: Hintz fires home Zuccarello's pash

Benn, Seguin and Radulov had no shot attempts through two periods, but Dallas held a 3-1 lead in large part because of the Finns. Zuccarello did a great job on a diligent cycle 13 minutes into the game, and fed Hintz driving down the slot for the all-important first goal of the game.

Then, six minutes later, Zuccarello sprung Hintz on a rush, and the 22-year-old center did a great job slipping a pass to 19-year-old Heiskanen, who showed immense patience in drawing Blues goalie Jordan Binnington out of the net.

It was a quick 2-0 lead and clearly set the arena back for a second.

St. Louis rallied and scored 46 seconds later, but then Dallas restored the two goal lead 26 seconds after the Blues goal when Mattias Janmark slammed home a pass from Dickinson. Heiskanen was also on the ice for that goal.

"The guy is going to be a Hall-of-Famer, no doubt," Bishop said of Heiskanen. "He's unbelievable, one of the best defensemen I've ever played with and he's 19. The sky is the limit for that guy. He's unbelievable on and off the ice with everything that he does.

Video: Heiskanen on gritty effort in Stars' Game 2 victory

"He's a true pro, and he's only getting better."

The same goes for Hintz, who was called up and sent back to the AHL a couple of times before finishing with 22 points in 58 NHL games in the regular season.

Hintz has gained confidence as the playoffs have gone on and now has four goals and three assists for seven points in eight games.

"I think for Roope, he's not thinking about it. He's just going out there and playing hockey and that's why he's doing so well," said Dickinson. "It's tremendous how much you'll grow from this."

And with every big moment, the younger players get better. Lindell is 24 and has already become a stalwart on defense. This is his first run through the Stanley Cup playoffs and in Game 2 against the Blues, he played 30:13. That's right, more than half the game.

Video: DAL@STL, Gm2: Heiskanen pots Hintz's gorgeous pass

Lindell also logged 7:59 of the 9:36 the team was shorthanded. He helped Dallas kill all five St. Louis power plays, including one in the final three minutes when the Blues pulled their goalie.

It was an impressive display for a player who is getting better each game.

Saarinen came to America from Finland with his family at age 13 and followed in the footsteps of his father, noted architect Eliel Saarinen. He studied design and sculpture in Europe and at Yale, and began to produce prolifically on his own in the 1940s and '50s.

Among his designs were the General Motors Technical Center, the Ingalls Hockey Rink at Yale, and the TWA Terminal at JFK Airport. He also was praised for his furniture design that depended heavily on marble and plastic, as well as curvilinear forms.

And then there is the Gateway Arch. The monument was planned to be a permanent, public memorial to the men who made the Western Expansion of the United States possible. Saarinen wanted something that reflected the basic shapes of the monuments in Washington, so he went with a catenary arch that supports its own weight.

Video: Hintz on three-point effort in Game 2 win over Blues

At 630 feet, it is the tallest monument in the United States. With a shell of stainless steel, it stays beautiful despite the weather.

Saarinen and his father worked together for years, and he had to carry a lot of expectation in that partnership. Likewise, the Stars' Finns have had to handle their own expectations, being drafted third overall (Heiskanen), 49th overall (Hintz) and 74th overall (Lindell) in their respective years.

Right now, they have designs of helping the Stars take the next step in the playoffs in Game 3 Monday night. Eventually, they would like to build something that people can look back on for years to come.

If you want to draw on the great Eero Saarinen, these words might be the perfect fit at a time like this. In one of his most simple and yet most deep quotes, he exclaimed, "New materials and techniques have given us great opportunities."

All you had to do was look around St. Louis Saturday to see that.

Photo by Sean Berry, DallasStars.com

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.

Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for DallasStars.com and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika.

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