Captain Jamie Benn said the Stars wanted to play for teammate Rich Peverley in St. Louis Tuesday night, and they played superbly. Benn’s goal with 1:18 left in overtime lifted the Stars to an impressive 3-2 victory over the league-leading St. Louis Blues at Scottrade Center.
“I thought it was a tremendous effort by our guys tonight,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “I thought their focus was good, their determination. It was a hard-fought game both ways, but I thought the focus was really good.”
The victory capped off a tumultuous 24 hours for the Stars, who took an emotional hit when Peverley collapsed due to a cardiac event during Monday night’s game against Columbus at American Airlines Center. Peverley is in stable condition and resting comfortably at a Dallas hospital, and was quick to respond to a postgame text from his coach.
“He was happy, says keep rolling,” said Ruff. “I just said, ‘We’ll see you tomorrow.’”
Peverley’s teammates had to shake off what they witnessed the night before and try to focus on what was a key game as they continue to battle for a playoff spot in the Western Conference.
“Obviously last night was a scary situation, but you know today’s a new day,” said Benn. “We were thinking about Rich back home, but I thought we did a great job getting mentally ready for this game and we’re still in a playoff hunt here. We’re still in a big playoff push and we found a way to get two points.”
“It helps that Rich is doing really well,” said Stars goaltender Tim Thomas. “I think we were trying to focus on the game. I’m certainly not trying to underplay anything that happened for Rich, but under the circumstances, I’m going to look at the positives – that he is doing well and I’m sure he was cheering us on. I think he’d want us to go out and try to win that game, and that’s what we did.”
Thomas, making his first full start for the Stars since they acquired him at the trade deadline, stopped 28 of 30 shots.
“I thought he was good,” said Ruff. “I thought we did a good job in front of him but he made a couple of real good saves on their power play that could have got St. Louis some energy. You know he’s not going to play a passive game. Tim’s going to be aggressive and he’s going to challenge guys when you don’t think you’re going to be challenged, and I like the game he gave us. I thought it was a real solid game.”
Colton Sceviour and Antoine Roussel scored in regulation for the Stars, who won their third straight game to remain in eighth place in the Western Conference and one point ahead of ninth-place Phoenix, which won in Florida Tuesday night.
The Blues had a five-game winning streak snapped and failed to win against a Central Division foe for just the second time this season (18-0-2).
“We got away with this in Colorado and got away with it in Minnesota,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. “We didn't get away with it tonight. We're just feeding teams transition. We're not putting pucks in deep, we're not getting on the grind. We're turning way too many pucks over. The times that we did things the right way, we were really effective. We had a lot of good play, but we just got too many inconsistencies within our group about putting pucks in deep, playing the right way ... so we pay for it.”
The Stars had a strong start to the game, killed off St. Louis’ first power play but the Blues scored with 6:59 left in the period to take a 1-0 lead. After Magnus Paajarvi put the puck on the net on a wrap-around, Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo crashed the net and scored on a rebound.
The Stars killed off a second Blues power play and then went on their first power play of the game with 1:27 left in the period and cashed into tie the game. Alex Goligoski put a shot on net from the point and Sceviour, called up from Texas earlier in the day, scored on the round with 53 seconds left in the period make it a 1-1 game. It was Sceviour’s fourth goal in nine games played for the Stars.
“He’s a hard guy not to like because he’s got quick hands around the front of the net and it seems like every game he’s in on a great opportunity or he’s making a difference,” said Ruff.
The Blues outshot the Stars 11-5 in the second, but Thomas was sharp in goal and had several good stops including a strong one on a point blank bid by David Backes with St. Louis on the power play. Ryan Miller came up big for the Blues, stopping Cody Eakin on a two-on-one. And the work of the two goaltenders kept it a scoreless game going into the third period.
The Stars grabbed a 2-1 lead when Backes coughed up the puck at his own blue line and Benn set up Antoine Roussel on a breakaway and Roussel slipped the puck past Miller 2:19 into the third.
But the Blues bounced back to tie when Patrik Berglund won an offensive zone draw and the end result was St. Louis defenseman Roman Polak scoring on a shot from the point at the 5:01 mark. The score stayed that way through the rest of regulation and into overtime, until late in overtime when Trevor Daley circled around the St. Louis net and backhanded the puck to Benn, who roofed a shot from the right circle.
“When I saw the puck come to Jamie there, I was like bury it and then he put it top shelf, did an awesome job,” said Thomas.
It sealed a tremendous performance for the Stars, who were not only missing Peverley, but forward Alex Chiasson who was shaken up by Monday night’s incident and did not travel with the team to St. Louis.
“I told them that you can look for a reason to lose or you can find a way to win. And I said we need to find a way to win, and we need to win it for a couple of our teammates,” said Ruff. “We had good focus before the game. We didn’t spend a lot of time talking about St. Louis. We just talked about how we wanted to play.”
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.