Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Benn OT goal gives Stars emotional win against Blues

Dallas wins night after collapse of teammate, 
snaps St. Louis winning streak at five games

ST. LOUIS -- The Dallas Stars could have used a 'Win One for the Gipper' approach. The Blues were just searching.

They earned a point and increased their lead by two against the Anaheim Ducks, but it was a loss that needs to be served as a wake-up call according to Blues coach Ken Hitchcock.

After the cardiac incident involving Stars forward Rich Peverley on Monday against the Columbus Blue Jackets, there was no question that game would be postponed. There was some question whether Dallas would travel to play Tuesday night against the Blues. 
(St. Louis Blues/Mark Buckner)
Roman Polak (46) scored his first goal in 37 games Tuesday but the Blues
lost 3-2 in overtime to the Dallas Stars and Valeri Nichushkin (right).

Peverley, who collapsed Monday on the bench during the first period, is resting comfortably in a local hospital in the Dallas area.

The Stars did continue on and put up a valiant fight against the team with the most points in the NHL, and their captain helped them get two huge points. 

Jamie Benn's wrist shot from the right circle with 1 minute 18 seconds remaining in overtime gave the Stars a 3-2 win against the Blues at Scottrade Center.

The Stars (32-23-10), who jumped back ahead of the Phoenix Coyotes for the second Stanley Cup Playoff wild-card spot in the Western Conference, got goals in regulation from Colton Sceviour and Antoine Roussel. Goalie Tim Thomas stopped 28 shots in his first start after being acquired at the NHL Trade Deadline. 

Benn took a pass from Trevor Daley and beat goalie Ryan Miller high on the short side for a Stars team that was still coping with the serious events surrounding their teammate.

Stars coach Lindy Ruff sent a text message to Peverley in Dallas and got a quick response.

"I think they'd let him [watch the game]," Ruff said. "I know he was undergoing tests, not sure whether sedated. 

"I texted him right after the game and he responded. He was happy, he said, 'Keep rolling.' I just said at the end, 'See you tomorrow.'"

Alex Pietrangelo and Roman Polak scored for the Blues. Miller made 27 saves and lost for the first time in five starts since being acquired from the Buffalo Sabres.

"I came across. I just went from a down position covering the more obvious play and it just leaves you a little more out of position for those cross passes," Miller said of the game-winner. "I kind of knew [Benn] got lost up there, but no one was on the backside the way the play developed. Just didn't get my whole body over in time."

The Blues (44-14-7) have 95 points, two more than the Anaheim Ducks in the race for the Presidents' Trophy. St. Louis leads the Pittsburgh Penguins by three points. 

St. Louis set a franchise record for consecutive games with at least a point in division play; they're 18-0-2 in the Central. In 1968-69, when there was no overtime and games ended in ties, the Blues were 15-0-4 in the West Division.

The loss snapped a five-game winning streak for the Blues, but Hitchcock said he could see this result coming after narrow one-goals wins against the Colorado Avalanche and Minnesota Wild.

"We got away with this in Colorado and got away with it in Minnesota," Hitchcock said. "We didn't get away with it tonight. We're just feeding teams transition. We're not putting pucks in deep, we're not getting on the grind. We're turning way too many pucks over. The times that we did things the right way, we were really effective. We had a lot of good play, but we just got too many inconsistencies within our group about putting pucks in deep, playing the right way ... so we pay for it. 

"We've got too much east-west in our game and we're really paying for it right now. When you play this way, it's hard to grab it during the game. Players are going to have to dig in and start playing the right way. You don't want to be doing the things we're doing right now and think that you're going to grab it a month from now. We're going to have to get our best players and our leaders to invest more in playing the right way. We're winning games or we're the same as people or a little bit better, but we're not controlling the game. When you play north-south the right way, you control the hockey game. We're not doing that right now."

The Stars took the lead when Roussel broke in and squirted a backhand through Miller after a David Backes turnover 2:19 into the third period. 

Much of Dallas' transition game is based off speed and the Blues seemed to feed into the Stars' strength.

"They put you under pressure, make you make plays before you want to and faster than you want to and create turnovers," Backes said of the Stars. "If we talk to each other, make solid plays tape to tape, get pucks out, get pucks in, go forecheck, that's tough to play fast when we're doing that. We didn't get to that game a ton. The result is a loss on the record, but we've got to take some learning lessons from this one as well and play a good team on Thursday."

Polak's first goal in 37 games tied it 2-2 at 5:01. His fourth goal of the season, which tied a career high, came off a one-timer from inside the blue line that beat Thomas high stick side.

The Blues had much of the better play the remainder of the period. There were too many stretches of inconsistent play.

"We're becoming more a one-and-done offensive team, and that's not how we're built," Hitchcock said. "That's now what makes us effective. Right now we're just playing. We're not playing with a purpose that we need to play with moving forward. Hopefully we can get this changed."

Pietrangelo's first goal since Jan. 10, a span of 21 games, gave the Blues a 1-0 lead. Magnus Paajarvi's wraparound attempt created a loose puck and gave Pietrangelo the opportunity to jump into the play and beat Thomas 13:01 into the first period. 

Sceviour, recalled earlier in the day to replace Peverley, got the Stars even when he was on the doorstep and backhanded a shot past Miller, who gave up a rebound on Alex Goligoski's one-timer from the right point on the power play with 52.7 seconds remaining in the first. The Blues had killed 33 of 35 since Feb. 1 (11 games).
(St. Louis Blues/Mark Buckner)
Magnus Paajarvi (left) and Ryan Reaves (75) celebrate a goal with Alex
Pietrangelo (right) Tuesday night against the Dallas Stars.

"We're not playing the right way," Hitchcock said. "It starts with our best players. They've got to dig in. This should be a wake-up call. I think the last three games should be a wake-up call. We've got to make it a wake-up call. For me, we've got to get those guys investing more and playing the right way so we can sell it to other people. If they're not going to invest to playing the right way, then it's going to be a hard sell. I'm sure they're going to invest. Hopefully this will be a wake-up call for us."

"We were in the game tonight," Miller said. "It could have gone either way. Now we've got to really fight for getting that feeling back.

"We defend nicely still. It's just they got a few openings and made them count."

The Blues fell to 21-5-7 in one-goal games. They also failed to win for only the sixth time (36-1-5) when scoring the first goal in Jay Bouwmeester's 700th straight game, the longest ironman streak not only in the NHL but in all of pro sports.

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