Saturday, May 7, 2016

Blues dispatch Stars 4-1, grab 3-2 series lead

Elliott's strong goaltending, Fabbri, Stastny with goal, assist each in pivotal Game 5

DALLAS -- The Blues headed home, and after a 4-1 victory against the Dallas Stars in Game 5 of the Western Conference Second Round series Saturday afternoon, they will have a chance to clinch their first trip to the conference final since 2001 with a win Monday.

Second period goals by Dmitrij Jaskin and Troy Brouwer lifted the Blues to a 3-2 lead in the best-of-7 series with Game 6 slated for Monday in St. Louis at 7 p.m.

Robby Fabbri had Paul Stastny each had a goal and assist, and the Blues won their first Game 5 in a series since April 21, 2012 when they beat the San Jose Sharks in the first round to clinch the series 4-1; they had been 0-3 the past three Game 5's.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Troy Brouwer (left) celebrates his goal as teammate Robby Fabbri joins in
during the Blues' 4-1 victory in Game 5 in Dallas.

And coach Ken Hitchcock won his 83rd playoff game and puts him in sole possession of ninth place all-time ahead of Mike Babcock and Toe Blake.

The Blues are 6-1 this season, including the regular season, in day games.

Brian Elliott made 27 saves and was sensational, especially in a chaotic first period where nobody seemed to want to be physical. 

Hitchcock blew up his forward lines to start the game and it turned into the kind of track meet the Stars wanted in the first period, but they survived and came away tied.

"I think I've experienced those morning games before and they're all the same," Hitchcock said. "They're 100 miles and hour and not a lot of body contact and not good for us. We had to get it turned around the other way. First period, we were struggling keeping up, caught kind of behind the play a little bit. They were able to play on the move; they're a real good team, especially when they're able to play that way, they're a great team. We had to get it dulled down a little bit."

The Blues got off to the start they were looking for and a fortuitous bounce helped them go up 1-0 on Fabbri's second goal of the playoffs.

Fabbri go the puck from Kevin Shattenkirk, and his centering pass to Brouwer on the back post caromed off the skate of Brett Ritchie and in six minutes into the game.

The Stars equalized off a failed Blues clear when Colton Parayko had a puck knocked off his stick from behind by Jason Spezza along the wall in the Blues' zone and couldn't get a clear by Vernon Fiddler, the Stars keep it in the zone and Alex Goligoski skated in down the slot after getting Fiddler's pass and beat Elliott high glove side with a wrister at 10:58 of the opening period.

As to why Hitchcock moved players around on line, he quipped, "Throw em up in the air, see what sticks. 

"We've done this all playoffs," Hitchcock added. "Every time we adjust, we seem to play better, so we made some adjustments, we thought it through."

The Blues settled in and got to their game in the second period -- wait, the second period?! -- and outscored the Stars 2-0 after Hitchcock went back to what worked through the early part of the series.

"There was lots of consultation, we switched and on one of the units, we switched back," Hitchcock said. "We felt like we needed a different energy from our team and we got it."

Jaskin's first career playoff goal put the Blues ahead 2-1 after a great forecheck by the fourth line, and Scottie Upshall eventually stepped in and got around Patrick Sharp before feeding Jay Bouwmeester, who fed Jaskin for a shot that Lehtonen made a right pad save on, but Jaskin stayed with the rebound and roofed it at 10:34 of the period.

"I think it's great," Jaskin said. "I've been waiting for this moment for three, four weeks," Jaskin said. "It's great. I found out this morning and I was ready.

"We had a pretty shift. We had the puck for probably 30 seconds. I saw 'Bouw' has the puck and he looked at me and tried to pass it through. A couple bounces, a good save, I was trying to go higher, as high as I can, and ended up in there."

The shot went in and out so fast, that fourth line center Kyle Brodziak was on the doorstep to put the puck back in just in case.

"I thought it was a double crossbar or something, a double post," Jaskin said. "So I didn't really celebrate. It was nice to find out it was in."

Hitchcock did keep Fabbri, Stastny and Brouwer together and they worked their magic again with Brouwer scoring his fourth playoff goal and seventh point in the past seven playoff games.

Fabbri found Stastny, who got it to Brouwer at the back post. He fanned on the shot but got enough of it to get in with 2:18 remaining in the period to make it 3-1.

"I'm not sure if (Stastny) was trying to shoot it or pass it, but I was just trying to hold my ice in front of the net and was able to bang it in," Brouwer said. "Another timely goal for our line.

"... It was rolling to begin with, so I just tried to hit it hard. It did flip over my stick, but I got enough. Looking at it again, I think if I would have got it right away and got good contact on it, his pad might have been in the way. I think it was actually fairly fortunate that I got only half of it. ... I would take as many of those as they would give me. You know, I thought putting our line back the way it was with 'Fabbs,' we have so much familiarity, we've done a great job creating good opportunities - 'Fabbs' getting on the board early - and also having (Stastny) get rewarded at the end of the game with an empty-netter."

Hitchcock joked: "Well … he’s on the beach, and there’s the ocean. It’s just got to go in. You just can’t miss it from that much sand."

It was the exact same result for the Blues at the end of the second period of Game 2 here. They led 3-1 last Sunday but according to Hitchcock "played the score," and got burned before winning on David Backes' overtime goal.

Not the case this time, although the Blues had to kill off two penalties in the period (they're 15 for 16 in the series), and Elliott made the series-changing stop -- or stops -- on Cody Eakin with 16:08 remaining that could have easily made it a 3-2 game and then anything could have happened.

Eakin was all alone in front of Elliott, who moved from his right to left to stop Eakin on two chances after Sharp fed the Stars center the puck.

"You try to get over and get big, seal the ice and take care of any garbage left out in the front," Elliott said. "It was kind of a bang bang play, didn’t have much room. Just tried to be big."

It came as no surprise to any of Elliott's teammates.

"He tells us before the game that he’s got a couple big saves," Shattenkirk said. "Just like we have guys making big plays out there, sparking a little energy, he does the same thing for us. That’s what he prides himself in. He makes them because he’s just following the puck so well. His head is so focused right now and it’s great to see."

Stastny's second goal in as many games sealed the deal for the Blues after the Stars pulled Kari Lehtonen with 4:04 remaining. Stastny scored the empty-netter with 1:40 remaining.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues goalie Brian Elliott (1) makes one of 27 saves on the Stars' Radek
Faksa during Saturday's Game 5 playoff game in Dallas.

And the Blues, like they did against Chicago in Game 7 of the first round, will look to thrive off what will be a boisterous crowd for a potential series-clinching game.

"I can't wait," Jaskin said. "The Scottrade Center will be bumping and hopefully we're going to close it out in a couple days."

"We've worked hard all series, even in the series before this to try and give ourselves as many opportunities to clinch as we can," Brouwer said. "The last time, it took us a couple of more games than we would have liked to. We've learned a lot from those situations and I think especially going home here for Game 6, it's going to be a real important game for us to try to close this out as soon as possible." 

No comments:

Post a Comment