On a night when Dallas / Fort Worth sports fans - who for the past few weeks had their attention tied up by the Texas Rangers - had a chance to get acquainted with the local hockey club, the Stars played a very entertaining game in front of the home fans. They took advantage of a listless Pittsburgh Penguins team by outworking them in all aspects of the game and beat them 5-2.
And in all reality, a 5-2 score flatters the Penguins who were never really ever in this game. The Stars started the first period outshooting the Penguins 12-4 and getting the first two goals with a Stephane Robidas shot from the blue line that Pens goalie Brent Johnson was slow to react to, and then a Brad Richards howitzer from about ten feet away. All the while, the Stars skated circles around the flat footed Penguins who even during a lengthy five on three powerplay chance couldn't build any momentum their way.
The second period saw Tyler Kennedy score a bit of a softy off the faceoff, but as we've seen many times this season already, that didn't seem to rattle the Stars. Dallas answered right back with a Steve Ott goal and absolutely beautiful penalty shot goal from Loui Erikkson that seemed to be the dagger on the night.
The Penguins - failing to get any momentum with their offense in the first - did try gooning it up in the second to get some much needed energy in their game, but that too backfired as fights with Jamie Benn (two of them in fact, and we'll talk about Benn more after the jump) and Brenden Morrow went pretty much the way of guys in the black jerseys.
Pens captain Sidney Crosby - who had just seen Stars captain Brenden Morrow in a fight moment earlier - also tried to act the part of a tough guy / fearless leader for his club by picking a fight with Matt Niskanen of all players... Matt Niskanen by the way has never 'technically' fought in his three year career is the guy that Crosby tries to fight and even then all Crosby was able to do was push and shove him around and never really threw a punch.
Consider us less than impressed on the whole "Crosby is a great leader" front.
After that, things settled down between both teams quite a bit and they played a rather quiet third period where the Stars were all to happy to lull the Pens to sleep and the Penguins - save for one final goal with about five minutes left in the game - seemingly obliged to stay down.
(More thoughts on the game and individual performances after the jump)
- What a great night for Jamie Benn! He only had a single assist in the game, but he was all over the place hitting, scrapping and generally making himself a huge thorn in the foot of the Penguins. I really do believe that the difference between this year's Jamie Benn compared to last year's version is that Jamie is on the ice playing with a lot more fire and venom than he did at times during his rookie season.
- The Stars special teams were once again big for Dallas tonight. The powerplay did go 0 for 5, but had plenty of puck possession time in the Pens zone. It would have been nice to see more shots on goal (they only managed five total) but the time they spent attacking is a good first start. As for the penalty kill, it again was a perfect 4 for 4 including a critical 3 on 5 kill that lasted 1:37 in the middle of the first period. Had the Pens scored on that, it would have given them some much needed life and brought them to within a goal of a tie. As it was, it was a mometum boost for the Stars.
- Kari Lehtonen looked rested and a little more like himself in tonight's game with a 21 save performance. He challenged shooters, gave up few rebounds when tested and generally had a very nice game. Probably would have liked back that first goal allowed off the Penguins face off win, but the second goal allowed was one that was deflected, bounced oddly on the ice a time or two and then bounced in off the far post... Sometimes the puck just has eyes.
- Of course the players in front of Kari made more stops as he did with 27 blocked shots! Robidas had five blocks, Karlis Skrastins had four, Trevor Daley and Mark Fistric had three each. Overall a very solid night for the defense that again took care of the puck, limited turnovers and kept the Penguins from causing too much trouble in the slot and in front of the Stars net.
- Again, all four lines played very well and you'd be hard pressed to find a player on the Stars who didn't play well. They were obviously led by the top two lines, but players like Brandon Segal, Adam Burish and Tom Wandell were also very good in a checking role in shutting down the Pens top lines.
- Chuck Greenberg and a handful of Texas Rangers were in the stands tonight taking in the game. Sharing some good sports karma perhaps? Has anyone mentioned to Greenberg that the Stars would make a fantastic investment?
Your Defending Big D Three Stars:
1 - Loui Eriksson (DAL)
2 - Stephane Robidas (DAL)
3 - Steve Ott (DAL)
(And if we could do a fourth star.. we'd easily put Jamie Benn into that spot!)