It is tough to watch a team give it their all and just come up short. Movies and books tell us that the hero gets knocked down, makes adjustments and against all odds comes out victorious in whatever conflict that might be. Well that was the Dallas Stars defeat to the St. Louis Blues today. A defeat that ties up the playoff series at a game a piece on way to the Scottrade Center in Missouri. When first writing this recap I was ready to rip a new one into everything regarding this game. Television presentation, officials, defense, goaltending, coaching, but as they so often do the Stars swerve you and remind you that it is no fluke that they have made it this far into the season.
Changes were made to both teams lineups from game one. Ryan Reaves was inserted in place of Steve Ott for the Blues, and Patrick Eaves was replaced by Valeri Nichushkin due to injury.
The period started out well for the Stars but quickly went south. Goligoski scored early on a nice setup from Jamie Benn for his third goal of the playoffs. The Blues quickly responded 35 seconds later as Patrik Berglund scored on Kari Lehtonen. The Blues then went on to dominate this period with physical play scored two more goals on a sloppy Dallas defense and played textbook Hitchcock hockey taking a 3-1 lead into the first intermission.
Kari Lehtonen was pulled after the first period and Antti Niemi took the net for the second. Not necessarily saying Lehtonen played bad, but a tactic Lindy Ruff has used many times this season to spark the squad. Niemi had to make some big saves early especially on an early period power play for St. Louis. This period is really where the absence of Tyler Seguin and Patrick Eaves hit home for the Stars. Two big power play chances in the period could not be capitalized on. This was not a bad period by the Stars, not necessarily a good one either. Definitely out played the Blues, but could not score on the power play or cut into the lead anyway. Still 3-1 after two periods.
This is where Hitchcock’s systems fail. You cannot just defend your own zone and milk the clock while not making any kind of sustained attack in the offensive zone. Puck possession is the new defense and Dallas had complete control of the puck that period. Dallas has a very high powered offense that will put pucks into the net. The only way to stop that is to keep the puck out off their sticks. St. Louis did a great job of that in the first period, but you wonder why they abandoned that in the third period. Mattias Janmark scores on a breakaway early in the period and Jamie Benn ties it late to send this one to OT
The controversial call on the ice for this one was the Antoine Roussel intereference minor. There are more questions than answers. Yes it was a pick Roussel set, but also yes it was in the process of trying to hold himself from going offside. So much like delay of game, its a penalty you don’t mean to commit but at the same time you still committed a penalty. It was a very weak call by the officials given what had been let go earlier in the game, but still the right call. Backes scores 17 seconds into the power play as Alex Goligoski blocked a shot just seconds beforehand right off his knee and was unable to get back into position.
(PHOTO: Amanda Spielberger/Shattered Lens Photography)