Friday, April 29, 2016

Late goal sends Stars past Blues in Game 1

Faksa nets winner after Blues push; Elliott solid but Stars grab 1-0 series lead

DALLAS -- The Dallas Stars were supposed to have the smaller team, one vulnerable to the bigger, heavier Blues but one that can counteract what St. Louis can do with their quickness and speed.

In Game 1 of the Western Conference Second Round, the Stars utilized their speed ... and in a sense, beat the Blues at their own game.

Radek Faksa's rebound goal with 4 minutes 44 seconds remaining was the difference in a 2-1 win Friday before 18,532 at American Airlines Center to take a 1-0 series lead.
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues goalie Brian Elliott (1) makes a save in front of Dallas' Patrick Eaves
and teammate Carl Gunnarsson Friday at American Airlines Center.

Game 2 is set for Sunday at 2 p.m. (NBC, KYKY 98.1-FM).

Dallas outhit the Blues 32-26, and it was a Blues team that couldn't find a hit, especially when they were not playing pucks in good positions to force Dallas to play with its back to the play. The Stars' strength is its transition and quickness through the neutral zone, and the Blues fed the engine.

"I think they were winning a lot more battles," Blues captain David Backes said. "Whether that was them being really engaged or us being not that engaged, they were more engaged at the puck and won more puck battles and and as a result of that, created more offense and had the ice tilted towards our net. 'Moose' did a heck of a job keeping us in there giving us a chance and when you tie it up there you'd like to take another step in the right direction instead of having the rebuttal come back towards our end and them score. I don't think we played a great game today, but there were some things to build on. We need to be better on Sunday to beat a very good team over there."

Antoine Roussel and Faksa scored goals on similar plays, off transition odd-man rushes and both crashing the net and hammering home rebounds past Brian Elliott, who was sensational with 40 saves.

"Man, after the second period, 'Ells' gave us a chance tonight, gave us a real chance," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We needed to punch through. When it was 1-1, we were playing well, but we gave up a really poor transition goal. Three guys got caught flat-footed."

The Blues, who had five of the first seven shots in the game, ended the period with Dallas having 12 of the final 14 shots.

The Stars began the pushback, including leading the first period in hits 16-11 after having 13 of the first 16.

A lackluster game got worse for the Blues, who were outshot 17-11 in the second period and the Stars finally broke the scoreless draw.

Roussel drew first blood in this one after the Blues buzzed around the Dallas goal, but the Stars came out in transition, Elliott made a big stop on Faksa in the slot, but Roussel was there for the rebound at 9:36 of the second for a 1-0 Dallas lead.

"We had a chance at one end and it comes back the other way," defenseman Jay Bouwmeester said. "It was weird how the rush played out. Four guys up the ice and two, three guys at the net. Just popped right out to him. That's the way it goes. But that's one goal, first goal in the second period. We did a good job to tie it late and then they got that next one. So, I think as unsatisfied as we played, we had a chance at the end. But we'll get up tomorrow and go at the next one."

The goal continues a bad trend for the Blues in seconds periods in the playoffs. They've been outscored 12-3 in eight games.

"... The first 10 minutes were fine. After that, I didn't like the way we played in the last 10 minutes of the first and the whole second. We fed too many pucks in the wrong places and they just dialed up their transition because of it. We didn't play the right way. Got playing a little bit in the third when the game looked like it was going our way, we started playing the right way. We did the things we needed to do to win, but too many plays that fall right into what they do well in the middle part of the game ... way too many."

Elliott, who made a number of high-percentage saves, including one on Mattias Janmark while sprawled on the ice, kept it a 1-0 game and gave the Blues a chance.

They responded with Kevin Shattenkirk's one-timer from the top of the left circle, a booming shot that beat Kari Lehtonen, who was good himself -- especially in the third period, off a pass from Colton Parayko with 8:32 remaining.

The Blues got to their game, buzzed around then net, and came close to going ahead 2-1. But after Alexander Steen dumped a puck into the Dallas zone and went off for a change, Alex Goligoski split forwards Robby Fabbri and Troy Brouwer in the neutral zone that opened up a 3-on-2. With Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo backing into the defensive zone, Faksa flipped a puck to his right to an onrushing Ales Hemsky, who cut past Bouwmeester and went in on Elliott. Elliott made the save, but with Bouwmeester skating past the net and off the post, Faksa was able to hammer in the rebound with 4:44 remaining.

"Neutral zone play, neutral zone checking, not picking up people, got skated by," Hitchcock said, describing both goals given up. "... They're the No. 1 scoring team in the league for a reason. They've got great speed, but we don't have to feed it all the time, and that's what we did too much today, fed it way too much."

The Blues claimed their had their legs and plenty of energy. It seemed to be channeled in the wrong areas.

"Everyone was good, everyone had plenty of energy," Shattenkirk said. "We had a great … great job off there. We had three days off, we were totally recharged. We just tried to wait and see what they were going to bring a little too long, it took till the third to really get back to our game, we'll be ready to bring that to the puck drop on Sunday."
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues players Colton Parayko (55) and Vladimir Tarasenko (91) celebrate
Kevin Shattenkirk's goal in the third period Friday in Dallas.

Now the Blues will try to beat Dallas at its own game Sunday instead of allowing Dallas to beat them at their game again.

"No, I don't think so. I think it's exactly what we thought it was going to be," Elliott said. "They threw a lot of stuff at the net and put a lot of bodies at the net. We were right there."

"You obviously think that we're going to get it done, that's the type of attitude you have to have. We had a big goal to get us back in it without about 10 minutes left. Obviously giving up one with five minutes left is not what you want to do. But we kept fighting. We knew it wasn't going to be an easy series. So we're down one and now we've got to respond."

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