Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko (91) celebrates with the crowd after scoring his second goal of game 1 in a 3-2 win. (Photo courtesy: Jeff Curry, USA Today Sports)
ST. LOUIS, MO – The Blues were 1-4 against the Dallas Stars this season. The Blues clearly missed that memo.
The St. Louis Blues and the Dallas Stars opened round 2 of the Stanley Cup playoffs in front of a packed house at Enterprise Center. The Blues didn’t disappoint the fans, securing a 3-2 victory in the opening game of the best-of-seven series. St. Louis got on the board from Robby Fabbri’s first playoff goal in three years, and a pair from Vladimir Tarasenko told the Blues’ story.
The Stars got a goal from their captain Jamie Benn late in the game to bring it within one, but the Blues defense shut them down to get the opening game win. The Blues are back in Enterprise Center Saturday at 2pm for game 2, with a 1-0 series lead.
After the all-out war that was the Winnipeg-St. Louis series, the opening period to game 1 felt like it was on slo-mo. The Blues and Stars started out patiently and tried to settle into the series with zone time and set plays. However, it was a play off the rush that opened up the scoring at Enterprise Center with a name that Blues’ fans hadn’t heard from in almost three years: Robby Fabbri. Fabbri found some space and grabbed the first shot and the first goal for St. Louis in game 1.
Fabbri’s five-hole wrister was one St. Louis native Ben Bishop would like back, but it put the Blues up 1-0. His first goal since late November and his first playoff goal since May 2016 was assisted by Barbashev and Parayko. The Stars and Blues traded a few more chances, but the Blues defense managed to keep out the high-scoring chances and Jordan Binnington would do the rest. St. Louis headed to the locker room of Enterprise center up 1-0 but outshot 7-8.
The Blues and Stars were playing physically, but the speed of the game stayed relatively the same. The Stars slowly took the edge in puck possession, halting the Blues’ defensive exits and making better passing choices. That would pay off for the Stars halfway into the period, when Jason Spezza was fed perfectly across ice by John Klingberg.
The goal tied things up at 1 apiece, with new Dallas forward Mats Zuccarello getting the other assist. The Stars jumped on that momentum and took advantage of the Blues, who looked like they had some heavy skates. The Stars delivered some great chances to Binnington but he turned them all aside. That gave the Blues some momentum towards the dying minutes of the game and St. Louis played a tough, grinding game in their O-zone that eventually contributed to a power play.
The power play quickly paid off: Vladimir Tarasenko scored on the man advantage for the third time from his front office and the Blues went up 2-1.
Tarasenko’s third of the playoffs was assisted by Brayden Schenn and captain Alex Pietrangelo with just two minutes remaining in the second. The Blues went to the locker room again with the lead, this time outshooting Dallas 14 to 12.
The Stars opened up the third with an early power play, but Binnington was prepared for his biggest challenge of the game, including a great kick save against Jason Spezza. The Blues were fueled by the special teams play again, and this time, it was Tarasenko yet again scoring a goal that looked like one of his dazzling rookie moves.
Tarasenko’s 2nd of the game and 4th of the playoffs came four minutes into the third and put the Blues up 3-1. That goal put the Stars into overdrive, and they laid siege onto Jordan Binnington for the remainder of the period. The Blues’ defense started to slack and hand over too many easy chances, but Binnington was spectacular as he denied every shot that came his way.
In the final three minutes, Alex Pietrangelo committed a high sticking penalty on captain Jamie Benn, and the captain punished the Blues with the top line for Dallas scoring their first goal of the evening. The whistle came just an instant after Benn tapped in the loose rebound.
Benn’s second goal of the playoffs was assisted by Roope Hintz and brought the Stars to within one. With the game on the line, Dallas pulled goaltender Ben Bishop as soon as they could with 55 seconds remaining in regulation. The last-ditch effort was met well, with the defensive play for St. Louis coming up big.
The Blues took game 1 thanks to Vladimir Tarasenko and Jordan Binnington in a 3-2 win. Binnington stopped 27 of the Stars’ 29 shots, while St. Louis only put up 20. St. Louis takes the series lead 1-0 in the opening game over the Stars.
The Blues recognized the contribution from their top goal-scorer being the difference maker in the opening game of the series. “[Tarasenko] can shoot the puck. He’s one of the best in the league in picking his corners,” coach Craig Berube told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “Vladi’s a good shooter. He’s gonna beat [Bishop] sometimes and there’s other times when Bishop makes the saves.”
The Blues were also elated that Robby Fabbri, after fighting ACL injuries for over two seasons, got another big playoff goal. “We’re all real happy for him to see him in the playoffs and play like this, and then he gets rewarded with a goal tonight… he’s resilient and staying with it,” coach Berube said in the postgame.
The Blues and Stars duel again in Enterprise Center for a 3 pm ET Saturday matinee game. St. Louis could double up on the series lead before headed to American Airlines Center on Monday. To find Saturday’s game, head to:
STL – NBCSN, KVLY 98.1, NHL.tv
DAL – NBCSN, KTCK 1310, NHL.tv
AROUND THE PLAYOFFS
CBJ@BOS – Former Minnesota forward Charlie Coyle continued his playoff magic scoring a pair, including the game winner, to give Boston a 3-2 overtime win. The Bruins take a 1-0 series lead at home.
COL@SJS – The Avalanche open up their series tonight in the Shark Tank. Sharks’ captain Joe Pavelski, after a scary hit in game 7 against Vegas, is day-to-day.
CAR@NYI – The New York Islanders welcome the Hurricanes to Long Island tonight after a 10-day break from hockey, with a sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
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