“I think it was a great start for us,” said Faksa.
Faksa made sure it was a great start for the Stars, scoring the game-winner less than four minutes after St. Louis defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk tied the game 1-1 with a blast from the top of the left circle. Faksa set up Ales Hemsky, who drove the net and put a shot on goal off the rush, and then Faksa swept in and put the rebound past St. Louis goaltender Brian Elliot.
“It was a good breakout by us. It was a nice pass by Alex Goligoski,” Faksa said. “We had pretty much a 3-on-2, Ales took it to the net, and I picked up the rebound. It’s a great play by Alex and Hemmer.”
And then a great celebration by Faksa, who dropped to one knee and put his hand to his ear.
“I’m very excited after every goal, maybe too excited,” Faksa said. “It’s just part of the game, enjoying every game in the NHL. Just a big excitement for me. It just feels great.”
Faksa also assisted on a goal by Antoine Roussel. The rookie center now has four points (two goals, two assists) in seven playoff games.
“He brings enthusiasm, a big smile on his face, his willingness to do whatever it takes to win right now,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “He’s having a great time. He’s a kid that he’s enjoying every minute he plays. And you can see it in his game. There isn’t a battle he doesn’t want to engage in. There’s not a play he quits on. His play’s been infectious for our team.”
Goaltender Kari Lehtonen stopped 31 shots for the Stars, who rolled out a strong performance Friday. They outshot the Blues 42-32, matched the Blues physical play and rolled out a strong defensive effort.
“I thought we played a good game,” said Ruff. “I thought our energy was good and got better as the game went on. I thought we skated well. I thought we defended well. I thought we were physical. That’s a good start to the series for us.”
“I think we’re happy with our performance,” said Stars captain Jamie Benn. “It was a tough game early. They’re a really good team. I thought we had a good response to their goal and we found a way to win a hard fought game.”
The Blues got a strong performance from Elliot, who stopped 40 shots and kept his team in the game through the first two periods when the Stars had the edge in quality chances.
“This was a good game by them. They outplayed us and deserved to win this one,” said Blues captain David Backes. “We need to regroup and find our game and play for a full 60 minutes like we did in the first series. I think we will be just fine. It’s going to be another long, tight, hard hitting, fun matchup; but we have to get to our game sooner and for longer.”
There was no scoring in a physical, fast paced first period. The Stars outshot the Blues 14-7, and both teams had chances. Lehtonen had big saves on a Paul Stastny redirection and a Troy Brouwer chance with the Blues on a two-on-one. Elliott made a nice stop on a John Klingberg bid from the slot.
The Stars had a 17-11 shots advantage in the second and grabbed a 1-0 lead midway through the period. Moments after Lehtonen stopped two shots by Blues defensemen Jay Bouwmeester, the Stars headed the other way on the rush and Roussel put home the rebound of a Faksa shot at the 9:36 mark.
The Stars had chances to extend the lead with quality looks, but Elliott came up with great saves on Patrick Eaves and Mattias Janmark to keep it a 1-0 game going into the third period, where the Blues tied the game but the Faksa line answered to give the Stars game one of the series.
“It’s the first game; it’s very important for us. You want a good start,” Faksa said. “We had a good back check and didn’t give up many chances to them. I think it was a great start for us.”
Stars forward Patrick Eaves left Friday’s game in the third period after getting hit in the leg with a puck off the stick of Dallas defenseman Stephen Johns. Eaves hobbled off the ice and then was helped down the tunnel and to the locker room.
“No report now,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said after the game. “He didn’t finish the game. We’ll probably find out more tomorrow, but he couldn’t finish the game.”
*The Stars outshot the Blues 42-32 and had a 72-68 advantage in shot attempts.
*Colton Sceviour led the Stars with 5 shots on goal. Jamie Benn was tops with 8 shot attempts.
*The Stars outhit the Blues 32-26.
*Jamie Benn and Antoine Roussel led the Stars with 4 hits each.
*The Stars were 0-3 on the power play and 2-2 on the penalty kill.
*The Stars won 23 of 55 faceoffs (42 percent).
*Cody Eakin won 8 of 15 faceoffs (53 percent). Jason Spezza won 8 of 17 (47 percent). Radek Faksa won 5 of 16 (31 percent). St. Louis’ Paul Stastny won 15 of 22 (68 percent).
*John Klingberg led the Stars with 23:17 of ice time.
*Alex Pietrangelo led St. Louis with 25:37 of ice time.
Game 2 is Sunday afternoon at American Airlines. Start time is 2 p.m.
Series schedule (Stars lead series 1-0)
Game 1 – Apr. 29: Stars 2, Blues 1
Game 2 – May 1, St. Louis at Dallas, 2 p.m.
Game 3 – May 3, Dallas at St. Louis, 8:30 p.m.
Game 4 – May 5, Dallas at St. Louis, 7:00 p.m.
*Game 5 – May 7, St. Louis at Dallas, TBD
*Game 6 – May 9, Dallas at St. Louis, TBD
*Game 7 – May 11, St. Louis at Dallas, TBD
Jamie Benn – Cody Eakin – Patrick Sharp
Mattias Janmark – Jason Spezza – Patrick Eaves
Antoine Roussel – Radek Faksa – Ales Hemsky
Travis Moen – Vernon Fiddler – Colton Sceviour
Alex Goligoski – John Klingberg
Johnny Oduya – Stephen Johns
Kris Russell – Jason Demers
Injured: Tyler Seguin (lower body)
Scratched: Valeri Nichushkin, Jordie Benn, Patrik Nemeth, Jamie Oleksiak
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 DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.