After an epic two-week, Round 1 Series battle against Nashville, ultimately culminating in a heroic Game 6 OT win on home ice, I was emotionally spent. I'm not suggesting the Stars players were by any means, I'm just telling you how I felt. It had been 11 years since we had felt the joy of clinching a Playoff Series on home ice. That intoxicating feeling of pride and achievement would have to be compartmentalized, as less than 72 hours later, the Stars' were once again in enemy territory, this time against the NHL team with the best record since January 1st, the team that sent them packing in 2016, the St Louis Blues.
What makes this Dallas Stars team different from that 2016 team is goaltender Big Ben Bishop. 'Bish' has proven time and time again he's a calming force that can shut down the opposition, or single-handedly steal a game when necessary. That said, I would think the 2018-19 Vezina nominee probably wants Thursday's first goal back. After the Stars dominated play early on, St Louis forward Robby Fabbri scored on the FIRST SHOT OF THE GAME as he beat Bishop through the five-hole.
Down 1-0 has been a familiar place for the Stars, however, just like they have so many times recently, they fought back to tie it up. After killing off an early second period St Louis power play, Stars forward Mats Zuccarello brought the puck up ice, dished to defenseman John Klingberg, who dipsy-doodled into the offensive zone and found Jason Spezza for a one-timer. BOOM! Tie game.
They say special teams and goaltending wins Playoff games, and from this point on St Louis had the upper hand in Game 1. After Stars defenseman Roman Polak was called for a penalty, it wouldn't take long for the Blues to do something the Nashville Predators were unable to do AT ALL in 6 games, score on the power play. Again, Bishop seemed to give up an uncharacteristic goal through the five hole, this time to Stars-killer Vladimir Tarasenko.
Tarasenko would tally again early in the third period. This time on a beautiful move, as he blew past Stars defenseman Miro Heiskanen, dipped his shoulder, and beat Bishop top corner, in tight. Gotta give Tarasenko his due, it was a spectacular goal.
At 3-1 St Louis' building was rocking and the Stars would need to dig deep and find some way to beat Blues goalie Jordan Binnington. Finally, the Stars got their chance on a late third period power play when Captain Jamie Benn would slam home the puck on the doorstep to cut the lead to 3-2.
Unfortunately, it was too little too late. The Stars ran out of time as the Blues held on for a Game 1 victory. As much as the Stars and their fans would have enjoyed a Game 1 win on the road (which also would have been the team's fourth Playoff win in a row) we knew we were most likely in for another long Series. In the NHL, Playoff Series are not won with a single win, it takes FOUR to clinch, and Toto we're not in Nashville anymore. St Louis is for real, and so are the Stars. They have proven to be resilient, especially after a loss. I expect a nice bounce back on Saturday at 2pm for Game 2.