Taking the lead
Belfour, Stars shut out leg-weary Blues 3-0
Posted: Friday May 07, 1999 01:13 AM
Hull and Pat Verbeek scored their first goals of the playoffs and Ed Belfour stopped 23 shots Thursday night as the Dallas Stars beat the St. Louis Blues 3-0 in the first game of their Western Conference semifinals.
The teams will meet in the second game of the best-of-7 series in Dallas on Saturday night.
"When Brett scored that goal you could see it lifted a burden off his shoulders," said Dallas coach Ken Hitchcock. "He had been down about the chances he missed. You could see that goal gave him life and made him a different kind of player."
Belfour earned his fifth shutout and 50th career playoff victory by shutting down the leg-weary Blues, who were involved in an exhausting seven-gane series with Phoenix while Dallas was resting for nine days.
Hull scored his first playoff goal for the Stars just 49 seconds into the second period to make it a 2-0 lead. Hull, who played 10 years for St. Louis, skated with the puck to the right circle and unleashed one of his powerful slap shots which Grant Fuhr saw go between his legs into the net.
Hull had been the target of some practical jokes by his teammates during the Dallas vacation which he took good-naturedly, saying "I'd like to score a goal even if it's against a girl's team."
As it turned out it was against the Blues, who lost Hull to Dallas via the free-agent route.
"You're a goal scorer and you haven't scored and you can say it doesn't matter but it does," Hull said. "The puck finally went in for me. I shot it as hard as I could."
Verbeek, who missed the first-round Edmonton series because of a knee injury, celebrated his return by scoring a first-period goal.
Joe Nieuwendyk, who has two game-winning playoff goals for the Stars, split two St. Louis defenders at mid-ice and rifled a shot at Fuhr, who made the save only to see Verbeek slap home the rebound to give Dallas a 1-0 lead.
"That goal relaxed me for the rest of the game," Verbeek said. "The rebound came right to me."
Mike Modano put the game away against the gambling Blues with 31.9 seconds left on an unassisted goal as St. Louis pulled Fuhr from the net after a Dallas penalty for a 6-on-4 attack.
Dallas couldn't convert on seven power-play attempts while St. Louis had five chances with the extra man without converting.
"We thought Dallas was ripe to be beaten but it looks like we're the ones who got picked off the cherry tree," said Blues coach Joel Quenneville. "Belfour was very sharp."
Al MacInnis said the Blues had no defense for their play.
"We can't use being tired as an excuse," he said.
Pierre Turgeon of the Blues suffered a knee injury late in the game when he was slashed by Verbeek, but expects to play on Saturday.
"That Verbeek slash was pretty vicious," Quenneville said. "Verbeek looked like he knew what he was doing."
"I lost feeling in my leg and we'll see how it feels later," Turgeon said.
Dallas swept Edmonton in four games to advance to the second round while St. Louis was extended to seven games against Phoenix by winning three games in a row. Dallas held a 2-1-1 edge over the Blues in the regular season.
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