The St. Louis Blues have been playing desperate hockey all of 2019 — since being in last place at the start of January and making an incredible comeback to make the playoffs.
Now they are trailing in the postseason for the first time, down 3-2 in their second-round series against the Dallas Stars, and have to win consecutive games to advance to the Western Conference finals.
“It’s no different, all year, ever since Jan. 1 we’ve had to climb, and we’ve faced adversity,” Blues center Brayden Schenn said.
Said center Jaden Schwartz: “Win or you go home. Simple as that. The desperation level needs to be higher than it’s ever been.”
Actually, it would be win and go home for a chance to advance.
But St. Louis first has to win Game 6 in Dallas on Sunday. It is the only NHL playoff game on the schedule because wrapped up a four-game sweep of the New York Islanders in their series.
The Stars took the series lead with their 2-1 road win Friday night. They will try to repeat what they did in the opening round, when they won three games in a row to close that series with a Game 6 win at home.
“The series becomes more determined, and we’ve become more determined as a group,” said Dallas veteran center Jason Spezza, who has goals in consecutive games. “You sense the importance of the games, and we’ve made good adjustments. … It’s just a matter of staying in the present.”
Before their Game 6 clincher in the first round April 22 against Nashville, the Stars hadn’t won a playoff series on home ice since 2008 — the last time they made it to the Western Conference finals.
Except for a bad flub when trying to clear a puck in the third period, a mistake Schwartz quickly converted into a goal, Stars goalie Ben Bishop was spectacular again in Game 5 against the Blues. The Vezina Trophy finalist stopped 38 shots and his .936 save percentage this postseason is a tick better than his franchise-record .934 save percentage in the regular season.
The Blues are 4-1 on the road this postseason, winning their first four away from home before losing Game 4 on Wednesday in Dallas.
But the Blues have outshot Dallas, 27-10, in the third period combined the last two games and have a goal in each of those periods.
“Our last two third periods have been good,” Schenn said. “Obviously, we’re playing from behind, and we’re pushing hard but we’ve got to bring that mentality into the first period the next game.”