The St. Louis Blues did not need much motivation going into their third game against the Dallas Stars. They knew they needed a better effort to re-take the series lead.
The St. Louis Blues came into their third game against the Dallas Stars knowing they needed a good start. The Blues were not bad in Game 2 at the opening, but they did not put their stamp on the game. They allowed the Stars to get too much going.
In this game, it was more the opposite. The Blues scored within the first two minutes of the game off a deflected goal, giving them much needed momentum.
The Blues were solid for the first half of the first period, but then the Stars came to life. Right around the midway point of the opening frame, the Stars were finding more space to skate and getting better shots on goal.
Despite their uptick in offense, the Blues did a good job, overall, of containing them. St. Louis was called for a weak penalty and the Stars managed to pop in a power play goal.
After that, the Blues kind of held on the rest of the period. The intermission did them pretty good though.
St. Louis came out with more jump in the second period, which is rarely the case. They retook the lead off a gritty rebound goal.
Dallas had their share of chances in the middle period as the game had opened up a little. Still, the Blues managed to hold their ground and almost doubled their lead on a late breakaway.
The ending of the game was pretty much insane. The lead was gained and lost and gained and lost. It felt like the Blues were surely going to overtime, but managed to squeak one out with about 90 seconds left.
It was not always pretty, but this is playoff hockey.
Pros: Striking Early
The Blues wasted little time getting going in this game. St. Louis managed to score the opening goal of the game just 1:27 into the contest.
Their hottest scorer, Jaden Schwartz managed to get the tally, tying him for the league lead with six playoff goals. It was not his typical goal either.
The Blues got a shot off from just outside the right circle. Schwartz was taking up space in front and managed a great deflection, knocking the puck downward and to the goaltender’s right and in.
It was just the kind of goal the Blues needed at that time. Sure, you’d like them all to be pretty with all the dangles and then roof a shot with skill. They all count, though, and Schwartz has learned that a lot lately after being so gun shy most of the season.
The hot start might not have lasted the entire period, but it was the start the Blues really needed. They would have taken it, but they really would not have benefited from a scoreless first period. They needed to get that first one and getting it early was even better.
Cons: Weak Penalty Costs The Blues
Let’s be honest here. The Blues have been much less disciplined in this series than they were against the Winnipeg Jets.
That said, Dallas has been guilty of some dives too. That was evident when the Stars actually got called for an embellishment penalty.
Still, referees have a tough job. The game moves so fast, that the viewing angle makes all the difference.
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Unfortunately, the official did not have the best of views on a penalty called against Jay Bouwmeester. The stick was between the legs for a moment, but there appeared to be little to no contact.
The Stars player did the smart thing and went to ice as soon as he lost any balance. That gave the official a decision to make and he put the Blues in the penalty box.
Ultimately, that cost St. Louis dearly. They were unable to get control or clear the puck along the far side of the ice.
Dallas quickly worked the puck low and fired a pass around the lone defender. Alexander Radulov was right there to knock it in.
It was a bit of a lucky goal considering the puck was bouncing and barely popped over Jordan Binnington‘s shoulder. Still, it was a deserved goal given how the play broke down, but not so deserved since it felt like a weak penalty. Those are the breaks of the game, however.
Pros: Coming Back Strong
As much as we all love this team and this franchise, nobody would have been surprised if the Blues faltered after Dallas scored their goal. We saw glimpses of it possibly happening toward the end of the first period. The Blues never looked terrible, but the Stars seemed to be taking the game by the collar a bit.
Craig Berube must have made the right speech in the locker room during the first intermission. Instead of coming out flat and dreading the long line changes, the Blues came out with some pop and regained what they had lost.
Not only did the Blues retake the lead, but they regained a solid foothold in the game. It was not like their goal came from nowhere on a counter. The Blues were doing a good job of forcing their way back into each play and getting some good possession.
The goal itself was just the kind the Blues needed. Vince Dunn continued to show why he might be one of the preeminent offensive defensemen in the years to come the way he navigated the puck through tight space along the boards.
Beyond the hop in their step to start the period, the Blues gained a jolt from that goal. They put themselves a little behind the eight ball by taking some penalties, but they continued to play hard and not take a back seat to the Stars.
The only drawback was the Blues had to do it so often. The Stars kept tying the game up, but St. Louis would find a way to regain the lead.
You cannot rely on that kind of bounce back every game. It was nice to have it here.
Pros: Third Line
The Blues have had to rely on their secondary lines in this series. Both team’s top lines have basically cancelled the other out for the most part.
In this game, it was the team’s third line that shined the brightest. Bozak and Maroon got the glory of the goals, but you cannot discount the night that Thomas had either.
Thomas finished with an assist and a plus-3. He only got one shot on goal, but managed to keep so many pucks alive with his close-quarter stickhandling.
Craig Berube mentioned how good this line was in his postgame conference too. He was talking about how the line was so good at cycling the puck and have been good at that since they were put together.
I think what is so good about this line right now is they never give up on anything. Bozak kept pressing toward the net and was there for the rebound.
Maroon was guilty of bumping one of the Stars away from the puck to free himself up. It must be said that if the same happened to a Blues player, we would be up in arms. However, it might be justice given how easy Dallas has gone down at times this series.
Regardless of that, it still took a lot of skill to finish it off. From that kind of angle, Bishop can look like a tower even on his knees.
Maroon had to put just enough on it to get it into the top of the net without going over. It was a fine shot and a fitting end to the night for that line.
This series is just so strange right now. The Blues have yet to really play a great game and still find themselves up by a mark of 2-1.
This game was quite evident of all that. The Blues were never great in this game. They were good for stretches but bordering on bad during others. Still, they won.
Getting that first goal was not incredibly important in the Winnipeg series, but it seems to be in this one. Getting that first goal put the Blues in the right mind frame for the rest of the game.
You would rather see St. Louis find a way to get the lead and keep the lead instead of giving us all heart palpitations. You take the win and look to build off of it though.
The next game is now the most important one. If you can take a 3-1 lead and have a chance to close it out on home ice, you do it. Whatever it takes (to borrow a phrase from the Avengers).
As far as this game, there are lots of things to harp on. The power play is still awful. The Blues were far too careless with the puck and had far too many turnovers in seriously bad spots.
Nevertheless, they found a way to overcome it all. Berbue might not be pleased with how it happened, but you’ll never not be pleased with a win at this point of the year. Learn from it and on to the next one.