In what must feel like a painful flashback to the 2016 NHL playoffs for some, the Dallas Stars are once again paired up against the St. Louis Blues in the second round. And while the regular season series tells the story of Dallas dominating against St. Louis 3-1, the playoffs are a whole other beast to tackle. The Winnipeg Jets made the Blues look almost superhuman in the first round, and the Stars have a long road ahead of them as they take on one of the hottest teams in the NHL.
While the Dallas Stars were the better team for most of the first period, fans wouldn’t know it by looking at the scoreboard. St. Louis didn’t get a single shot on goal (versus Dallas’ five shots) until almost six minutes in, but sometimes it’s not the amount of shots that get close, it’s the ones that actually make it in.
Ivan Barbashev set up Robby Fabbri with a terrific outlet pass to send him deep into the Dallas zone with low coverage. Fabbri skated into the circle and fired it right under Ben Bishop’s pads, and with the first Blues shot of the game, made it 1-0 at 5:57 into the period. That’s one that Bishop definitely wanted back.
The St. Louis goal changed the tide of the period, though it took St. Louis almost another 10 minutes to register their second shot on goal. By the end of the period the Blues, fueled by their one-goal lead, had caught up to Dallas for shots.
For Dallas, Mattias Janmark and Esa Lindell had the best looks at St. Louis goaltender Jordan Binnington in the first.
Shots: Dallas 8, St. Louis 7
Score: Dallas 0, St. Louis 1
Another period, same story as the first. Dallas looked like the better team, controlling the face-offs and play, but somehow St. Louis found a way.
The second frame opened with a sliding, low-bridge hit from Alex Pietrangelo on Jason Dickinson, sending him head and shoulder-first into the boards. Dickinson went to the locker room for concussion protocol, but returned late in the period. That’s the second time this postseason that Dickinson has been sent into the boards and underwent protocol (the first time was in Game 1 against Nashville).
Dallas’ weaknesses showed show in this period, namely that they couldn’t get past the controlled breakouts by St. Louis. The Stars made smart plays in the neutral zone, but had nothing to show for it.
St. Louis went to the first power play of the game just under seven minutes in, with Jamie Benn sitting for tripping Vince Dunn. Benn’s skate got caught with Dunn’s, which sent the Blues player to the ice and Benn to the box. The Stars’ perfect penalty kill (15-for-15 in the Round 1) continued their reputation and kept the Blues from getting on the board.
Not long after, Dallas tied it up on their third shot in the period. John Klingberg yelled for Mats Zuccarello to hold off and create a distraction until he was in the right spot. Zuccarello then sent the puck to Klingberg, who made a net-front, cross-ice pass to Jason Spezza. Spezza then one-timed it into the net for his first goal since February 24.
The Blues went to their second power play of the game shortly after, with Roman Polak sitting for hooking against Valdimir Tarasenko. Right off the face-off, in what clearly looked like a set play, Brayden Schenn made a blind pass to Tarasenko. Tarasenko then fired it in five-hole on Bishop to put St. Louis ahead 2-1 with just under two minutes to go in the period. That was the first power play goal allowed by the Stars in the postseason, making their penalty kill record 16-for-17.
Shots: Dallas 12, St. Louis 14
Score: Dallas 1, St. Louis 2
Dallas head coach Jim Montgomery made some changes to the lineup going into the third to change the match-up of Dallas lines against St. Louis lines. Notably he split up the “Big Three” (Benn, Seguin, and Radulov), and put Benn onto the second line while matching Zuccarello with Seguin and Radulov. This effectively kept Benn away from Colton Parayko.
Just over a minute in, the Stars found themselves on their first power play of the game, with Carl Gunnarsson going to the box for tripping Benn. While Binnington gave up some juicy rebounds, Dallas couldn’t capitalize on the man advantage.
Soon after, Miro Heiskanen tangled with Tarasenko, who poked the puck away from him. Tarasenko went hard to the front of the net and beat the Dallas defense as he faked out Bishop. The Dallas netminder has committed down, while Tarasenko went top shelf to put St. Louis ahead 3-1 at 3:51 in the final frame.
Binnington then left the crease to play the puck in what was a questionable decision and caused some chaos in the St. Louis end. Blake Comeau collided with Binnington as Binnington went high out of the crease and Binnington was upended by Comeau, who was unable to deke out of the way.
Pietrangelo took exception, grabbing onto Comeau and then pairing off with Lindell to trade punches. The penalties evened out and left both sides with short benches, despite the 5-on-5 play on the ice. After the penalties came off the clock, Dallas pulled Bishop with 3:09 to go. Dallas was leading in shots, but with nothing to show for it.
The Stars then went to their second power play of the game, after Benn took a high-stick from Pietrangelo. Benn, Roope Hintz, and Seguin created mass chaos in front of the St. Louis net. Binnington made a snow angel in an attempt to freeze the puck, but he couldn’t trap it. Benn, lurking in the corner, took advantage and potted one in to cut St. Louis’ lead to 3-2. The goal went under review because of a questionable whistle made by one of the referees, but the call on the ice stood. The Stars pulled the scoreline within one and with just under three minutes left in the game.
The Stars did their best to put on the pressure in the final minutes, but couldn’t get anything more past Binnington and the Blues. The Blues now lead the series 1-0.
Final Shots: Dallas 29, St. Louis 20
Final Score: Dallas 2, St. Louis 3
The Dallas Stars take on the Blues for Game 2 in St. Louis on Saturday, April 27. Puck drop is at 2:00 p.m. CST.