The Dallas Stars had all the momentum Sunday. They forced their way into overtime after a lackluster first period saw them fall behind 3-1. A trio of Antoine Roussel penalties finally proved their undoing, however, and now they must find a win on the road to continue.
"You've got to take the officials out of the equation," Lindy Ruff said of the afternoon. "We had our power plays and didn't do a good-enough job."
A more accurate and succinct post-game wrap-up you'll not find. They had their opportunities, but did not execute. Now, as many predicted, the pressure is on the Stars to prove they can crack the St. Louis defense.
Scottrade Center has been a tough nut to crack for the Stars- This season and the last. Hockey's highest scoring team managed just three total goals in St. Louis this year in three trips and got shutout once there last season. Overall the Stars have dropped five straight road games against the Blues, last winning in February of 2015 in a game in which they were out-shot 28-22.
Add to that the Stars have not scored on their last 22 power plays in St. Louis going back to that same date.
This season they managed just 18, 26 and 24 shots on the Blues' net- All that with Tyler Seguin, of course.
The Stars were held to just 48 shot attempts in their last trip to Scottrade. In the game before that they were badly out-attempted 68-37. In their first meeting on December 12th? Just 53 shot attempts.
Dallas is at their best when the shot attempts shoot up into the 60's and 70's, if not more. Ken Hitchcock's group, including game two, has shown a consistent, repeatable ability to slow down Lindy Ruff's attack.
That attack fought back from a 3-1 deficit in game two, but had to combine Jamie Benn and Jason Spezza along the way to do so. To do as much on the road where Hitch gets last change and the lineups he wants would be to limit the attack even furhter.
(There are probably other instances of Hitch teams shutting down Ruffled teams, but who has the time to remember or research?)
Offense has not been hard to come by for Dallas this season- Between just three goals scored through this series' first five periods, and their track-record in St. Louis the last two seasons, the evidence says it could be scarce tonight.
All of this points in a couple of pretty-easy-to-predict directions this time of year- Special teams and goaltending.
Goaltending was an adventure Sunday afternoon, depending on who you ask. Kari Lehtonen was left hung out to dry in the first period, and Antti Niemi had better numbers under less fire. The Blues did nothing of any note in the third period at all, for example.
Still, Kari had to take the benching for the greater good- Will he play tonight? Trying to predict what Lindy Ruff will do is like herding cats, but the smart money says it's Niemi's net to take control of this evening in front of a hostile crowd.
Then there's special teams, which could have saved so much drama Sunday- For the Stars and the officials both. Dallas, however, just can't convert. Over seven minutes of the first 60 saw the Stars on the job but they went 0-4 in the game against the Blues 2-for-5. That's so important this time of year. They have to win the special teams battle if they're going to win on the road.
Patrick Eaves and Tyler Seguin are back in Dallas- So there's no help coming there. Morning skate could reveal some changes, though a game-time decision would not be out of the ordinary for playoff Lindy. Will Val Nichushkin remain in the lineup? A heavier body in Brett Ritchie could be in order against a team like St. Louis, or a (slightly) more veteran presence in Curtis McKenzie?
Stephen Johns' shot that hit Patrick Eaves in game one was felt into game two. Nichushkin was on the ice for the third St. Louis goal and appeared to lose coverage in his own end. He also took a hooking call in the second and wound up seeing his spot on the second line usurped by game's end. A lesson in every little detail in the NHL Playoffs having a downstream effect.
8:30 start for this one. Probably 8:42pm, as we've seen. Gird your loins. The swings in playoff momentum are fun, we're told, but the Stars face the possibility of trailing this post season for the first time tonight unless they find their first win at Scottrade in 15 months.
Good luck getting any work done today :)
From Stars PR:
MEET IN ST. LOUIS
The Dallas Stars fell in overtime to the St. Louis Blues, 4-3, on Sunday afternoon at American Airlines Center in Game 2. The Stars and Blues are now tied at 1-1, with the series shifting to St. Louis for Game 3 on Tuesday and Game 4 on Thursday. Defenseman Alex Goligoski opened the scoring for Dallas with a goal (1-0=1) early in the first period but the Blues would respond with three-straight goals in the period to build a 3-1 advantage heading into the first intermission. After a scoreless second period, forward Mattias Janmark (1-0=1) and captain Jamie Benn (1-1=2) each recorded a goal in the third period to force overtime. Blues captain David Backes would tally the game-winning goal in overtime on the power play to even up the Second Round series. Goaltender Antti Niemi recorded the loss for the Stars, stopping 19-of-20 shots faced after goaltender Kari Lehtonen was pulled from the game.
BENN THERE, DONE THAT
Stars captain Jamie Benn registered two points (1-1=2) in Game 2 against the St. Louis Blues and now leads the NHL in postseason scoring with 12 points (5-7=12) along with sharing second in assists (7) and ranking fourth in goals (5). Benn has points in seven of his eight games during the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs and recorded a career-long six-game postseason point streak (4-6=10) from April 14 - 24, which is tied with Pittsburgh's Evgeni Malkin (3-6=9) and St. Louis' Jaden Schwartz (3-4=7) for the longest point streak this postseason. The captain's six-game postseason point streak was the longest by a Dallas Stars player since 2008, when Brenden Morrow also registered points in six consecutive playoff games (4-2=6) from May 2 - May 14, 2008. The native of Victoria, B.C. now has points in 12 of 14 career playoff contests, tallying 17 career points (9-8=17) in the postseason.
EAKIN' IT OUT
Stars forward Cody Eakin recorded a postseason career-best three points (0-3=3) on Sunday afternoon against the St. Louis Blues and now has points in three of his last four Stanley Cup Playoff games (0-5=5). His three assists against the Blues are tied for the most in a single playoff game in Dallas Stars franchise history (last: Jason Spezza, Game 6 of 2016 Western Conference First Round at Minnesota) and the most by a Dallas Stars skater on home ice since Mike Modano (0-3=3) in Game 1 of the 1998 Western Conference Semifinals vs. Edmonton. The forward shares 14th in the NHL with seven points (0-7=7) this postseason and is tied for the team lead in assists (7). The native of Winnipeg, Man. has skated in 14 career Stanley Cup Playoff contests, registering 12 points (2-10=12).