The St. Louis Blues kept up their defensively stifling ways Saturday, holding down the powerful Dallas Stars offense in a 4-1 Game 5 win.
The victory gave the Blues a 3-2 series lead and a chance to clinch Monday at home.
St. Louis is now one win away from making the Western Conference Final for the first time since the 2000-01 season. Before this year, St. Louis had been eliminated three straight years in the first-round of the postseason and coach Ken Hitchcock was on the hot seat. If the Blues win this series, it will alleviate much of the pressure on Hitchcock, and push the organization to a level it hasn't reached in quite some time.
“The guys did great job forcing everything to the outside and we had a couple of huge blocks in the third period,” said goaltender Brian Elliott, who made 27 saves to pick up his seventh win this postseason.
Alex Goligoski’s goal at the 10:58 mark of the first period was the Stars’ only tally. The Blues held the Stars to 28 shots on goal and Dallas captain Jamie Benn without a point. Benn has four points this series, but has been held scoreless in three of the games.
"It’s tough to score. I think we just have to take advantage of the opportunities that we get,” Benn said.
St. Louis took a 2-1 lead at the 10:31 mark of the second period off Dmitrij Jaskin’s tough angle shot past Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen.
Blues forward Troy Brouwer notched his fourth goal of the playoffs at the 17:42 mark of the second period to put the Blues up 3-1.
St. Louis forward Robby Fabri led the way with one goal and an assist.
The Stars came into Game 5 with momentum from their Game 4 overtime win over the Blues. The contest was also at home for Dallas, where the Stars had a lot of success during the NHL’s regular season. They had the Western Conference’s best home record at 28-11-2. But ultimately it didn’t matter.
A lot of the blame has been heaped on the Stars’ goaltending this series and how they’ve gone back and forth between Antti Niemi and Lehtonen.
In Game 5, Lehtonen stopped 18 of 21 shots on goal as the Stars held a territorial advantage. But really the offense has struggled without injured Tyler Seguin.
Seguin has been dealing with a lower body injury and played just one postseason game.
In the five games this series, the Stars have scored just 10 goals, for an average of two per-game. In the NHL’s regular season, Dallas averaged 3.23 goals per-game to lead the league. The Blues ranked fourth in team defense, allowing 2.40 goals per-game.
“If you look at the opportunities we had, we’ve got to cash in," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "We hit a crossbar and missed a couple point blank. When you get chances to execute and turn the game, it’s your chance to put the game in your favor and we didn’t. They got a bounce on the first goal. That’s just puck luck, sometimes you get it and sometimes you don’t. We put ourselves in position five or six times to make a difference in the game but we didn’t put it in the back of the net.”
In their first-round series against the Chicago Blackhawks, the Blues needed three games after going up 3-1 to close out their opponent. Game 6 will show if they’ve learned their lesson about finishing off the opposition.
“It’s nice that we are kind of approaching it as just another series and not thinking of the magnitude of it, but I think we have done a good job at staying hungry and realizing that it’s another goal of ours to get there [Western Conference Final]," Blues defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk said. "Once we get there, win one more series and make it to the big show.”
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