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Stars' season fittingly comes down to do-or-die Game 7

After Dallas misses its opportunity to advance at home, maybe this series is exactly where it was meant to be

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

In a lot of ways, this is sort of perfect.

A Stars team that has battled adversity all season now has to overcome just a little bit more. While a Blues team that has battled adversity all year gets to play at least one more game because of its intestinal fortitude.

This series needed at Game 7, and it will get it.

 

[RELATED: Game 7 scheduled for Tuesday at 7 p.m. CT | Stars Playoff Central]

 

The St. Louis Blues won an elimination game, 4-1, at American Airlines Center Sunday on the strength of strong defensive play and the ability to jump on a key break in the third period. With the Blues nursing a 2-1 lead, Colton Parayko unleashed a powerful slap shot that hit Stars goalie Ben Bishop in the left shoulder or collarbone and sent him sprawling to the ice.

The puck bounced out into the slot, the game continued on, and Jaden Schwartz snapped in his eighth goal of the playoffs six seconds after Bishop was hit.

The crowd of 18,876 fans sat stunned, as they were sure a whistle should have blown to stop play and protect Bishop, who remained writhing in pain for several moments after the goal was scored. But the refs gathered at center ice, the goal counted, and the game went on.

"That's what the rule says, 8.1. It means they don't kill the play until they (the defending team) get possession of the puck," said Kay Whitmore, series supervisor for the NHL. "The puck hit him in the shoulder and they didn't deem it serious. …The scoring chance is imminent, and it happened bang-bang and the puck's in the net. It wasn't a long duration of time."

Video: STL@DAL, Gm6: Bishop pulled after injury in 3rd

"The rule is pretty clear that in that situation they're not going to kill it," Whitmore added. "In this situation, they didn't deem it serious enough to kill it immediately and they didn't get possession before the puck went in the net. It's pretty clear on how that rule works."

And the Stars, for the most part, didn't disagree.

"If we had a whistle, we probably would have blown it. And if they had a whistle they probably wouldn't have," said Stars captain Jamie Benn. "It is what it is. You can't worry about it, and you've got to move on."

Bishop stayed in the game and allowed another goal to Sammy Blais 33 seconds later to make the score 4-1. He then was replaced by Anton Khudobin, went to the dressing room, and was unavailable for comment afterward while he was getting X-rays.

Coach Jim Montgomery said he feels the X-rays were precautionary and that Bishop is "fine." The guess is he will be the starter in Game 7 Tuesday in St. Louis, and that a very balanced series will be decided on what both teams do in that game.

"They're a good team and responded well tonight," said center Tyler Seguin. "We expected them to come hard, and they had a good start. We would have liked to have had a better start, but it doesn't matter what's happened now. It's one game and looking forward to getting on the road." 

That is the beauty of hockey and a seven-game series. There is history now. Pat Maroon is trying to get in Bishop's kitchen, has pushed him at times and drew a goalie interference penalty. Bishop, meanwhile, has battled all sorts of physical and mental duress and displayed some incredulity along the way.

Fans in both cities seem to believe officiating is going against them, and emotions have been stripped a little raw.

Video: Benn: 'We knew this was going to be a long series'

That said, Dallas was the better team in taking a 3-2 series lead with wins in Games 4 and 5, and St. Louis was the better team in Game 6. So as much as you want to credit breaks or fluky goals or official calls, it sure seems like the team that plays best typically wins.

"We played a good team, and they played a good game, and we weren't there enough today," said forward Mats Zuccarello. "It's a Game 7, we knew it was going to be a tight series. If you want to go far in the playoffs, you usually have to go through some Game 7s."

Indeed you do.

And since both teams have fought and scratched and clawed to get here, expect both to be focused on playing an incredible game. If they were being honest, most of the players on the Stars and the Blues would not have admitted four months ago to any serious Stanley Cup dreams for this season. It just didn't seem logical.

But now, with the way the playoffs have unfolded, the winner of Game 7 in St. Louis has as good a chance as anyone to win it all. Let that sink in for a minute. These players on Tuesday could be playing in one of the most important games of their careers.

"I feel great about a Game 7," Montgomery said. "I mean, when I was a little kid, every time I played street hockey or played in my basement with my cousin, it was Game 7 every time. So I'm excited."

Which is sort of perfect.

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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