Control the pace of the game? Check.
Constantly apply pressure on the Blues? Check.
Get timely saves when you need them? Check.
The list could go on and on, but the main takeaway is that the Dallas Stars executed their game plan with impressive efficiency on Friday night as they skated away with a 2-1 victory over the St. Louis Blues in Game 1 of their second round playoff series.
Dallas' third line of Antoine Roussel, Radek Faksa and Ales Hemsky continued their string of brilliant play, with Roussel and Faksa accounting for both of the team's goals.
At the other end of the ice goaltender Kari Lehtonen was sublime in net, confidently stopping 31 out of 32 shots that he faced, many of them coming from close proximity.
The Stars were absolutely flying right from the drop of the puck, using their impressive speed to keep a much bigger Blues team pushed back, at both ends of the ice. Dallas finished with a 42-32 advantage in shots.
Brian Elliott had a strong game in net for the Blues, stopping 40 shots while under siege for much of the night.
After an eventful-yet-goalless first frame, Dallas opened the scoring in the game (and the series) halfway through the second period. The Blues had been trying to slow down the pace of the game to a speed where they were more comfortable, but after a bit of sloppy puck work from the Stars they decided to try opening things up a bit.
The Stars, however, like a tuned-up muscle car, used the extra time and space to hit the throttle and really show what they could do. After some frenetic backchecking Roussel grabbed the puck in his own zone and spearheaded a spirited rush up the ice. Radek Faksa's initial shot from the slot was denied, but the insatiably hungry Roussel was there to bury the rebound. No magic needed this time.
St. Louis would tie things up late in the third period off a strong push into Dallas territory. Lehtonen and Colton Sceviour got their wires crossed on how to process a rebound right in front of the Stars net, but it was the Blues that nabbed the puck and went to work. After some good chances it would be Shattenkirk that would pick the corner on Lehtonen to even the score at 1-1.
However, just like the first goal, the Blues decided to use their newfound momentum to open things up, and once again it was the Stars that capitalized. On the gallop into the offensive Ales Hemsky swooped around a Blues defender and shoved a shot into Elliott, but it was Faksa who hammered home the second chance to give his team the lead right back.
The Blues would try to equalize things in the dying seconds, but like the rest of the night, the Stars were too fast and too tight, winning races to pucks and applying pressure to prevent the Blues from getting effectively set up.
It was a thrilling match, but was still just the first game of the series. Game 2 takes place on Sunday afternoon. Buckle up.