DALLAS (AP) — The first-year coach for the Dallas Stars switched up his top two lines, a move that put rookie Roope Hintz skating with captain Jamie Benn and Alexander Radulov.
Tyler Seguin, the top-line center who had Benn and Radulov on his side, instead started with Jason Dickinson and Mats Zuccarello.
Hintz scored his fifth goal of the playoffs while Seguin, Radulov and Zuccarello each had two assists as the Stars beat the St. Louis Blues 4-2 on Wednesday night to even the second-round series at two games each.
“It’s one of those things where when it happens it looks great, but if nothing happens tonight, then nobody even says anything about it,” Dickinson said. “I think what it comes down to is personally guys elevating their game. If it took shaking up the lines to get guys to do that, then that’s a great move by the coach.”
Rookie coach Jim Montgomery told his team from the beginning of the season that he liked to switch lines. The latest switches sure worked in a crucial game for the Stars.
“They all rolled with it. And now because we’ve done it all year, they easily just assimilate with whoever they’re playing with,” Montgomery said.
The Western Conference semifinal series returns to St. Louis for Game 5 on Friday night, and then back to Dallas for Game 6 on Sunday.
Dickinson had an early tying goal after St. Louis went ahead 1-0 only five minutes into the game. Jason Spezza and John Klingberg also scored for the Stars. Zuccarello has six assists in this series, with helpers in every game.
“They were desperate and we didn’t match that desperation in the first two periods,” Blues coach Craig Berube said.
Vladimir Tarasenko had a power-play goal for the Blues, who lost for the first time in their five road games this postseason.
Dallas went up 4-1 late in the second period when Radulov and Benn assisted Hintz’s third goal of the series.
About halfway through the second period, Dickinson forced a turnover at center ice. Zuccarello got the puck to Seguin, who made a cross-ice pass to Klingberg, whose sniper shot whizzed to the left of rookie goalie Jordan Binnington and into the net.
“They came out hard. That’s going to happen. We just have to stay in control,” Binnington said. “They switched up their lines a bit. That’s expected. Whatever is thrown at you, you’ve got to handle it.”
Binnington stopped 27 shots, including a backhander by Andrew Cogliano, a breakaway by Miro Heiskanen and another charge by the Dickinson-Seguin line on shifts before Klingberg’s second goal of the playoffs — he had the overtime winner in Game 6 against Nashville that clinched the first-round series.
Ben Bishop, who had 27 saves, didn’t stop Tarasenko’s fifth goal of the playoffs that glanced off the Dallas goalie’s left arm and into the net.
Dallas tied it at 1 with 8:38 left in the first period. Zuccarello took a shot that went left of the net and ricocheted off the board. Seguin kept the puck free, and got it to Dickinson, who was falling down in the crease when he scored his third goal of the playoffs. Dickinson, who had only six goals during the regular season, was then on his belly when he celebrated with his arms motioning in what looked like a reverse snow angel.
“This is exactly where we’re supposed to be at this point, right? Supposed to be 2-2. Now it’s a three-game series,” Dickinson said. “The only thing I think we can take from that is confidence. I don’t think we can read too much into how the last series went because it’s a whole new thing now.”
After going down 2-1 in their first-round series against Nashville, the Stars won three in a row and clinched the series in Game 6 at home.
Spezza scored on a power play in the final minute of the first period to put Dallas up 2-1, when Binnington was shielded by one of his teammates. It was the first lead change between the two teams all season — in this series and during the regular season when the Stars won three of the four meetings.
NOTES: At the end of the second period, Benn poked his stick at Binnington, who reacted with a forearm to the head of the Stars captain. Benn was assessed an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, while Binnington was given penalties for roughing and slashing. Dallas started the third period on the power play, but didn’t score. That came about a minute after David Perron hacked Bishop in his back behind the Stars net without a penalty. … Perron had a shot in the second period that hit the left post. … Ryan O’Reilly assisted on both of St. Louis’ goals, including the one by 19-year-old center Robert Thomas in the third period. … Dallas had been successful on 23 of 24 penalty kills this postseason before Tarasenko’s goal. The Blues then failed to score on two more power plays.
Game 5 is Friday night in St. Louis, where the Blues are 2-3 this postseason.