The Dallas Stars had been scoring at a pretty good clip during their recent run, but they found the St. Louis Blues a tough nut to crack Friday night. The Stars had a hard time generating chances through the first two periods, fell behind 2-0 and couldn’t rally, falling 2-1 at Scottrade Center.
“I thought we played real hard, especially in the third, made a good push to get some offense on a really stingy team,” said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. “We came up short at the end, but the guys worked. Our guys worked.”
The loss was a setback in the Stars’ push for a playoff spot in the Western Conference, but hardly a devastating blow. They remain two points out of the final spot, but have one game in hand on eighth place Columbus, whom they play in the next to last game of the season. They also have a game against Detroit, the other team they are battling for the final spot, on the final day of the regular season.
“I just know that we have to go into the L.A. (Sunday) and San Jose (Tuesday), L.A. first and get some points. We’ve got to manufacture points in our games,” said Gulutzan. “I know two teams we are battling with – Columbus and Detroit – are at the end. Anything can happen. We’re just going to focus on the next game. “
Friday’s game against the Blues featured two teams playing on the second night of a back-to-back and it showed at times. It was tightly played and there were not a lot of scoring chances.
“It was a game of two tired teams,” said Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen, who stopped 18 of 20 shots. “We played a tough game last night, there were not too many mistakes today. They were playing great defense and so were we. They just got one more goal than we did.”
The shots were 15-12 in favor of the Blues through the first two periods, but two of the Blues’ shots found the back of the net to give them a 2-0 lead in the game.
The first one came on the game’s first power play, which the Blues went on when Stars forward Eric Nystrom was called for boarding St. Louis forward Vladimir Sobotka. The Blues cashed in 31 seconds into the power play when Chris Stewart knocked home the rebound of an Alex Pietrangelo shot at the 10:10 mark of the first period.
The Blues extended the lead to 2-0 at 7:52 of the second period. After keeping the Stars pinned down for a while, Ryan Reaves picked off a clearing attempt, dumped the puck into the corner, went to the net and scored off the rebound of a Chris Porter shot.
It was just the second time in the last eight games that the Blues had scored more than one goal in a game, excluding goals awarded for shootout wins.
“When we got to two I thought we were going to light it up and get to three,” said Blues coach Ken Hitchcock. “But we stopped at two. It’s progress.”
The Stars made a game of it in the third, scoring early in the period to cut the lead to 2-1. After Matt Fraser picked off a pass in the St. Louis end, the puck ended up on the stick of Stephane Robidas at the right point and his shot was deflected into the net by Antoine Roussel.
That goal gave the Stars some life, and they put the pressure on the Blues the rest of the period but couldn’t get another puck by Blues goalie Brian Elliott.
“It wasn’t the result we wanted,” said Stars forward Jamie Benn. “We had a pretty good push in the third, but it just wasn’t enough.”
The loss was just the second in the last eight games for the Stars (6-2-0).
The Blues, who won for the ninth time in their last eleven games (9-2-0), pulled to within one point of the fourth seed and home ice in the first round of the playoffs.
“The whole story for me here for the month of April has been defense and goaltending,” Hitchcock said. “They’ve done an outstanding job. Timely goals and whatever, we’ve found a way to win. To me, defense and goaltending, I was just thinking watching us play, we’re not easy to play against in our own end. You’re not going to get any free looks or quality chances.”
Trevor Daley sits out with injury
Stars defenseman Trevor Daley did not play in Friday’s game due to an upper body injury.
“He’s a day-to-day guy,” Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said after the game.
With Daley out, Jordie Benn was back in the Dallas lineup for the first time since March 23.