The Stars rebounded beautifully from a 6-1 blowout loss in Game Three to upend the host Blues, 3-2 in overtime on May 5 at Scottrade Center. Forward Cody Eakin netted his first playoff goal less than three minutes into overtime to vault Dallas back into a Western Conference semifinal series deadlock at two games apiece.
Eakin’s goal turned the Stars-Blues series into a best of three series, with Game Five set for Saturday, May 7 at noon (CDT) at American Airlines Center in Dallas. Game Six will be played back in St. Louis on Monday, May 9 with an opening puck drop at 7 p.m. (CDT). If necessary, Game Seven will be in Dallas on Wednesday, May 11.
“That’s the nice thing about finishing first (in the Western Conference during the regular season),” said Eakin after the Stars captured their first playoff overtime verdict since Brenden Morrow scored in the fourth overtime against San Jose on May 5, 2008. “We’ve got (the home ice) advantage back. It’s a race to two (wins and a series victory), which is going to be a lot of fun.”
Eakin scored after taking a pass from Patrick Sharp on a rush up ice and roofing a shot over the shoulder of St. Louis goalie Elliott from the left circle.
“It’s a big goal, it’s a big overtime (goal),” said Sharp after Dallas improved to 1-2 in overtime games this postseason. “We’ve had a couple (overtime games) in this playoff run but we didn’t get the result we wanted. We were confident, we were comfortable, we were excited about the opportunity we could win a game and go back to Dallas (tied at two apiece).”
Sharp gave Dallas took a 2-1 lead early in the second period with his fourth playoff goal, converting a Jamie Benn feed for the Stars’ first power play goal of the series. The goal came just 1:09 after rookie Radek Faksa had tied the score with his third red light of the playoffs. Vladimir Tarasenko had opened the scoring with a first period goal, and St. Louis teammate Paul Stastny tied it again, 2-2 with less than seven minutes remaining in the middle period.
Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen made 24 saves, including several breakaways, while Elliott stopped 25 shots.
Stars coach Lindy Ruff was very proud of his team for its ability to rebound nicely from its one-sided loss in Game Three. “I said it’s time for us to man up, and I thought we did,” Ruff said. “I thought our leaders were our leaders. I thought Jamie Benn was great again, and I thought some young guys played really well.”
The 6-1 triumph enabled the Blues to grab a two-games-to-one series lead two nights earlier (May 3) at Scottrade Center. After Stars forward Colton Sceviour opened the scoring by beating Elliott (25 saves), the Blues took control of the game.
“We just have to be better as a group, that is the bottom line,” said Benn after his team’s most lopsided loss of the season (their biggest margin of defeat had been four goals). “I have a lot of faith in the guys in here. We had a slip-up. It happens. We just have to be better as a group.
“It’s never good when you lose like that in the playoffs,” Benn added. “But the good thing is (this is) a seven-game series and in the playoffs, you have to have a short memory. We’re going to move onto the next (game).”
St. Louis connected for two power play goals while the Stars were zero for four with the man advantage. During five-on-five play, the Blues forced turnovers in the offensive zone to victimize goalies Antti Niemi (three goals on 12 shots) and Lehtonen (three goals on 27 shots).
“We handed them plays in our own end. That hurt us,” said Ruff, who used both his goalies for the second straight game. “(The goalies) are not at the front of this one.
“It hasn’t been a goalie issue,” echoed Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski. “We’re giving up some big chances, at bad times, early in games. We’re putting pucks in places we’re not supposed to, and they’ve been a little harder on some battles and put them in the back of our net, so give them credit.”
Dallas appeared to have tied the game 2-2 late in the first period when the referee signaled that a Jason Demers shot had entered the St. Louis net behind Elliott. However, replays showed the puck hit the crossbar and never crossed the goal line, resulting in a “no goal” call.
“The game changed on the non-goal,” said Blues coach Ken Hitchcock. “We played pretty well and made a mistake in our own zone. We could have gone (into the locker room at the first intermission) tied and we ended up going in up and that was a big swing in the momentum of the game. Instead of being discouraged, I thought we were in a different mental frame, so that crossbar gave us a different attitude coming out for the second period.”
The Blues’ top scorers finally got back on track as Alex Steen and David Backes both scored twice while Tarasenko added a goal and two assists. “This is the game that we wanted to play all the way through,” said Blues forward Troy Brouwer, who had a goal and an assist.
Things got a bit dicey in the third period after Dallas defenseman Stephen Johns rode the Blues’ Alex Pietrangelo face-first into the glass, earning a boarding penalty. Tough guy Ryan Reaves approached Johns before dropping the gloves and fighting Curtis McKenzie. After landing several punches on McKenzie, Reaves blew a kiss off that hand toward the Stars’ bench.
“I thought we embarrassed ourselves with some of our play….and maybe we needed that (blown kiss),” said Ruff. “We embarrassed ourselves, and then we got embarrassed. I think that all plays a factor. When you’re trying to win a game, if stuff like that happens, you reach outside your character, you reach for something to grab onto, and you move forward in the series. That’s for the players to decide.”
Reaves admitted that the histrionics were “Just a heat of the moment kind of thing. A lot of chirping back and forth all game. The way the game ended, it just came out.
“Yeah, I thought Johns’ hit was a little dangerous,” Reaves added. “I saw his gloves were kind of glued on. Then McKenzie grabbed (Alex Steen) and kind of had him in a weird spot. End of the game, I can’t let a fourth-line guy grab one of our top guys, so I had to make sure that I stepped in there.”
“It will give us motivation; they’re feeling pretty good about themselves over there,” said Stars forward Jason Spezza. “You lose 3-2 in overtime or lose 6-1, it all counts the same.”
The Blues had tied the series at a game apiece with a 4-3 overtime win in Dallas on Sunday, May 1. Dallas opened the series on Friday, April 29 with a 2-1 victory in Texas.