DALLAS, TX – The Stars tonight were big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas.
The Dallas Stars (1-2) evened up the series at two apiece with a decisive 4-2 win over the St. Louis Blues (2-1) at American Airlines Center in game 4. The Blues were a defensive mess from the opening puck drop, and the Stars made them pay for it.
Vladimir Tarasenko grabbed another power play goal to give the Blues the lead, but Jason Dickinson tied it midway through the first and the Stars never looked back. Jordan Binnington made 27 saves on 31 shots in the loss and took two penalties against the Dallas captain and goaltender. Alexander Radulov, Tyler Seguin, and Mats Zuccarello all grabbed two assists in the game 4 win.
St. Louis and Dallas have traded wins as the series turns back to Enterprise Center on Friday in what is now a best-of-3 duel. The Blues will look to rebound off the disappointing loss and take the lead back in front of a home crowd at 8:30 pm in the critical game five.
After the late goal gave St. Louis the win in game 3, the Stars were expected to come out all guns blazing. The Stars kicked their game into overdrive, registering five shots on net before St. Louis could even get into the attacking zone. Jordan Binnington was spectacular early, however, as he denied some quality chances to open the game.
The third line for the Blues grabbed some early momentum, and it contributed to the first power play of the game. After a dismal 1-for-9 in the first two games, it was Vladimir Tarasenko who scored from the near wing to gain a 1-0 lead.
The power play goal came five minutes into the game, with Vince Dunn and Ryan O’Reilly assisting on Tarasenko’s fifth of the playoffs. The Stars responded to the early lead in full force: their forecheck was aggressive and St. Louis’s poor puck management continued to burn them. After a defensive miscue from Jay Bouwmeester, it was Jason Dickinson netting his third of the playoffs to tie the game 1-1.
The Stars tied the game just over six minutes after the Blues scored, thanks to the help of Dickinson, Tyler Seguin, and Mats Zuccarello. The Stars kept their foot on the gas, but Binnington kept the Blues’ heads above water for a time, until Tyler Bozak was called for interference late in the first. In the final minute of the opening stanza, Jason Spezza grabbed a juicy rebound from Alexander Radulov’s shot and the Stars took a 2-1 lead.
The Stars answered with a power-play goal of their own to take the lead late, and the Blues skated off, down 2-1. The Stars also outshot the Blues 12-8.
The Blues looked even worse to open the second period, getting outworked, outskated, and outplayed by the Stars. Jordan Binnington, try as he may, could only stop so much as his defensive players folded in front of him. Midway through the game, it was John Klingberg receiving a perfect feed from Seguin after a neutral zone turnover and put in a perfect wrist shot, top shelf.
Seguin and Zuccarello assisted again on the third goal for Dallas, putting the Stars up 3-1. St. Louis was starting to enter desperation mode, but in a bad way: more bad passes, defensive miscues, and now undisciplined skating and checking. The Stars used that to plunge the knife even further, when captain Jamie Benn fed Roope Hintz easily for his 5th career playoff goal in his rookie season.
The goal, courtesy of the top line and Dallas’ second round 2015 pick came with two and a half minutes left to play in the middle frame. Tensions finally reached a boil at the end of the second period when Jordan Binnington took a cheap whack at the Stars captain, and again at Stars goaltender Ben Bishop.
Benn and Binnington each received unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, and Binnington was also penalized for the slash on Bishop. The Blues, frustrated and undisciplined, headed off the ice down 4-1 and outshot 26-17.
The St. Louis Blues finally started to get their act together in the third period, dominating puck possession in Dallas’ zone. However, the physical Dallas Stars were excellent at forcing St. Louis to the outer perimeter and keeping away high-risk chances.
The Blues refused to quit in the third, even though Ben Bishop saw everything coming his way for over half the game. Finally, Blues rookie Robert Thomas got his first career playoff goal on his fourth shot of the game, bringing the Blues within two with over six minutes left in the game.
O’Reilly had his second assist of the game on the goal, and the captain Alex Pietrangelo tallied the other. The Blues finally had some life as they threw everything but the kitchen sink at Bishop. St. Louis pulled Binnington in the final three minutes of the game for an extra skater, but the effort fell short. Dallas kept St. Louis from registering a single shot after pulling the goaltender and evened the series with a 4-2 win.
Ben Bishop made 27 saves in the victory, and Seguin, Radulov, and Zuccarello all notched two assists. Jordan Binnington also made 27 stops while allowing four goals in the loss.
The Blues were undoubtedly frustrated with their flat play in the first 40 minutes. “We’re disappointed in ourselves; that wasn’t the game we wanted,” Ryan O’Reilly commented to STL-Today. “But, it’s a best out of three now and we’re confident we’ll turn it around.”
“They wanted it more tonight in the first two periods,” coach Craig Berube commented to St. Louis media. “They were desperate and we didn’t match it in the first two periods.”
As for the penalties and physicality from Binnington and the rest of the team, Berube stuck behind them and remained rather cryptic: “I’m not exactly sure how it escalated, but it’s playoffs. Both teams are heated, it’s emotional; things happen.”
The Blues and Stars are in Enterprise Center again on Friday at 9:30 pm ET for the pivotal tiebreaker. The game will air nationally on NBCSN, with KMOX on the radio side. Game 6 has been announced to start Sunday at 3 pm ET in Dallas.
AROUND THE PLAYOFFS
BOS@CBJ – The Blue Jackets grabbed a big 2-1 win courtesy of Matt Duchene to take the series lead, 2-1, with game 4 on Thursday.
NYI@CAR – The Storm Surge continues in Carolina as the Hurricanes defeated the Islanders 5-2. They now take a 3-0 series lead and could sweep the Isles Friday night.
SJS@COL – Logan Couture continued to dazzle with San Jose’s first playoff hat trick In a 4-2 win over the Avalanche. San Jose plays in the Mile-High City again in game 4, leading 2 games to 1.
MLB – The Cardinals are on a roll against the Washington Nationals and look to sweep the 4-game series Thursday afternoon. They sit first in the NL Central and are the second-fastest team in the league to reach 20 wins.
For more local Blues stories, insights and more, visit bluesrants.com!