– by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief
DALLAS — As soon as Dallas Stars goalkeeper Ben Bishop collapsed under the weight of a heavy slap shot midway through the third period, the chances of the team earning its spot into the Western Conference Final inside friendly confines collapsed with it.
Jaden Schwartz and Sammie Blais scored 33 seconds apart during the decisive third period as the St. Louis Blues defeated the Stars 4-1 in Game 6 of the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs to force a Game 7 back in St. Louis on Tuesday night. Alex Pietrangelo and David Perron also scored for the Blues, who had won their first six playoff games this postseason by a one-goal margin.
“I’ve said it all series, I’ve said it all season, that this is a group that’s going to stick to that game plan,” said Pietrangelo, whose goal came just 63 seconds into the contest. “It might take us to the third period, (but) we’re just going to keep on playing the way we need to play.”
While Perron’s goal in the second period proved to be the game winner, Schwartz’s was the backbreaker to Dallas given the circumstances. St. Louis was up 2-1 when defenseman Colton Parayko unleashed a shot that hit off of the collarbone of Bishop, who immediately crumpled to the ice and rolled around in pain. On the continuous action, Alex Steen picked up the puck and sent in a shot on goal, which was redirected into a yawning net by Schwartz at the 7:37 mark of the third.
Stars fans howled in disagreement with the officials on letting the play continue as Bishop fell to the ice in obvious pain, but head coach Jim Montgomery did not see it the same way while shining a light on what his team needed to do during that peculiar circumstance.
“It’s the referee’s discretionary call. We’ve got to keep playing, we’ve got to keep fighting through that,” Montgomery said. “[The referees are] doing a good job and they’re at this level of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for a reason, and they thought there was no reason to blow the whistle.”
Bishop received treatment from the trainer before staying in the game, but would soon be pulled after allowing Blais to score on a breakaway at the 8:10 mark to give the Blues a 4-1 lead. Blais was playing in his first NHL playoff game and had not played in a game since March 12, but was in the lineup after head coach Craig Berube tapped Blais to replace Robby Fabbri on the Blues’ second line.
Anton Khudobin replaced Bishop after the Blais goal, stopping all five shots he faced in relief. Montgomery stated after the game that Bishop is fine and would be good to go for Game 7.
Jordan Binnington stopped 22 shots for the Blues, only allowing a Tyler Seguin power-play goal at 11:35 of the second that tied the score at 1-1.
The Blues’ start to the game could not have been more perfect, with Pietrangelo’s wrist shot beating Bishop just over a minute into the game to immediately dampen the raucous atmosphere in the arena that was expecting a repeat of the first round when the Stars eliminated the Nashville Predators at home in Game 6.
On the other end of the ice, St. Louis did not allow a shot on goal for the first 8:25 of the game, recording the first eight shots on goal before Stars’ center Justin Dowling forced Binnington into a save along the short side goal post.
It was an exciting challenge for us. None of the guys came in here with their head between their legs,” said Perron, whose goal came with 4:36 remaining in the second period after tapping home a centering feed from Oskar Sundqvist. “We’re just excited to keep playing hockey. That’s what it’s all about. Obviously, we want to get to the end, but we’re excited to keep it alive. We’ll do the same thing next game. It’s a seven-game series for a reason. We’re looking to amp it up and play even better next game.”
*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Sunday’s game, with all photos taken by Dallas-area photographer Ross James. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are 38 pictures in total.