Jaden Schwartz knew there would be a silver lining during his struggles in the regular season.
The St. Louis forward found it the past two games of the first round of the playoffs.
Schwartz scored three times and rookie goalie Jordan Binnington stopped 18 shots to help the host Blues beat the Winnipeg Jets 3-2 in Game 6 of their Western Conference series Saturday night to advance to the second round.
Schwartz scored just 11 times during the regular season and went through a frustrating 22-game goal drought from Dec. 20 to Feb. 12.
“Sometimes when pucks aren’t going in, the net doesn’t seem as big,” Schwartz said. “When you get a bounce, or a break, it seems like you can carry that over. Everyone will tell you that confidence in this, and any sport, is big.”
The Blues became the first home team to win in the series, and advanced to the second round for the third time in four years. St. Louis will face the winner of the Dallas-Nashville series, which the Stars lead 3-2.
Bryan Little and Dustin Byfuglien scored for Winnipeg, which tried to rally after falling behind 3-0 early in the third period.
Connor Hellebuyck finished with 33 saves for the Jets.
“It’s hard to say what went wrong,” Hellebuyck said. “We really shouldn’t point fingers and try to find blame. That’s a good team over there and they played well. You could tell they wanted it.”
Schwartz tallied 23 seconds into the contest on a pass from Brayden Schenn. It was the third-fastest playoff goal in franchise history.
“That got everybody buzzing,” St. Louis defenseman Alex Pietrangelo said.
Schwartz pushed the lead to 2-0 with a power-play goal off a wrist shot with 7:24 left in the second period and completed his hat trick early in the third.
The Blues had the fewest points in the league on Jan. 2 and appeared set to miss the playoffs.
But some soul searching helped turn things around according to Pietrangelo, the team captain.
“We just kept pushing and looked hard in the mirror,” Pietrangelo said. “We had a lot of honest conversation.”
Capitals 6, Hurricanes 0: Nicklas Backstrom had two goals and two assists, Alex Ovechkin had a goal and two assists and Braden Holtby stopped 30 shots as defending Stanley Cup champions Washington beat visiting Carolina to take a 3-2 lead in the Eastern Conference series. The Capitals’ penalty kill that made easy work of all five Carolina power plays, including three in quick succession in the second period.
Stars 5, Predators 3: Alexander Radulov scored two goals in the second period and Dallas beat host Nashville to push the West’s No. 2 seed to the brink of elimination. Jason Dickinson also scored twice for the Stars, who lead the West series 3-2. “I think we keep getting better, and we have to keep getting better,” Stars coach Jim Montgomery said. “The next one’s the hardest one because it’s the potential to end someone’s season. That’s the challenge in front of us now.”
Briefly: The Lightning’s Andrei Vasileviskiy, Robin Lehner of the Islanders and Dallas’ Ben Bishop were announced as the finalists for the Vezina Trophy, which goes to the best goaltender in the league as determined by voting among NHL general managers. The winner will be revealed June 19 in Las Vegas. … Capitals wing T.J. Oshie isn’t expected to play again in the postseason after suffering an upper-body injury when he was checked into the boards in Game 4 of his team’s series with the Hurricanes.
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