The Dallas Stars got outworked from the jump of this one, as voiced by Stars defenseman Ben Lovejoy in his postgame media availability. “I thought we weren’t good enough tonight. I thought they were the more desperate team.”
Dallas lost Game 3 of their first round at home versus the Nashville Predators in a game that was reminiscent of tonight’s Game 3 against the St. Louis Blues in the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Another game in which the opposition gets a quick goal against, some uncharacteristic goals let in by Vezina finalist goaltending, and three separate tying efforts by the Stars tonight marked an entertaining — and frustrating — game as the Stars sit down two games to one in the series heading into Game 4 on Wednesday night.
Another poor start to a hockey game for the Dallas Stars. In other news, water is wet. It seems like they have to get their legs under them at the start of each game, and good teams — like the St. Louis Blues are — can take advantage of this weakness.
Take advantage they did, when Jaden Schwartz tipped a Colton Parayko shot and it deflected up and over Ben Bishop. Bishop didn’t even really move, which tells you that he most definitely did not see it get redirected.
Up until Dallas drew their first power play of the night late into the period, the teams played a fairly even period of hockey. The penalty came on a somewhat soft trip of Tyler Seguin and was not long after Jamie Benn had been called for a similarly soft trip a few minutes prior. Alexander Radulov was able to score on the man advantage off a slick Jason Spezza pass to tie the game up, and the Stars would skate into the intermission needing to win the next 40 minutes.
The real story in the first period, however, was probably the several blatant calls that Dallas did not get thanks to some .... adventurous, we’ll call it .... penalty calling. Taylor Fedun appeared to take a hi-stick on the play that resulted in the first goal. Spezza was pretty obviously tripped in neutral ice by a Blues stick with everyone’s eyes seemingly trained on him and yet there was no penalty. Interference was traded liberally by both sides, though a blatant iteration of it stopped a Stars breakaway bid.
Neither side played like angels tonight, let’s be clear. But the missed calls on the Blues felt much more egregious than those that the Stars committed — at least tonight.
The thing is, the Stars didn’t get much done when they finally did draw some penalties in the middle frame. They had zero shots on goal in two tries in the period, one off a delay of game due to putting the puck over the glass by Jay Bouwmeester less than a minute into the period and another later in the period thanks to a Carl Gunnarsson hi-stick on Roman Polak, who did not bleed and therefore only drew a two-minute minor.
Between those two completely pointless man advantage tries, the Stars allowed the eventual game winner when Roope Hintz got physically beat on positioning by the goal mouth by Tyler Bozak. He was in perfect position to swipe the puck into the net after it got through Ben Bishop and landed behind him in the crease. It’s the kind of play that probably doesn’t result in a goal the next 95 times it happens, but when goalies are really good sometimes that’s the only way they are going to get beat is off something very weird or uncharacteristic.
The most controversial time in the game came late in the period after Dallas was on the power play after Polak took the stick to the face. Robert Bortuzzo delivered two straight crosschecks to Esa Lindell’s back. Lindell most definitely went down on the play easily and earned the embellishment call he got on the play. It seemed like Dallas started doing that to try to get calls after the egregiously missed ones earlier in the game. But I’d argue that Bortuzzo deserved an extra two minutes for roughing after he crossschecked Lindell again after the penalty was called.
Neither team scored after all of those shenanigans happened and Dallas went into the second intermission down 2-1.
How does one even describe this period? It was a microcosm of Stanley Cup Playoff hockey for fans jam-packed into the last five minutes of the game.
Dallas had struggled to find an answer for the Blues all game. They finally did in a shorthanded bid by Andrew Cogliano that was setup perfectly by Mattias Janmark with 6:54 left in the period.
That setoff a chain reaction of four goals in five minutes.
After tying the game, Alex Pietrangelo shot a seeing-eye laser over Ben Bishop to restore the Blues’ lead. Not to be outdone, Mats Zuccarello sprung Miro Heiskanen who found Seguin for a cross-ice beauty to tie the game once again. Just when it looked like the game was heading to overtime, Pat Maroon shot one and picked the corner over Bishop’s body, an uncharacteristic goal for the big netminder.
While plenty of people are going to lay a good chunk of the blame of tonight’s loss on Bishop’s shoulders, he got left out to dry a time or ten tonight and managed to keep the Stars within a goal when it easily could have really gotten away from them much earlier in the game.
It came down to execution and, as cliche as it sounds, the other team wanting it more. Dallas has proven that they can get the puck past Jordan Binnington. Keeping their defensive structure and winning more of the puck battles to setup more consistent puck possession in the offensive zone will be needed to even the series up 48 hours from now.
The good thing is, Dallas has shown that they can play that way and be quite successful at it. They’ll take the lessons from their first round where they were in a similar position and apply them next game. Then it’s even again, and a best-of-three.
One game at a time here. Don’t plan the parade after a win and don’t scream that the sky is falling until it’s really time to panic. And game three of a seven game series is not that time.