Blues fail to capitalize on chances early,
best-of-7 series now even 2-2, with pivotal Game 5
ST. LOUIS -- In a matter of 10 seconds, the Blues went from going up 3-1 in their Western Conference Second Round best-of-7 series against the Dallas Stars to having the series tied up 2-2 and losing home ice advantage.
Stars center Cody Eakin nearly cost Dallas the game, then he made the play that kept the Blues from scoring in overtime before getting the game-winner himself.
It was a whirlwind shift for Eakin, who scored 2:58 into overtime to give the Stars a 3-2 victory against the Blues before 19,770 at Scottrade Center on Thursday.
|(St. Louis Blues photo)|
Troy Brouwer (left) can't beat Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen after getting a
great chance in the first period of a 3-2 overtime loss.
Eakin initially fell down trying to corral a bouncing puck at the blue line, as the Blues kept it in the zone before be back-tracked to prevent Blues center Jori Lehtera from getting a clean shot off from the slot. As the Stars broke out with the puck, Eakin took a pass from Patrick Sharp and beat goalie Brian Elliott high to the short side with a wrist shot to even the best-of-7 series 2-2.
"In the overtime, we're thinking we're going to score; 10 seconds later they score," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We're standing there ... we had a perfect view from the bench. If (Lehtera) gets more wood on it, it's in the net and game over and it ends up in our net."
Game 5 is in Dallas on Saturday at noon (NBC, KYKY 98.1-FM).
"That was that ugly shift leading up to the goal there, they applied some pressure, and I just went for a hit and collided with one of their guys’ glove," Eakin said. "Just a little bloody, that’s it.
"We got four guys up on the rush and (Jamie Benn) threw it over to 'Sharpie' after they had a couple chances in our zone and then I just followed up on the far side and got a little bit of room," Eakin said. "'Sharp' gave it to me and I found a little hole."
Sharp added: "It’s a big goal, it’s a big overtime. We’ve had a couple in this playoff run 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."
Radek Faksa and Sharp scored for the Stars, who got 24 saves from Kari Lehtonen.
"Real solid effort," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "A little bit of a rough start, we gave up a couple of doozies to Tarasenko but after that, it was a heck of a game.
"It was who was going to bend the furthest. I thought the third period we had 3-4 real good looks."
Vladimir Tarasenko had a goal and an assist, Paul Stastny scored a goal, and Elliott made 25 saves for St. Louis.
The Blues' north-south game, which was so effective in their 6-1 victory in Game 3, wasn't nearly as consistent on Thursday.
"Yea, I think at times," Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said. "I think we had a lot of good looks doing that north game. We got away from it for longer stretches with the puck but overall we did some good things. Certainly a lot of stuff to build off of. I mean between tonight and Game 3 there's a lot of stuff to build off of."
Tarasenko opened the scoring at 10:17 of the first period on a breakaway after being sprung by Jaden Schwartz, beating Lehtonen through his five-hole after the Stars lost control of the puck in the Blues zone. Dallas had six skaters on the ice, but Schwartz was able to send Tarasenko in alone for a 1-0 lead.
The Blues had two more quality scoring chances in the first, but Lehtonen robbed Brouwer alone in front with 9:07 remaining, and Tarasenko hit the post with 3:20 remaining after another Schwartz feed.
"We didn't bury them when we had the chance," Hitchcock said. "We let them off the mat with those two quick goals. I thought in the third period we were a little bit inconsistent with our puck management, but had all the chances at the start and didn’t extend the 1-0 lead."
The Blues' missed opportunities in the first period kept the Stars within striking distance, and Dallas scored twice in 1:09 early in the second to take a 2-1 lead.
After a turnover by Blues defenseman Joel Edmundson, Faksa beat Elliott through his five-hole at 4:05 to tie it 1-1.
Within seconds, it was a brand new game.
A disgusted Edmundson, who went off the ice after whacking his stick against the goal post, immediately got a pep talk from Blues associate coach Brad Shaw. The message: it was just a mistake and for Edmundson to keep his head in the game.
"Young player, they're going to make mistakes," Hitchcock said. "Pretty rich competition too. Everybody knew this was going to be a hard series.
"I don't want to get into going after a guy. Wrong time to do it."
Elliott said it's a situation that happens and instead of harping on a young player, the veterans made sure the 22-year-old kept his focus.
"Yeah, those things happen," Elliott said. "You just kind of have to forget about it, shake it off and go out and make your next shift your best. The same with me, don't let anything faze you, just keep plugging away, and we did a good job. We tied it up.
"... I wasn't on the bench, but I'm sure everybody was picking him up. Everybody knows when they make a mistake, or something like that. It's no use kind of yelling at each other, it's just picking each other up and getting back out there."
Then David Backes picked up a tripping penalty and Sharp scored his first goal of the series at 5:14, converting Benn's pass at the side of the net for the Stars' first power-play goal of the series in 13 tries.
Stastny scored his first goal of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs to tie it 2-2 at 13:06 of the second. He redirected Tarasenko's wrist pass into the slot over Lehtonen.
It was the Blues’ fifth power-play goal of the series. Tarasenko has five points the past two games.
But Elliott was called to action in the third period when the Blues really got playing too laterally.
"I don't think it's their doing, I think it's more our doing, trying lateral plays and stuff like that," Elliott said. "But we've got some good players that can make plays, and if they see something that's open, I trust them to do the right thing."
|(St. Louis Blues photo)|
Blues left wing Alexander Steen (right) tries to get a shot off as Stars
defenseman Kris Russell slides across in Game 4 on Thursday.
Pietrangelo said: "A combo of the two. When they get opportunities they're dangerous, we know that. They feed off that. We can do a better job of managing the puck."
Now it becomes a best-of-3 series and the Blues have to at least win one more in Dallas.
"We didn't have enough," Backes said. "They got the overtime game-winner and now we're tied 2-2 in a best of three.
"We think of it as one game. It doesn't matter if we're in Dallas, if we're in St. Louis, if we're in the middle of nowhere. We've got to play our same style of game, put it out there and when we do that, the chips fall on our side of the table more often than not. That's our focus right now."