Unable to take advantage when the opportunities were plentiful Saturday afternoon, the Dallas Stars now find themselves boxed in a tight corner.
After losing to the St. Louis Blues 4-1 before a sellout crowd of 18,754 at American Airlines Center, the Stars trail the best-of-seven Western Conference semifinals series 3-2. Another loss to the Blues, and the Stars’ season is over.
Game 6 is Monday night in St. Louis. A Game 7, if necessary, will be Wednesday night in Dallas.
The Blues took control by scoring twice within a 7:11 span of the second period to go up 3-1. St. Louis added an empty net goal with 1:40 remaining in the game to put the Stars on the brink.
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That point was brought home in the Stars’ postgame locker room, although they remain confident they can win this series.
“We’ve been losing this year, but we been bouncing back right away,” Stars defenseman John Klingberg said. “So that’s what we’re going to do right away, too.”
Certainly, the Stars must show a lot more resiliency than they did Saturday. But since the home team has only won two of the five games in this series, the Stars are banking on that fact being in their favor Monday.
They got a bounce on their first goal. That’s just puck luck — sometimes you get it, sometimes you don’t.
Stars coach Lindy Ruff
“After losing two in a row [Games 2 and 3] we know we have to win two in a row at some point in the series if we want to move on,” said Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen, who made 18 saves on 21 shots. “And that hasn’t changed. We have one last chance. We get one Monday, and then get one at home.”
The Stars are probably kicking themselves for not finding a way to win Saturday. They found themselves with the puck within inches of the goal on several occasions, only to be turned away by Blues goalie Brian Elliott, who made 27 saves and turned in another spectacular performance.
“We’re going to have to find a way to get to him,” Stars center Vernon Fiddler said. “He’s a great goalie. We’re going to have to find a way to get some behind him.”
Stars coach Lindy Ruff described what happened to his team as a form of “puck luck” which they couldn’t overcome.
“Well, I think you can look at the outcome of the game, we’ve got to cash in,” Ruff said. “We hit some posts, we hit a crossbar, we missed a couple point blank.”
And it wound up costing the Stars in the end.
“They got a bounce on their first goal,” Ruff said. “That’s just puck luck — sometimes you get it, sometimes you don’t. We put ourselves in position five or six times to make a difference in the game, and we didn’t put them in the back of the net.”
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The Stars outshot the Blues 28-22. But the Blues were the ones who were able to capitalize on their opportunities.
Elliott’s a good goalie. He’s been playing great all year and throughout this playoffs. … We’ve just got to make it a little more difficult on him, try and get some more traffic and find a way to find those rebounds.
Stars captain Jamie Benn on Blues goalie Brian Elliott
“That’d be a big problem if we weren’t getting [shots],” said Stars left winger Jamie Benn, who was named a finalist Saturday for the Hart Trophy as the NHL’s MVP. “So we had our chances, just didn’t score. They got some good bounces there in the second and took advantage. That makes a difference.”
Dallas was on the power play twice in the third period, but failed to score on either occasion. That seemed to discourage the Stars, who initially pulled Lehtonen with 5:04 left in the game.
“Elliott’s a good goalie,” Benn said. “He’s been playing great all year and throughout this playoffs. I think we were going pretty good in the third there. We’ve just got to make it a little more difficult on him, try and get some more traffic and find a way to find those rebounds.”
The Blues took a 1-0 lead six minutes into the game when Robby Fabbri scored off an assist from Kevin Shattenkirk. The Stars tied the game a little more than five minutes later after Alex Goligoski scored on assists by Jason Spezza and Fiddler.
Then the walls caved in on the Stars in the second period. Dmitrij Jaskin and Troy Brouwer scored from inside of five feet to put St. Louis ahead 3-1.
“The first [Blues goal] I gave a rebound right back to them and they lifted it over me,” Lehtonen said. “I don’t really know what happened on the second one. And the third one, I thought there was a shot coming, and I was sliding and it ended up on the other post.”
Whatever the case, the Stars can’t afford any more major mishaps in this series. Otherwise, their season will be over.
First Period—1, StL, Fabbri 2 (Shattenkirk), 6:00. 2, Dal, Alex Goligoski 4 (Fiddler, Spezza), 10:58. Penalties—None.
Second Period—3, StL, Jaskin 1 (Bouwmeester, Upshall), 10:31. 4, StL, Brouwer 4 (Stastny, Fabbri), 17:42. Penalties—None.
Third Period—5, StL, Stastny 2 (Schwartz, Backes), 18:20 (en). Penalties—Backes, StL (holding), 4:38; Brouwer, StL (slashing), 9:14; Janmark, Dal (slashing), 12:50; Fiddler, Dal (roughing), 14:56; Shattenkirk, StL (roughing), 14:56.
Shots on Goal—StL 8-11-3—22. Dal 10-6-12—28. Power plays—StL 0 of 2; Dal 0 of 2. Goalies—StL, Elliott 7-5 (28 shots-27 saves). Dal, Lehtonen 5-2 (21-18). A—18,754 (18,532). T—2:26.
Stars at Blues, Game 6
7 p.m. Monday, NBCSN