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Despite “Bunch of Donkeys” Shenanigans, Stars Beat Blues 4-2 To Even Series

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Captain Jamie Benn said after the second period penalty-fest it was “just a bunch of grown men out there acting like a bunch of donkeys.” Luckily for Dallas, the extracurriculars didn’t come back to bite them tonight.

St Louis Blues v Dallas Stars - Game Four Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Dallas Stars needed to play “desperate” hockey after dropping Game 3 to the St. Louis Blues on home ice on Monday night.

That seems to be the favored word in this Round 2 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Both coaches and players on either side have used that word to describe how they won or lost a game within the past 48 hours. As the series continues on, it’s likely to be uttered a lot more too. We would not recommend a drinking game based on that word, just FYI.

Tonight, the desperation quotient seemed to weigh out in Dallas’ favor. They utilized an offensive onslaught in the second period to open up a three-goal lead and a defensive effort in the past 20 minutes to finalize a 4-2 win and even the series.

FIRST PERIOD

Dallas came out absolutely buzzing early on, at one point holding a 5-1 lead in shots on goal. However, they were not rewarded with the first goal of the game. That honor went to Vladimir Tarasenko, who scored a power play goal after Jason Dickinson was called for a hi-sticking penalty.

The Stars’ penalty kill has actually been pretty good — they have allowed just two goals on 26 chances throughout the playoffs so far. Unfortunately, the two goals have been scored by the Blues.

Dallas was able to tie the game up mid-way through the period off a hustle effort by Mats Zuccarello and company. Zuccarello corralled a puck off a behind-the-net scrum clear by Dickinson. John Klingberg stepped up to take the puck from Zuccarello to play at the point, and while under pressure, Klingberg took the body to make a deft pass back to Zuccarello. He shot the puck towards the net and it missed a little wide. Tyler Seguin, standing near the side of the net where the puck went, was able to move it across the crease to a half-falling Dickinson, who put it past Jordan Binnington for the tying goal. Binnington obviously was concerned about the Seguin shot, and Dickinson had his guy beat on coverage to allow that goal to happen.

The real momentum changer came late in the period with just under a minute left in the first when Jason Spezza tallied a power play goal. The goal not only took a little wind out of the sails of the Blues, but it also marked the first time in which a scoring lead change had occurred between these two teams in eight regular season and post-season games combined. Everyone before tonight had been won by the team that opened scoring first.

SECOND PERIOD

What really was noticeably different for the Stars tonight from Game 3 was the concerted effort to keep their layering approach intact, both offensively and defensively. Every time the puck was played, there were two or three Stars there to ensure it either got out of their own zone or got into the opposition end. That was a hallmark of how the Stars beat the Nashville Predators in Round 1, and that was a big part of their success in beating St. Louis at home in Game 1 this round.

They found it rewarding tonight, too.

The Stars broke through for two more goals in the second period, extending their lead to 4-1 by the end of it.

John Klingberg walked into the zone and was looking for a pass option. With the Blues giving him a lot of space to work with, he decided to step up and simply pick the corner instead. That’s one of the benefits to having a true second line now — there’s a lot of ways in which Dallas can hurt you offensively, and you’re forced to pick your poison. Sometimes that allows elite guys like Klingberg the time and space to make moves like this:

Also, has Klingberg been going to the Alexander Radulov school of celebrations?

The other goal of the period was a product of some fantastic passing. Radulov intercepted a bouncing puck off a Blues stick in neutral ice. He then feeds it forward to Jamie Benn, who is powering down the wing towards Binnington. Binnington squares up to take the shot option from Benn, who deftly directs it across the crease to Roope Hintz, who has been left all by himself charging down the other wing. Hintz was able to put it into the yawning net left by Binnington’s positioning at the side opposite him.

Things started to get out of hand in the end of the second period when it came to roughing after whistles. It actually started when Bishop came into the trapezoid behind his net to play a puck and David Perron two-hand slashed him right across the back. The play went uncalled (though had the slash gotten called, I’d expect that Bishop might have gotten a diving call to even up the calls given his reaction and the visibility of those plays given the whole Esa Lindell saga from last game). In his post-game media availability, Bishop did say that goaltenders have no padding whatsoever where he took the stick, so that likely explains part of his reaction.

You can pinpoint what happened at the end of the game to that one moment. After that point in the game, both teams were getting physical with one another after whistles and it was a matter of time before it boiled over. It did after the period-ending horn was sounded. Binnington came out to punch Benn and give him a slash, both actions he was penalized for, and Benn was given an unsportsmanlike minor for his role in the craziness. (He most likely said something to set Binnington off, if I had to guess.)

As that was occurring, Stars and Blues players all over the ice were jawing at each other. Reportedly, Antoin Khudobin held his glove hand up and made a crying motion towards the Blues bench. Binnington also skate dover and had some words with Bishop before leaving the ice, at one point standing right at the red line by both benches (which, though it was pointed out the second period has the long change and he’d have to skate the full length of the ice to come off it at the end of the game anyway, is not in a direct path to the door for the opponent.)

THIRD PERIOD

The Stars got a power play to start the period off thanks to the extra minor on Binnington at the end of the second. However, it was basically fruitless as the Stars had trouble locating the offensive zone from the center-ice faceoff.

Dallas went on the penalty kill not long after as Tyler Pitlick was called for a hi-sticking penalty. The kill was very good that time for Dallas, but the Blues came back with a solid punch after the man advantage. Being down three goals, we saw a little bit of some score effects come into play. Dallas spent a lot of the period on the defensive trying to protect the lead.

Bishop had a strong third period, and outside of one fluky play, helped seal the win away for the Stars. On the Robert Thomas goal allowed in the third period, Bishop lost his stick on a save and play continued on. He couldn’t get it in time to block Thomas’ shot, and the puck went up and over his shoulder instead.

Dallas locked down the game after that, and even with the goaltender pulled affording them an extra attacker, St. Louis wasn’t able to get any momentum towards a comeback. The Stars have evened the series and handed the Blues their first road loss of the postseason in one fell swoop tonight. Now it comes down to who can win two of the next three.