The game started great for Dallas and finished... well it wasn't as pretty as the first fifty minutes of the game, but the Stars did at least finish well.
Goals by Tom Wandell, Mike Modano, Loui Eriksson and Matt Niskanen (yes, that's not a typo, he really did score) paced the Stars to a 4-0 lead a little over midway through tonight's game with the Minnesota Wild. The Wild however stormed back after a goalie change, a pair of rather nice tip-in goals from former Star Antti Miettinen and in the end were all over the Stars and starting goalie Alex Auld. In the end though the Stars prevailed winning the game 4-3 and getting a very important two points in regulation time in the process.
Can I take this moment to throw out a radical idea? Sure I can, I'm doing the game recap tonight!
I'd like to suggest that if the Stars do make the playoffs, Brad Richards needs serious consideration for the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP. Think that's a joke? Alright, you name me a single player in the NHL that has meant more to his team's success than Richards has to the Stars. Honestly I think this Stars team would be fighting for a first overall pick in the draft rather than a spot in the playoffs if not for Richards and lest you think I'm wrong, look at the three goals he helped set up tonight - all primary assists - and then try to tell me he isn't MVP worthy.
After the jump, we wax poetic about the rest of the team while we still can...
The biggest story line into tonight's game was of course Alex Auld who without it being directly stated by coach Crawford or anyone else for that matter had a chance to stake a claim as the Stars number one goalie for the time being. Did he do enough to warrant more starts as the Stars head on a northwestern swing? I'll leave that for everyone else to decide. Clearly most fans have had their fill of Marty Turco and already have him riding off into the sunset, but is Auld someone the Stars can hitch their wagon to? Auld looked pretty good, but not good enough to convince anyone that he should be handed the keys quite yet. While we won't really fault him for the first two goals allowed - both beautiful tip-in goals from Miettinen - that third goal he allowed off the mad scramble in front was kind of odorous. In the end I say start him in Vancouver on Thursday and see how he does there. Play Turco in Edmonton on Friday - a place where he has a history of doing well.
I'm trying to not be all sunshine and lollipops here people, but really I can't single out a bad effort from anyone in this game. I look at the usual whipping boys and see that all of them had games that range from "pretty darn good" (Niskanen) to "that was ok" (Fabian Brunnstrom) and "not horrible" (Kris Barch)
Niskanen had a two point night, was steady in his own end and moved the puck well while on the power play. I make no effort to hide the fact I am a Niskanen supporter but even I had to admit the last two months have not been kind for Nisky. The last two games though he's been pretty good - not great - but good enough for a 23 year old who is still learning on the job most nights.
Brunnstrom as well had his second straight game of good play - I'd like to see a few more shots on goal, but for now his game tonight was maybe the best of the season. Ray Sawada was pretty good in his return to NHL action and did exactly what a kid in his position to do, throw a few hits and not look out of place on the fourth line.
Overall for a good majority of the game, this was a great team effort by the Stars. All four forward lines played well, the defense almost, kinda sorta looked like the defense of a few years ago where plugging up the middle, not allowing much movement into the defensive zone and allowing the opposing team shots from distance were the norm. Yeah it got kinda sketchy late in the game, but I'll overlook that if the Stars can use that as a lesson in how not to close out tight hockey games.
I also can't stress how important those two points in regulation are. Even a win in overtime would have been an opportunity wasted for Dallas - especially so when you factor in the four goal lead they had with half the game taken care of. It's one thing to have a three point game against the Detroit Red Wings - given the history between the two teams you can forgive Stars fans and the Stars themselves if they don't take what they can get from them. The Wild though are one of the teams that is right beside Dallas on the racetrack towards the playoffs, so any time the Stars can put some distance between them in the standings, a regulation win is a must.
In two very important home games the Stars got four crucial points as a modest little win streak. Now the real test is to see how this team will do on another road swing. Has this team righted the ship just in time and will they win a third consecutive game for the first time in what seems to be years? Or is this a case of one last gasp by a team bound to miss the playoffs?