Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Blues blast Stars 6-1, take 2-1 series lead

Tarasenko's three-point game, Backes, Steen each net two goals in Game 3

ST. LOUIS -- This time when the Blues fell behind, there was a common theme of coming back stronger and harder.

But unlike Game 2 of the Western Conference Second Round series against the Dallas Stars and even Game 6 of the first round against the Chicago Blackhawks, the Blues kept the pedal to the metal and were unwavering.

Vladimir Tarasenko had a goal and two assists, and Alexander Steen and David Backes each scored twice to lift the Blues to a 6-1 victory against the Stars in Game 3 before 19,323 at Scottrade Center on Tuesday. 
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues players (from left) Jay Bouwmeester, Troy Brouwer and Alexander
Steen celebrate Steen's goal in Game 3 against Dallas on Tuesday.

Troy Brouwer had a goal and assist, and Brian Elliott made 25 saves for the Blues, who lead the best-of-7 series 2-1. Game 4 is in St. Louis on Thursday (7 p.m.; NBCSN).

"This is the game that we wanted to play all the way through," Brouwer said. "Last game in the third period, we had a little bit of a letdown, sitting back on our heels a little bit too much and we let them back into it. We made it more of a game than we wanted it to be and tonight I felt we just kept pushing. We kept attacking, getting pucks forward, making sure that we weren't sitting back, weren't giving the chances to try to create offense off the transition.

"As a result we were able to have some good zone time and keep the momentum in our favor."

The Stars, who opened the scoring on a goal by Colton Sceviour, played each of their goalies. Antti Niemi started and allowed three goals on 12 shots before being pulled at 2:34 of the second period. Kari Lehtonen, who started Games 1 and 2, made 24 saves on 27 shots in relief. 

"It hasn’t been a goalie issue, really," Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski said. "We’re giving up some big chances, at bad times, early in games. We’re putting pucks in places we’re not supposed to, and they’ve been a little harder on some battles and put them in the back of our net, so give them credit.

"But losing confidence in our goalies is not an issue. It’s our game."

Dallas has scored first in each game in the series. Sceviour, who was moved up to Jason Spezza's line for Game 3, was the beneficiary of two fortuitous bounces before scoring at 4:44 of the first.

After Kevin Shattenkirk's clearing attempt didn’t get out of the Blues zone, Spezza's backhand caromed off Shattenkirk in the slot. Joel Edmundson blocked Sceviour's first attempt, and the puck came back to Sceviour, who beat a sprawled Elliott. 

But the Blues' answer again, as they did in Game 2 when Patrik Berglund scored 35 seconds after the Stars went up 1-0, was effective again.

St. Louis scored the final six goals. 

The Blues answered back within a minute of the Stars’ opening goal when Steen scored 57 seconds later to tie it 1-1. Troy Brouwer's forecheck on Alex Goligoski did enough to disrupt the play, and Paul Stastny and Steen worked a give-and-go before Steen's wrist shot from the right circle beat Niemi top shelf past his blocker. 

"We don't want to get down right away but the couple games here that we've had, the guys have responded and put one in the back of the net," Elliott said. "I think it allows everybody to calm down and say we got this. Let's just go on with our game. 

"... I think that's just natural to feel (angry). If you give up a goal you want to go get one. Obviously as a goalie you can't go do it but the guys in front of you want to. There's little mistakes that happen that lead to a goal and they came through in a huge way." 

Backes scored his first goal of the night on the Blues' first power play, redirecting Shattenkirk's straightaway slap shot at 16:10 of the first to give the Blues a 2-1 lead. 

The Stars thought they tied it when defenseman Jason Demers appeared to score from the slot with 1:19 remaining in the first. The goal light came on, and referee Eric Furlatt pointed to the top of the net, but video review showed Demers' shot hit the cross bar.  

"The game changed on the non-goal," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "We played pretty well and made a mistake in our own zone. Emotionally, we could have gone in tied and we went in up. that was a big swing in the momentum.

"Instead of being discouraged, I think we were in a different mental frame of mind. Inches or whatever, but that crossbar gave us a different attitude going into the second period." 

Hitchcock and left wing Scottie Upshall had their minds elsewhere besides the game. Both hail from Alberta, along with defenseman Colton Parayko and all were concerned and worried regarding the raging wildfires that have obliterated a large portion of Alberta, including Upshall's hometown Fort McMurray.

"I know we’re playing hockey but a lot of us that are born in Alberta, our thoughts and prayers right now are for the people of Fort McMurray," Hitchcock said, interrupting his press conference. "The fire’s in the town, and obviously 'Uppy’s from there. We’ve all been there many times. So as much as this is a hockey game, a lot of our thoughts, especially us born and raised in that province, are with the people in that town.

"It’s a hockey game. You see people scrambling there, you see it on TV, it’s pretty scary stuff. When it’s in the town, it’s pretty scary."

The Blues, who were outscored 12-3 in the second period in nine previous games in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs, outscored the Stars 3-0 on Tuesday. 

Brouwer scored after a power move around Stars defenseman Kris Russell at 2:34, sending Niemi to the bench. 

"I don't think ... they’re not at the front of this one," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said.

Brouwer, who took a pass from Jay Bouwmeester, got a good sense early that he would be able to get the edge on Russell.

"Russell's one of those guys who's got a great stick on 1-on-1s," Brouwer said. "He's cut us off on 3-on-2s actually quite a few times in this series already. He stumbled a little bit and then I was able to get a step on him and try to take it to the net from there."

He stumbled a little bit and I was able to get a step on him, just tried to take it to the net from there."

Tarasenko scored his fifth of the 2016 playoffs, becoming the first Blues player since Doug Weight in 2003 to have a three-point game in the same playoff season -- to make it 4-1 at 3:50 after Dallas defenseman John Klingberg turned it over in the Stars zone, and Steen scored his second of the game with 1:57 left on a wrist shot through Lehtonen's right arm. 
(St. Louis Blues photo)
Blues right wing Vladimir Tarasenko (right) gets off one of a game-high
eight shots against Dallas Tuesday. Tarasenko had a goal and two assists.

Backes scored his second of the game and third in two games with the teams playing at 4-on-4 play with 1:54 remaining. He beat Lehtonen with a wrist shot high to the short side to make it 6-1.

"There's maybe a shift or two where they maybe came at us hard, but rather than sitting back, we made the push back and got pucks deep," Backes said. "... We occupied the offensive zone and kept the pressure on. It seemed to be something that guys bought into. We left the next line in a good position to have some success. Credit to everybody in the room that they bought in tonight. We had probably our most complete effort of the postseason."

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