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Loss to Blues shows Stars there's plenty more to learn

St. Louis stayed one step ahead in an intense, frustrating loss that snapped Dallas' home win streak

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

Stars fall to Blues, 3-1

DAL Recap: Hintz scores lone goal in 3-1 loss at home

Roope Hintz netted the Stars' lone goal of the match late in the 3rd to knot the game at 1-1, but Dallas would ultimately lose, 3-1

  • 04:59 •

DALLAS -- For all of the learning and growing the Stars did during their long string of success in November, there still is more to do.

The Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues proved that Friday night.

During an intense, gritty, frustrating game for the Stars, the Blues stayed one step ahead and took a 3-1 victory to move a couple of steps ahead in the Central Division. With the win, St. Louis now sits 16-6-6, good for 38 points in 27 games. The Stars fall to 15-10-2, good for 32 points.

That's a three-game difference in the standings when it could have been one. But it's a difference the Blues have earned through the first quarter of the season, and more importantly, earned on the ice at American Airlines Center.

"I didn't think we skated as well as we've been skating. I thought the Blues won the majority of 1-on-1 battles, and I thought their puck support was quicker than our's, offensively and defensively," Stars coach Jim Montgomery said. "Our lack of possession time is discouraging. We created chances, yes, but it was almost all rush, in my opinion."

The game was fun in a strange sort of way. It was a bit of déjà vu all over again, bringing back memories of the Blues-Stars' seven game series in the playoffs last season. St. Louis was fantastically disciplined defensively, while Dallas was intense, but not near as composed.

The Blues had a 40-32 advantage in shots on goal. They had 34 scoring chances, according to Natural Stat Trick, 20 high-danger scoring chances. Still, both goalies came up with timely saves just like they did during the playoff series last season, and both offenses found ways to create some impressive scoring chances.

Video: STL@DAL: Montgomery breaks down Stars' home defeat

So it was that goals were rewards for both poise and effort, for calm and intensity. Colton Parayko was smart enough to slip a puck through traffic from distance at the 15:41 mark of the first period. It was a sneaky, smart play -- a puck that Stars goalie Ben Bishop couldn't find in his field of vision.

"I didn't see it," Bishop said. "I was tracking it, and then once he kind of got to the middle, I tried to get out there to find it. And right when I got out there to try to find it, he shot it. It was kind of unfortunate, trying to find it, but I couldn't see it."

That stood as the only goal of the game until Roope Hintz converted in transition at the 16:49 mark of the third period to tie the game. Hintz had been foiled on several scoring chances earlier in the game, so when he busted out of the penalty box and took a pass from Blake Comeau after a successful penalty kill, it was a huge moment for a young player.

It was the 11th goal of the season in just 20 games for the 23-year-old center, and it showed both natural skill and the growing wisdom of Hintz. Asked if he was getting frustrated from earlier misses, Hintz shrugged his shoulders and simply said: "No, you have to fight through that. That's one thing in sports that happens. I don't get too frustrated."

That's an impressive answer for a man playing in his 78th NHL game. Likewise, it was an impressive play at a high-pressure moment in a pretty big game.

And it would have made a great story had the Stars won or even just taken a point in the standings. But the Blues rewrote the ending, and sort of changed the narrative all in about 18 seconds.

On the next shift after the Hintz goal, Jay Bouwmeester fed Ivan Barbashev, who fed Ryan O'Reilly for a bang-bang redirect and the game-winning goal. It was lightning quick, it was incredibly skilled, and it showed the poise of a team that has been through a lot.

Video: STL@DAL: Hintz fires snap shot to tie the game late

It was a great moment for the Blues.

It was a learning moment for the Stars.

We can argue now whether Miro Heiskanen read the play wrong when he allowed the bank pass to get around him on the wall. We can argue now if it was the job of Alexander Radulov or Tyler Seguin to get back to cover O'Reilly. We can argue now whether the entire team should have been in a more defensive mode to start out with.

Bottom line, the Stars made mistakes, and the Blues forced those mistakes.

That's what good teams do.

So Dallas will go study the film, and break things down, and get on a plane and fly to Minnesota. Another game awaits Sunday against the Wild. Then it's off to Winnipeg for a Tuesday affair against the Jets, and back home Thursday for the second half of a home-and-home with Winnipeg.

The Stars are in a stretch of five straight games against Central Division opponents. They are currently 0-2-0 in that stretch, and this is no time to get back into a losing funk.

Video: STL@DAL: Bishop says Stars fought hard despite result

"It's an opportunity for us to get better -- that's what tonight is," Montgomery said. "We would have liked to come out victorious. We didn't and, frankly, didn't deserve to. So, we've got to get better and it's early in the year, still."

Dallas has pushed back and reclaimed a spot in the playoffs. They'd like to stay there for a little while.

That's what good teams do.

They learn, and they grind, and they find a way. They understand that every game has moments where things swing, where the team with poise makes the right play.

They have been that team.

They can be that team.

We're only 27 games into an 82-game schedule. There is so much more to do.

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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