By LOU KORAC
ST. LOUIS -- Blues right wing Ryan Reaves finally got the spotlight two days after "the kiss."
Reaves was asked what led to all of the happenings towards the end of a 6-1 win against the Dallas Stars in Game 3 of the Western Conference Second Round where he fought Curtis McKenzie after Stars defenseman Stephen Johns checked Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo from behind.
Reaves said he asked Johns if he wanted to fight but Johns did not and McKenzie stepped in instead. The only reason Reaves said he fought McKenzie was because the Stars rookie grabbed Alexander Steen.
"(Johns') gloves were kind of glued on and McKenzie grabbed 'Steener' and kind of had him in a weird spot," Reaves said. "End of the game, can't let a fourth line guy grab one of our top-line guys. I made sure I stepped in there."
When asked why Johns didn't fight, Reaves said, "It's a question for him. I don't know. I just told him it's a gutless shot at the end of the game. It's playoff obviously; he's trying to finish his check, but still a pretty dangerous hit."
To which Johns replied, "I don’t really care what he has to say. I’m just out there playing my game. I didn’t think it was a dirty hit. Was just trying to go for the puck. Wasn’t like I was targeting a guy from behind… he happened to go into the boards in a weird way.
"I’m not going to focus on anyone’s comments. Just go out and play my game. It doesn’t faze me."
The Stars said Wednesday that they were "embarrassed" in the manner in which they lost but by Reaves, as he was skating off, blew a kiss towards the Stars bench.
Stars captain Jamie Benn said it's something they won't forget heading into Game 4 today (7 p.m., NBCSN, KMOX 1120-AM).
"DId he catch it and put it in his pocket," Reaves half-joked when told of Benn's comments. "If he wants to remember that ... I don't know why that's such a big deal to him."
On why he did it, Reaves said, "It was just kind of a spur of the moment. It just came out, heat of the battle kind of thing. There was a lot of chirping back and forth all game between me and one of their guys. That came out.
"I don't know if they really need to be getting that fired up about something so small like that," Reaves added. "That's my game, I try to get under guys' skin. It's going to continue. I'm sure we're going to have a little more fun today."
Reaves also caught teammate Kevin Shattenkirk's rendition for Jaden Schwartz, who missed it live.
"I did. He didn't pull it off as well as I did, but I saw it, yeah," Reaves said. "... He blew it right at 'Schwartzy.'"
But as Shattenkirk said, the Stars are trying to motivate themselves any which way they can.
"I think they're looking for something in the last game that they can use as some motivation," Shattenkirk said. "I'm sure that pisses them off a little bit. I know it wouldn't sit well with us. From our point of view, we expect them to be a pretty angry team tonight — kiss or not.
"I think they're a team that's probably not happy with what happened last game. It's something that we've got to be prepared for. They're going to be physical, they're going to come out and try to check us. If we can kind of look past that and be ready for it, I think we'll be able to get back to our game again."
Benn was asked if those words outside the ice get brought in once the puck drops.
"I think you can say all you want, but in the end, you've got to let the play do the talking for you," Benn said. "Like I said, we know what we have to do. We have to improve as this series goes along. The only way is up from last game."
Stars coach Lindy Ruff said it becomes an issue of pride.
"No, we embarrassed ourselves, and then we got embarrassed," Ruff said. "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."
Captain David Backes feels the Blues are playing disciplined hockey and that needs to continue.
"It's one of those things where emotions run high," Backes said. "They're taking some runs at key players. Reavo's out there for a reason. He takes care of his business. The ending is the ending and we move on from that. We're not carrying anything over from Game 3 to this game. We know what kind of game we need to play, stay focused on winning a game. If it means taking a few bangs to make some plays or cheap shots to get on power plays, we've got guys in here willing to do that. That's a good sign of how focused we are and what kind of sacrifice we're willing to make to have success."
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When a coach uses the word "embarrassed" when referencing to his team's play, there's no other choice for the Stars to use that as motivation against the Blues.
The Stars' 6-1 loss to the Blues in Game 3 served up enough motivation by the end result, but when things got chippy at the end and play got a bit physical, it was another reminder that the Stars need to bring more to the table.
"A hundred percent," Benn said. "We didn't bring out the effort that we wanted, especially in the playoffs when it's the most important time of the year. We got embarrassed, they embarrassed us. We've got a lot to work for tonight."
Ruff didn't mince words a day later.
"I thought we embarrassed ourselves with some of our play, so the answer to the question, yeah, I don’t want to lose 6-1," Ruff said. "The result is the same, but the pain is greater.
"And maybe we needed that. If it’s only 3-1 maybe we thought … I said in earlier games I thought we played well. We didn’t play well last game. I’m not going to sugar-coat it. We didn’t play well enough to win. We deserved to lose 6-1 the way we played."
The Blues have the chance to grab a strangehold on the series with a 3-1 lead, something they had against the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round before winning Game 7. They expect Dallas' best effort of the series Thursday.
"Tonight is going to be another nail-biter," Shattenkirk said. "They have to play as a desperate team tonight and if we can match that desperation and get to our game, I think we'll be just fine.
"This is a game where we can almost establish that home ice advantage if we can win this tonight. It's the complete opposite for them. If they win this game, they have two more home games to finish the series. We want to make sure that we're right off the bat getting to our game, getting pucks in deep and not trying to get into that track meet and make them feel comfortable the entire game. This is a pivotal game."
It's the very reason why Blues coach Ken Hitchcock likes where his team is at because of the way it's playing.
"We think we're getting better," Hitchcock said. "We think we were better in Game 3 than we were in Game 2 and that's the focus right now. That's what series end up becoming. You never stay the same, you either get better or you get worse. Teams get digs in on you, whether it's on special teams or 5-on-5, both teams are probing hard for weaknesses.
"We feel like we played well in Game 3, but we're going to have to play better in Game 4 and that's the whole focus. You get rid of all the debris from whatever happened 48 hours ago. You move on and the players are great at it, they move on and all the stories and all the hoopla, whatever went on is past. They move on and try to get playing a better brand of hockey."
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The Blues' projected lineup:
Jaden Schwartz-Jori Lehtera-Vladimir Tarasenko
Alexander Steen-Paul Stastny-Troy Brouwer
Robby Fabbri-Patrik Berglund-David Backes
Scottie Upshall-Kyle Brodziak-Ryan Reaves
Jay Bouwmeester-Alex Pietrangelo
Joel Edmundson-Kevin Shattenkirk
Carl Gunnarsson-Colton Parayko
Brian Elliott will start in goal. Jake Allen will be the backup.
Healthy scratches include Robert Bortuzzo, Dmitrij Jaskin, Magnus Paajarvi, Steve Ott, Petteri Lindbohm, Chris Butler, Peter Harrold, Ty Rattie, Ivan Barbashev, Jordan Schmaltz, Anders Nilsson and Jordan Binnington. The Blues report no injuries.
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The Stars' projected lineup:
Jamie Benn-Cody Eakin-Patrick Sharp
Mattias Janmark-Jason Spezza-Valeri Nichushkin
Antoine Roussel-Radek Faksa-Ales Hemsky
Colton Sceviour-Vernon Fiddler-Brett Ritchie
Alex Goligoski-John Klingberg
Johnny Oduya-Stephen Johns
Kris Russell-Jason Demers
Kari Lehtonen will start in goal. Antti Niemi will be the backup.
Patrik Nemeth, Jamie Oleksiak, Jordie Benn, Curtis McKenzie,Travis Moen and Jack Campbell are healthy scratches. Tyler Seguin (lower body) and Patrick Eaves (foot) remain sidelined.