On an overcast Saturday afternoon in Big-D the Dallas Stars faithful packed Victory Plaza at American Airlines Center for the Official Dallas Stars Round 2, Game 2, Playoff Watching Party. There was a lot at stake. The Stars desperately needed to get the split in St Louis. They most certainly didn't want to return home in an 0-2 hole, having to win 4 of next 5 against a tough Blues team. Just as the clouds parted and the sun began to shine, the First Period got underway. It's crazy to think that First Periods used to be an issue for the Stars, but not Saturday afternoon. Just seven minutes into the game, diminutive dynamo Mats Zuccarello circled behind the net, slammed on the brakes, and found young Roope Hintz alone in front. Hintz wasted no time depositing the puck behind Blues' goalie Jordan Binnington giving the Stars a 1-0 lead. Scroll down to see the goal, followed by the reaction at the Watching Party. Check out my Instagram Story from the afternoon HERE.
Then, later in the First Period, after matching penalties made it 4 on 4, it was Hintz's turn to make a great pass, finding his fellow rookie Finn, defenseman Miro Heiskanen, who made a sweet deke to beat Binnington, BOOM 2-0 Stars!
Just when it seemed the Stars were going to leave the Blues in the dust, defenseman Colton Parayko scored from the point on the very next shot to cut the lead in half. Buzz kill.
Then, 26 seconds later, as my pal Blues PA Announcer Tom Calhoun was announcing Parayko's goal in-arena, the Stars would score on the VERY NEXT shot of the game, when rookie Jason Dickinson played a little "give and go" with Mattias Janmark, and Janny found the back of the net to restore the Stars 2 goal lead. Buzz kill payback!
The second period would see the Dallas Stars' penalty kill step up big time. In fact, the Stars killed off back to back Blues' power plays, including 24 seconds of 5 on 3. Later in the second the Stars penalty killers were tasked yet again to kill off TWO MORE Blues' power plays, and without some heroics from goalie Ben Bishop things might have gotten a lot worse. Check out this amazing instinctive save from Bish, ON HIS STOMACH!
Stars fans knew it would be a long and tense third period trying to maintain a 2-goal lead. Sure enough, the tension ramped up less than two minutes into the third when the Blues' hero from Round One, Jaden Schwartz, executed a sweet deflection off a Colton Parayko point shot that flew by Bishop. There was some controversy as the goal had to be reviewed twice, once by off-ice officials in Toronto to make sure the puck crossed the goal line and then again after the Stars challenged the play for goaltender interference. After a review it was determined to be a good goal and the Blues were one shot away from tying the game up.
Rather than 'turtle' in a defensive shell to protect their lead, Dallas seemed to ramp up the pressure and really take it to the Blues. If it wasn't for St Louis' goaltender Jordan Binnington the Stars could have easily extended their lead. However, as Stars fans have come to expect, nothing is ever easy, and to make things EXTRA tense, poor Roope Hintz would clear the puck over the glass and out of the defensive zone, and in doing so assessed a 2 minute delay of game penalty with 2:45 to play. Thankfully, as the Stars' penalty kill had done in the second period (and all of the First Round against the Predators) they killed it off, and ironically, Hintz would have the pleasure of redemption with the empty-net DAGGER, his second goal (and third point) of the game.
GAME OVER! STARS WIN! SERIES TIED 1-1 Check out my Instagram Story from the afternoon HERE
After the game, it was a happy but reserved Stars' locker room, as the player-of-the-game Cowboy hat was transferred from John Klingberg (the hero of the Stars' Series-clinching Game 6 against the Predators) to Big Ben Bishop, who arguably has been the Stars' best player all season, and the calming force that's permeated through this entire team, keeping them on an even keel throughout the post-season.
Now, the Stars return home to the friendly confines of American Airlines Center for Games 3 and 4 looking to take advantage of home ice, and to take the lead in this Series. Monday's start time is 7pm, Wednesday's is 8:30pm, and the now necessary Game 5 Friday (back in St Louis) is also an 8:30pm start. By the way, the Official Watching Parties for all remaining Round 2 games will be on Victory Plaza. Enjoy the ride Stars fans, it doesn't appear to be slowing down anytime soon.