Jason Spezza

Bishop, Stars edge out Blues in critical Game 5

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The St. Louis Blues certainly didn’t make life easy for Dallas on Friday, but the Stars were prepared. Ben Bishop out dueled Jordan Binnington to lead Dallas to a 2-1 victory in Game 5, putting the Stars up 3-2 in the series.

Dallas gained an edge early when Tyler Seguin set up Jason Spezza, who smashed the puck past Binnington. Spezza’s glory years might be behind him, but he’s been a huge factor in this series with three goals already.

Beyond that goal the first period was fairly even, but Dallas nevertheless went into the intermission with the lead.

The edge grew to 2-0 at 6:13 of the second period when Esa Lindell‘s backhander hit Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester in the leg on its way to the net. Lindell had 24 career goals and none in the playoffs prior to that marker, but it proved to be the game-winner.

With the game slipping out of their reach, the Blues significantly altered their lines and it seemed to help.

St. Louis got some life when Jaden Schwartz capitalized on Bishop’s mishandling of the puck to end the Stars goaltender’s shutout bid at 8:26 of the third frame. Jamie Benn was charged with a hooking penalty just 21 seconds later to give the Blues a critical power play, but Dallas killed it off.

In the end, St. Louis was 0-for-4 on the power play Friday night, which was a key to Dallas’ win. Bishop was also critical. Even though he looked bad on the Schwartz goal, Bishop still stopped 38 of 39 shots. St. Louis out shot Dallas 15-5 in the third period in a desperate, but ultimately futile attempt to alter the course of this game.

As for the fact that the Blues did look better in the third, while that’s noteworthy, it means a little less given that the Blues also had a strong third in their 4-2 loss to Dallas in Game 4. That didn’t seem to provide them with any momentum leading into Game 5 and the same might prove true for Game 6.

St. Louis’ back is against the wall now. Either they bounce back in Game 6 or their season is done.

Blues-Stars Game 6 from American Airlines Center will be Sunday afternoon at 3:00 p.m. ET on NBC

Ryan Dadoun is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @RyanDadoun.

Tensions rise as Stars even series with Blues

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Game 4 started off so well for St. Louis, but it quickly went downhill en route to a 4-2 Stars victory to even the series.

Jason Dickinson was assess a high-sticking penalty just 4:44 minutes into the game and Vladimir Tarasenko capitalized on the opportunity, launching a shot that Stars goaltender Ben Bishop was only able to nick with his glove on its way to the back of the net. That was the only time St. Louis would lead though and it was a short-lived edge.

A little over six minutes later, Dickinson managed to backhand the puck past Jordan Binnington while losing his footing. In the final minute of the period and with a power-play opportunity coming to an end, Jason Spezza blasted a rebound into the net to make it 2-1.

While the Stars ended the first with the edge, it was the second frame where they pushed this game out of reach. John Klingberg and Roope Hintz padded the lead to make it 4-1.

Things got heated towards the end of the period. It started when David Perron struck Bishop near the end of the period. The Blues got away with that one, but then Binnington let his emotions get the better of him as he punched Jamie Benn and whacked Bishop on their way to the locker room.

Binnington was given two minor penalties for his hits on Benn and Bishop while Benn was issued an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. As a result, the Blues started the third period down three goals and a man.

Despite that, St. Louis did turn the final frame into something of a silver lining. Robert Thomas scored his first goal of the playoffs and St. Louis out shot Dallas 12-5 in the last 20 minutes. That doesn’t change the fact that this wasn’t the result St. Louis wanted, but it gives them something to hold onto ahead of Game 5.

Blues-Stars Game 5 from Enterprise Center will be Friday night at 9:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN

Ryan Dadoun is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @RyanDadoun.

Nichushkin says surgically repaired hip is pain-free

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With all the big moves Dallas made this summer — Patrick Sharp, Johnny Oduya, Antti Niemi — it’s easy to forget that one of the club’s biggest acquisitions could come from in-house.

Valeri Nichushkin, who missed 74 games last year following hip surgery, is currently working out with teammates and giving positive reviews on his health:

Nichushkin, 20, lost nearly all of his sophomore campaign to the hip ailment, which he tried to play through at the beginning of the year, only to go under the knife in mid-November. That prevented him from following up on a rookie year in which 14 goals and 34 points and finished 12th in Calder voting; Nichushkin did return for a handful of games at the end of the regular season, and also represented Russia at the 2015 World Hockey championships.

Now at full health, the big-bodied Russian should slot into Dallas’ dynamic top-six forward group, one that projects to feature last year’s Art Ross winner Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, Jason Spezza, Ales Hemsky and Sharp.

Stars re-sign Eakin: four years, $15.4 million

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Cody Eakin has cashed in on the best offensive season of his young career.

On Friday, Dallas announced it had signed Eakin to a four-year contract extension which, per the Dallas Morning-News, is a $15.4 million pact with a $3.85M average annual cap hit.

Eakin, 24, is coming off a solid season in which he posted career bests in goals (19) and points (40). He’s making $1.9 million annually on his current deal, which has one year remaining.

It’s a nice payday for the former Washington draftee and good value for Dallas. It stands to reason that, at a relatively young age, Eakin has yet to reach his ceiling; this spring, he joined fellow Stars teammates Jason Spezza and Tyler Seguin on Team Canada’s gold medal-winning side at the 2015 Worlds and had a strong tournament, scoring four goals and six points in nine games.

It’s also worth noting that, along with top-two centers Spezza and Seguin, the Eakin extension now puts all three of Dallas’ top pivots under contract through 2018.

Dallas Stars ’15-16 Outlook

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If there’s one safe bet with the Dallas Stars, it’s that they’ll be one of the most exciting teams in the NHL next season.

That being said, “entertaining” and “successful” don’t always go together in professional hockey.

More than a few times today, PHT’s discussed a few curveballs that might befuddle this team. Even so, this team stands to be electric and boasts one of the highest ceilings of any team in the NHL.

As risky as spending $10.4 million on good (but maybe not elite) goalies might be, there’s a perfectly reasonable possibility that Dallas will find the right formula to make it all work. That’s on head coach Lindy Ruff, as mentioned earlier on Saturday.

Let’s remember though that sports are, ostensibly, about entertainment; it would be a borderline travesty if the Dallas market doesn’t light up the box office for this time.

Just ponder their offensive attack for a minute.

Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn stand as one of the dynamic duos of the NHL. Jason Spezza has his flaws, yet he’s also often a brilliant playmaker. Patrick Sharp boasts a handsome two-way game and 2015-16 could be much kinder to Valeri Nichushkin and Ales Hemsky.

John Klingberg’s potential is almost as impressive as his braids were embarrassing.

We’ll have to wait and see if the Stars can justify all the hype with wins and a deep playoff run. Either way, they’re just about guaranteed to be appointment TV for anyone with even a remote interest in the sport.

That’s a victory in itself.