As is the case almost every time the Dallas Stars pay a visit to the HP Pavillion, it was another spirited, tight checking, hard fought affair between the Stars and San Jose Sharks that almost felt more like a playoff game than a mid-December regular season game and the end result is a much needed 3-2 shootout win for your Dallas Stars.
Unlike other games that we've seen the Stars win in the past, I think it's safe to say the Stars played pretty well throughout the game and were nearly full value for the two points tonight. Their first period effort was maybe the best we've seen since the Carolina game and it payed off a little with a Jamie Benn goal off a sweet pass from Mike Ribeiro. They did struggle right in the middle of the game as the Sharks picked up their effort and scored two quick goals two minutes apart in the middle of the second - two goals that were questionable at best I would have to think as Andrew Raycroft is concerned. The Stars though did tie the game up on the power play thanks to a Ribeiro deflection (yes, you read that right.. another power play goal on the road.. the second in as many road games.. I know, I'm stunned too..) before the period ran out however giving the team new life into the third.
In that third period it was a typical Stars / Sharks back-n-forth affair that saw chances for both teams trade chances to get a go-ahead-goal, trade power play chances where both sides looked dangerous and very good goaltending from both Raycroft and Sharks starter Antti Niemi. Or rather I should say "good" goaltending from Niemi and "great" goaltending from raycroft.
Is that a biased opinion? Perhaps. Not that far from the truth though.
Overtime was a carbon copy of the third period with again no side tilting the ice their way more than the other. In the end it seems rather fitting that this went to a shootout where Benn and Brad Richards did the scoring on one side and Raycroft made two nice saves - or at least one nice save and one save where we think it's a save and Shark fans think that maybe it was a goal but we'll never know because the puck was under Raycroft pads the entire time.
Stars skate away winners in a key divisional match and both sides will do it all over again on Thursday back in Dallas.
(A few more thoughts on the game and three stars after the jump..)
- Earlier in the day, a handful of people (I included) were tweeting about #ThingsWorseThanTheStarsRoadPP ... Tonight it went 1 for 3 and looked good for most of it. Richards was shooting a lot more from the point tonight and overall it felt like the Stars had more urgency to get pucks toward the direction of the goal. If they keep that kind of effort up, soon we can start doing a #TeamsWithWorseRoadPPThanTheStars Twitter meme.
- Not that anyone in hockey questioned it, but Brenden Morrow put on another display of his manly manlyness by having a puck bounce off his nose in the second period, leave a bloody mess with what most of us figured right away was a broken nose... And then comes back in the third period with a full face cage, gauze stuck up one nostril to stop the bleeding and continues to play his rugged style of play. Nothing I or you say or do for the rest of this year and possibly all of next year will come close to being as tough as that.
- Steve Ott and Joe Thornton had a very entertaining night where they battled each other along boards and at the face off dot. Both did manage to pick up assists, but we'll give Otter the edge in this battle-within-a-battle as he owned Jumbo Joe in faceoffs for most of the night.
- Karlis Skrastins and Nicklas Grossman combined for four blocked shots each and both did tremendous work protecting Andrew Raycroft preventing the Sharks from setting up camp in front of the Stars goal.
- Speaking of Raycroft, save for the two goals allowed by him - the first of which was really poor and did spark the Sharks mini-rally in the second period - he was every bit as good as 31 saves on 33 shots would indicate. Poor and weak goals against are going to happen to every goalie from time to time in the NHL but as I think we have seen, Rayzor has been around the league long enough and has a strong enough mind to be able to put those goals in the back of his memory and re-focus quickly. He did it tonight as well as anh NHL goalie could do and it was a big reason the Stars skated away with two points instead of one or maybe even none.
- As a Stars fan, you can maybe lament the fact that the Sharks did pick up a loser point in this game, but I don't think you can really understate how big this game was for the Stars starting with the fact that they do gain a point on a division rival. Nuff said!