Now that is what we call getting back on track as we saw a very solid effort from the Dallas Stars in a 4-1 win over the Florida Panthers. Thanks to everyone for checking out the post-game show tonight. It will be archived and available very soon and can be found on the Defending Big D Live show page.
[Note: Game Recap by Brandon Worley]
The Dallas Stars responded after a very sub-par performance in Tampa Bay by marching into Sunrise, Florida and dominating the Florida Panthers en route to a 4-1 victory over a team that had allowed just one goal in the previous three games.
The big news from the game wasn't that the Stars were perfect on the penalty kill for the first time this season, but that they received significant scoring contributions from elsewhere other than the top two lines. With Jamie Benn leading the way with three assists and Tom Wandell notching two goals, the Stars were able to win on a night that the Mike Ribeiro line failed to notch a single point.
The Stars chased Tomas Vokoun from the game after the second period and Kari Lehtonen was perfect (I don't care if he technically allowed a goal); not much else you could ask for from a generally all-around good game by the Dallas Stars.
More thoughts (and game highlights) after the jump.
Highlights from the game:
(Gotta love the NHL for these extended highlights)
Some specific thoughts on the game:
- This was the Tom Wandell we were teased with last season and the Tom Wandell we had been waiting for this season. He showed his speed, his playmaking ability and he was aggressive in going to the net. He was also a key part of why the Stars didn't allow power play goal. His goal late in the third period reminded me of a Jere Lehtinen in his prime. It's almost unfortunate that the Stars are so deep at forward, not allowing Wandell even more minutes each game.
- The game turned in the Stars favor because of two mammoth defensive plays by Toby Petersen. He was able to use his speed to knock a loose puck away from the crease and then he was able to tie up a trailing forward of the Panthers and prevent an easy tap in goal. Both plays came with the score tied in the first period and the Stars still trying to regain momentum after killing two penalties. Petersen is the most underrated player on the Stars and this season he's proving that why he was given a raise.
- The Dallas Stars need Jamie Benn in order to be successful. When Adam Burish was taken out of the game with a misconduct I wondered if Benn would move up to RW, but Crawford decided to reunite the Ott, Benn and Wandell line instead as he moved Segal up to the second line. Benn responded with three assists and generally outstanding play the entire game; his line created all sorts of havoc on a night with the top two lines had a bit of a dry spell. It's also noteworthy that Benn wasn't the center for the line, but instead it was Wandell taking that spot. This seemed to spark Wandell into action and Benn looked comfortable to once again be on the wing. If the Stars hope to actually be a successful team this season, this deep scoring ability will be key later in the year.
- We'll have more on this tomorrow, but it seems that Marc Crawford may have stumbled upon the perfect combination for the third line. Mike Heika expands on this here, and I have to agree: this line showing this sort of ability could change the season. It's no coincidence that on the night Wandell returned to center Benn and Ott, he looked just like he did last season before the knee injury.
- Speaking of Burish, this is what the Stars were missing last season. I know he picked up about 17 penalty minutes in one fell swoop, but he also showed that the Stars will not allow their top players to be pushed around. When a Wideman blatantly elbowed Ribeiro, Burish stepped in and responded for his teammate and linemate when it became obvious no penalty was being called on the play. It put the Stars at an early disadvantage, but it's that sort of attitude that goes a long way over the course of a season. Don't start fights after a big, but clean hit...but stand up for your teammate after an illegal hit or dirty play; that's fine by me.
- Don't look now but Matt Niskanen has put together three solid games in a row. He has just one point on the season but he's a very, very important +5 overall -- not allowing the blatant puck mistakes that hounded him the past two seasons. He still has a ways to go before he's back to being completely sure of himself moving the puck up the ice, but we're seeing a young defenseman start to really regain his confidence out on the ice. He's more physical and he's much more aggressive with his gap control, not allowing teams too much space as they transition on offense.
- Jeff Woywitka: There's a reason you've been a scratch the first two weeks of the season. Until you learn to actually be physical in front of the net, have fun in the press box. Ask Matty Niskanen how to do it, he can show you.
- James Neal had another goal. La di da.
- There was some bad: the Stars still have massive issues in clearing the puck and they were 47% in the faceoff circle. While the defensive gap control was much, much better and the penalty kill (overall) was certainly an improvement, the Stars are still allowing too many players to get free access to the net and are allowing too many players to get behind them on the rush. More importantly, the Stars still haven't really found a way to be physical enough in front of the net on the PK. At least they improved...
- Nicklas Grossman is a beast, even if he is taking too many penalties this season.
- Kari Lehtonen: not much else to say. He's incredible. He deserved the shutout (I hate you Woywitka).
DBD's Three Stars:
Jamie Benn, Dallas: Duh.
Tom Wandell, Dallas: Two goals. Duh.
Kari Lehtonen, Dallas: You had a shutout in my mind, buddy.