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Stars' key to beating Blues starts with battles in front of net

Dallas must attack with more ferocity in Game 4 and challenge St. Louis' rookie netminder Binnington

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

It's not quite the "Battle of Winterfell," but the Stars' second-round playoff series against the Blues is featuring a lot of hand-to-hand combat.

As the two teams prepare for Game 4 at American Airlines Center on Wednesday night, they are saying that winning the physical confrontations in front of the net will be key.

"It's a tight game in the playoffs. It's the little details that are going to make the difference," said Stars defenseman Esa Lindell. "The net-front battle was the key (in Game 3). I think when we take a step in the right direction for (Game 4), we're going to be better."

 

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Lindell was beat on the game-winning goal by Pat Maroon as the two fought for space in front of the net. Lindell fell down and Maroon slid to the other side of the net for an open shot. Lindell said that can't happen.

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"He got a good chance, and obviously that was my guy who scored, and I take the blame on it," Lindell said.

That's the way of the playoffs, and that's the way of this series. It doesn't matter how it happened, you have to find a way to get a positive result.

The Stars are down 2-1 in the best-of-seven series, and they need to defend home ice. The Blues have yet to lose on the road this year in the playoffs, and they want to turn up the pressure. The best place to do that is in front of each net.

"They just don't go away, no matter the circumstance. They tied it up twice in the third there. They're relentless and we've got to make sure we continue to play that way, as well," said defenseman Colton Parayko, who has played beside veteran Jau Bouwmeester and been important in reducing chances for the Stars' best players.

Video: Montgomery says Stars 'need to be more desperate'

"It's been a good challenge for us."

The Stars are hopeful they will be able to get to the net with more ferocity and challenge Blues goalie Jordan Binnington. That's exactly what they did late in the game when they twice tied the game with some frantic drive to the net.

"I thought the last 20 [minutes], for sure, was better by us, but we got outworked. They were the better team. They deserved to win," said Stars center Tyler Seguin, who will switch lines and start with Jason Dickinson and Mats Zuccarello Wednesday. "They won more battles, they were a more desperate team, and we are going to respond."

That response has to be everywhere, but look to the front of the net for the results. It's one of the tenets that Montgomery has pushed all year for the Stars, and one that helped them get through the first-round playoff series against Nashville. In fact, goalie Ben Bishop said he also is a part of the battle.

Video: STL@DAL, Gm3: Blues, Stars tally four late in 3rd

"They're a big team. They got some big guys and they get to the net. You got to give some credit. They do a good job of fighting for that area," Bishop said. "You've got to fight to find the puck. You got to find different ways to try to find the puck no matter where it is, over, under, side. You got to battle hard. That's part of playoffs.

"Obviously, teams get to the net a lot more and they get to those dirty areas and that's where most of the goals are scored. It's going to be important to win that battle at both sides of the rink."

A battle that could be the key to winning the war -- a battle that requires a great deal of intensity and focus.

"I think they committed better (Monday). They won the net-front battle," Lindell said. "I think when we improve, we can be a lot better team."

For complete postseason coverage, visit Stars Playoff Central.

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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