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Stars fall to Blues, 3-0

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

The Dallas Stars saw a seven-game points streak come to an end in St. Louis Saturday night. The Stars couldn’t crack Blues goaltender Jake Allen and were shut out for the first time this season, falling to St. Louis, 3-0 at Scottrade Center.

"Allen played good," Stars captain Jamie Benn said. "We didn't make it hard enough on him. He saw a lot of pucks, and we needed to score on the power play.”

The Stars got off to a slow start, falling behind 1-0 two minutes into the game, and getting severely outplayed in the first period. The Stars had the better of play in the final two periods, but couldn’t find the back of the net.

“We knew they were a desperate team. They haven’t been playing that well, and you get a division game,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “They had it their way in the first, and we played a really solid game after that. We had them on their heels; we hit a few posts. We didn’t find a way to get that goal to get us in the game.”

This was just the Stars fifth game within the Central Division this season. They are 3-2-0 within the division after Saturday’s loss. They have five more division games later this month, including two more against the Blues. Saturday’s game was a physical game that featured a couple of fights and a few scrums.

“These are the ones we’ve got to get used to. We are going to see a lot of games like this from here on out,” Benn said. “There are going to be tight games, some good rivalries, and it’s going to be pretty intense out there. We’ve got to find a way to win these games.”

“It’s a tough division, and it was a hard game today,” said Stars goaltender Antti Niemi, who stopped 23 of 26 shots. “I think we deserved more, though.”

The Stars lost in regulation for the first time since Nov. 24 and are now 22-6-2 on the season. The Blues improved to 17-9-4 and pulled to within eight points of the Stars in the Central Division. Blues captain David Backes notched a Gordie Howe hat trick, registering a goal, an assist and a fight in the game. Allen’s shutout was his fourth of the season, which ties him for the NHL lead.

“The first period was the way we have to play,” said Blues coach Ken Hitchcock. “It’s a hard pace to keep playing, but I thought we got back to a little bit of it in the third. We battled hard. Got chasing them in the second and they can make you look silly, but once we started to go North-South and play in straight lines, we got effective again.”

The Blues outshot the Stars 17-5 in the first period, but could only take a 1-0 lead into the first intermission. The Blues scored exactly two minutes into the game when Backes tipped in an Alex Steen shot with St. Louis on its first power play of the night.

There were two fights late in the period. First, it was Benn taking on Backes. Then, it was Stars forward Antoine Roussel and Blues defenseman Petteri Lindbohm.

"Our goaltender gave us an incredible first, and I thought we responded well," Ruff said. "I thought the Benn fight, from that point on I thought we were the better team."

The Stars played better in the second, outshooting the Blues 11-2, but the score remained the same. The Blues extended the lead with a pair of goals in the third. Vladimir Tarasenko scored from the left circle off the rush at the 11:10 mark to make it a 2-0 game. Ryan Reaves tallied off the rebound after Niemi stopped Scottie Upshall on a breakaway to put St. Louis up 3-0 at 15:35 of the third period.

The Stars got some late power-play time, including more than a minute with a five-on-three advantage, but couldn’t get a puck by Allen. The Blues goaltender made his best save of the night in the final moments of the game, stopping a point-blank bid by Seguin with the Stars on the power play to preserve his shutout.

Stars coach Lindy Ruff decided to go with Antti Niemi in goal on both ends of the back-to-back instead of using a rested Kari Lehtonen.

Niemi turned in a solid performance Saturday, stopping 16 of 17 shots in the first period to keep the Stars in the game. He stopped 23 of 26 on the night.

As for the decision to go with Niemi over Lehtonen, Ruff said don’t read much into it. The Stars coach said Niemi wasn’t very busy in Friday’s win over Philadelphia, played well and that earned him another game on Saturday.

“There wasn’t much going on there [Friday] night. I had the [Flyers] for six chances last night, so it was a real low night,” Ruff said. “[Niemi] gave up one goal, made a big save at the end of the game and thought I would give him another night.”

*Shots were 26-26 in the game. The Stars outshot the Blues 21-9 over the final two periods.

*Attempted shots were 53-44 Dallas, including 44-16 over the final two periods.

*The Stars had a nine-game points streak on the road snapped. The Stars hadn’t lost in regulation on the road since Nov. 2 in Toronto.

*The Stars are 3-2-0 vs. the Central Division.

*The Stars are 2-1-1 in the second games of back-to-backs this season.

*The Stars were shutout for the first time this season. They’ve been held to two goals or fewer in seven of their 30 games this season.

*The Stars were 0-4 on the power play and 2-3 on the penalty kill.

*The Stars won 36 of 68 faceoffs (53 percent).

*Jamie Benn won 9 of 13 faceoffs (69 percent). Tyler Seguin won 7 of 10 (70 percent). Jason Spezza won 9 of 15 (60 percent). Vernon Fiddler won 7 of 13 (54 percent). Cody Eakin won 4 of 16 (25 percent).

*Alex Goligoski led the Stars with 22:58 of ice time.

The Stars return home for three games at American Airlines Center, taking on Columbus (Tuesday), Calgary (Thursday) and Montreal (Saturday).

Jamie BennTyler SeguinValeri Nichushkin

Mattias JanmarkJason SpezzaPatrick Eaves

Antoine RousselCody EakinPatrick Sharp

Colton SceviourVernon FiddlerAles Hemsky

Alex Goligoski
John Klingberg

Johnny OduyaJason Demers

Jordie BennJamie Oleksiak

Antti Niemi

Kari Lehtonen

Jyrki Jokipakka, Travis Moen, Patrik Nemeth

Injured: None

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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