Friday May 6th, 2016

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Dallas Stars forward Cody Eakin struck less than three minutes into overtime to even the Stars second round series against the St. Louis Blues Thursday night with a 3–2 overtime win.

St. Louis’ Vladimir Tarasenko scored first on a breakaway goal halfway through the opening period. But Dallas’ Radek Faksa and Patrick Sharp scored just 69 seconds apart in the opening minutes of the second period to give the Stars the lead before St. Louis’ Paul Stastny tipped in a shot from Tarasenko later in the period to tie the game at 2–2. The third period went scoreless to send the game to overtime, before Eakin beat St. Louis goalie Brian Elliott on a low shot.

Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen finished with 24 saves.

The series is now tied 2–2. Game 5 is Saturday afternoon in Dallas.

Here are three thoughts on Thursday’s Game 4:

Eakin comes alive in overtime

Dallas’ Cody Eakin may have been silent on Thursday, but he showed up at the perfect time, as his overtime game-winner was also his first shot of the game. It was also his first goal this postseason, and third of his career. Eakin doees have seven assists this postseason. His first goal was a beauty. After St. Louis nearly struck first in overtime, Dallas fired it down the ice to Eakin, who blasted a shot from just below the blue line right past Elliott.

With Thursday’s win, Dallas reclaims home-ice advantage in what is now essentially a best-of-three series, as opposed to facing the almost insurmountable 3-1 series deficit. This series has been one of the most exciting of the second round so far, and we could be in for three more treats like Thursday’s thriller now.

Dallas’s defense continues to struggle but Lehtonen saves the day

After St. Louis destroyed Dallass’ defense with six goals in Game 3 on Tuesday, the Stars’ defense continued to look flustered and lost against St. Louis’ big forwards in Thursday’s Game 4. On Tarasenko’s opening goal, for instance, Dallas had six skaters on the ice (but wasn’t called for a too-many men penalty), but none of them even saw Tarasenko skating wide open down the ice. Once St. Louis’ Jaden Schwartz found Tarasenko up-ice, the 24-year-old was able to just take his time before beating Lehtonen on a breakaway.

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Then, minutes later, Tarasenko had another breakaway, but hit the post with his shot, which was followed immediately by a Dallas defensive turnover that led to another St. Louis scoring chance. After Dallas took a 2–1 lead early in the second period, the Blues had an immediate 2-on-1 chance, but the shot went wide of Lehtonen. Had it not been for some clutch saves from Lehtonen early, this game would have been over in the first period.

While Dallas’ top defensive unit of Alex Goligoski and John Klinberg struggling is the most jarring, the other four defensemen are visibly lacking confidence right now and turning the puck over at critical moments. With the series now in an essential best-of-three, Stars coach Lindy Ruff will have to find some way to fix his defensive issues.

But Lehtonen made up for plenty of the Stars’ errors after struggling earlier in this series. Entering Thursday’s game, Dallas needed one of its goalies, either Lehtonen or Antti Niemmi, to steal a game, and Lehtonen did just that.

Tarasenko heating up for St. Louis

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After failing to generate a point in the first two games of the series, Tarasenko is finding the form that he showed in the first round against Chicago, when he scored four goals and had two assists over the course of the seven-game series. Coming off one goal, two assist performance in Game 3, Tarasenko not only opened the scoring Thursday night on his breakaway goal in the first period, but he also set up the equalizer when the Blues were down 2-1, as he shot the puck on Lehtonen before it was tipped in by teammate Paul Stastny for the equalizer.

The 24-year-old is St. Louis’ biggest scoring threat, and when he’s rolling like he has the last two games, the Blues will be extremely tough to stop.

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