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St. Louis Blues blow out Dallas Stars in Game 7 to advance

By Stephen Hunt, The Sports Xchange

DALLAS -- The St. Louis Blues made some history Wednesday night at American Airlines Center, reaching their first Western Conference Final since 2001 with a 6-1 win against the Dallas Stars in Game 7 of the second round of the playoffs, and accomplishing something they hadn't done since 1968, the club's inaugural season.

By winning their second Game 7 of this postseason, a victory helped by three points each from Troy Brouwer, Robby Fabbri and Paul Stastny, and Brian Elliott stopping 31 of 32 shots, the Blues won two Game 7s in the same playoffs for the second time in franchise history.

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"To play in the conference final, I know as a coach here in Dallas I took it for granted and it was a big mistake," Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "Sometimes you can play your whole career and not play in the conference final so, it's pretty impressive."

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St. Louis, which won the series 4-3, also got a goal and an assist each from David Backes and Patrik Berglund and two assists from Jori Lehtera.

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The Blues will face the winner of Game 7 between San Jose and Nashville on Thursday with the conference finals starting on Sunday in St. Louis.

Hitchcock is now 5-2 in Game 7. Stars coach Lindy Ruff is 0-4.

Patrick Eaves scored the lone goal for Dallas, breaking the shutout early in the third.

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"I think that (it's) a huge disappointment," Ruff said. "We had good energy, but it's a tough way to end (your season)."

Eaves broke the shutout 5:05 into the third with his third of the playoffs, scoring scored on a tip-in at the near post after Alex Goligoski's slap shot from the right circle deflected off Joel Edmundson.

Vladimir Tarasenko scored an empty-net goal with 4:40 remaining.

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Antti Niemi stopped eight of 10 shots in relief of Kari Lehtonen, who stopped just five of eight shots.

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Fabbri scored a power-play goal 5:23 into the game off a rebound to give the Blues an early 1-0 lead. Kari Lehtonen stopped the initial shot by Brouwer with a pad save, but Fabbri popped in the carom for his third of the playoffs.

Fabbri is the youngest player in Blues history to score in a Game 7.

St. Louis was 52 seconds into a power play resulting from a hooking call on Goligoski against Tarasenko.

Dallas caught a break late in the first when an apparent goal by Tarasenko 2:21 before the first intermission was waived off. Tarasenko scored from the edge of the left circle with a shot that deflected off the stick of Stars defenseman John Klingberg, Ruff used a coach's challenge, asserting that Tarasenko was offside.

Replay showed Tarasenko's left skate was just offside.

"That dang rule," Backes said. "We're going to have to break some cameras at the blue line. That seems to just get called back on us."

However, the Blues scored twice in the final 1:38 of the first period to lead 3-0 after one. Stastny sent a wrist shot from the right of the Dallas goal through Lehtonen with 1:38 remaining.

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Then, Berglund gave the visitors a 3-0 lead with his fourth goal of the playoffs with four seconds remaining in the first period. Berglund's wrist shot from the left point traveled in under Lehtonen's blocker.

Niemi replaced Lehtonen, who stopped five of eight shots, in goal to start the second period.

Backes made it 4-0 in the second with his sixth of the playoffs. Backes received the puck from Berglund just inside the Dallas zone and beat Niemi far post with a wrist shot from the right circle.

Brouwer made it 5-0 with his fifth of the playoffs with 5:54 remaining in the second. Brouwer's wrist shot from near the far post off the rush capped a well-executed 2-on-1 for the Blues.

"When you get behind the eight ball, it's tough," Dallas captain Jamie Benn said. "It's obviously not the start we wanted. We're going to win as a team and lose as a team."

NOTES: The Blues scratched C Ivan Barbashev, G Jordan Binnington, D Robert Bortuzzo, D Chris Butler, D Peter Harrold, RW Dmitrij Jaskin, D Petteri Lindbohm, G Anders Nilsson, LW Magnus Paajarvi, RW Ty Rattie, RW Ryan Reaves and D Jordan Schmaltz. ... The Stars scratched D Jordie Benn, G Jack Campbell, C Jason Dickinson, C Justin Dowling, LW Curtis McKenzie, D Julius Honka, LW Travis Moen (arm), D Patrik Nemeth, D Jamie Oleksiak, LW Brendan Ranford, RW Brett Ritchie and C Tyler Seguin (lower body). ... St. Louis played its second Game 7 of the 2016 postseason. ... Dallas last played in a Game 7 in the 2007 first round, losing 4-1 on the road to Vancouver. ... Blues G Brian Elliott, pulled late in the first period of Game 6 on Monday after allowing three goals on his first seven shots, started his 14th game of the playoffs.

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