For a while there it looked like the Dallas Stars were going to pick up right where they left off in Washington because while I am sure very few people expected three goals in the third against the Capitals, no one could have possibly figured they would light up America's super (silver. sorry...) star goalie Ryan Miller for three goals in the first period.
All looked good for Stars fans and ya know it didn't even matter that the Stars defense was it's usual porous self and was the leading cause as to why the Sabres also scored three in that crazy first period. All that mattered was that Jamie Benn broke out of his slump, a puck bounced off Trevor Daley and into their net for once (although Toby Peterson was given credit for that goal) and Steve Ott continued to erase any doubts he was going to sit on his now much fatter wallet and not produce on the ice.
Alas, once the second period started the Stars defense remained about the same as it's been since the return from break and even worse the offense returned to it's lackluster form as Miller was able to settle down for a fairly quiet forty minutes of shutout hockey while his teammates rode a Tomas Vanek goal that was scored midway through the second period with solid defense of their own to win 5-3.
I hate sounding like a broken record here, but this loss was more of the same that we've seen from this club over the last week: Poor defensive coverage in their own zone and an inability (after the first period anyway) to drive hard towards the opposing net and get any good scoring chances. They did fairly well in the first period and then... nothing. Nine shots in the first period and at least five different scoring chances - three which they converted - only to go the rest of the game with 11 shots and by my count at best three decent scoring chances. I never like accusing a team of not working hard in a game, but you can't tell me that the Stars wern't working to full potential in the last half of this game.
The game winner by Vanek was so typical of what is wrong with this team right now. He was left all alone standing five feet in front of Marty Turco while both defensemen on the play - Daley and Matt Niskanen - decided to try and chase rookie Mark Mancari around the back of the net. It was the kind of play I expect to see AHL level defensemen coached at an AHL level pull off, not two players who should know better by now. Poor Marty Turco didn't have a chance of stopping it which is a shame because again on this night he was pretty good. Not great like the night in Washington, and I'm sure on two of the three goals scored on him in the first period he may have liked to have had another chance to save them, but again he was as good as can be asked for playing behind a defense like Dallas currently has.
The moment that goal in the second period was scored, all the air left the Stars sails and they played the rest of the game drifting aimlessly and defeated. In fact they didn't manage a shot on goal against Buffalo in the final six minutes of that second period.
Some would say given the state of this team right now, two out of a possible six points isn't the worst thing that could happen to this team and they'd be right and we do keep seeing fleeting moments where the talent does shine through and produces well. Now the Stars head back to Dallas to face the most critical stretch of games over the next two weeks that they'll have all season and it starts with the Los Angeles Kings on Friday.
Defending Big D 3 Stars
1st star - Tyler Myers (BUF): One goal, three assists and many, many broken up plays when the Stars tried to get into the Sabres zone. The kid was everywhere and he was teriffic.
2nd star - Mark Mancari (BUF): The other dynamic Sabres rookie had a pretty good night himself with a goal and assist.
3rd Star - Jamie Benn (DAL): The best the Stars had to offer and at the very least it was good to see him playing better tonight. A goal and assist and hopefully we see more of that down the stretch.
Quick programming note! Thursday night at 7:00pm CST we bring you another episode of Defending Big D Live! Join Brad Gardner, Brandon Bibb, Pat Iverson and myself Art Middleton as we take a look back at the Stars three game road trip that just concluded, look ahead to their up coming six game home stand and figure out if the playoffs are still a realistic goal for this team!