We talk about "must wins" for Dallas and how they need to take advantage of teams who are farther down in the standings and venerable to being ripe for a full two points. Tonight was a classic case of this as the Dallas Stars visited the Minnesota Wild and while the Wild were coming off their fifth win in a row the previous night and were still at home, it was important that the more rested Stars jumped on the Wild early and made it an uphill battle for them to get any traction on Dallas.
Consider it "mission accomplished" on this night as they defeated the Minnesota Wild 4-0.
The first period was a fantastic start for Dallas as they used speed and great puck movement to skate around a Wild team that appeared to try and slow down the Stars with hitting but also was a team that looked fatigued. The Stars were able to set the tone early with Trevor Daley's third goal of the season two minutes into the game and Jamie Benn's 10th goal with less than a minute left in the period.
The second period saw even more Stars pressure, but Wild goalie Jose Theodore kept his team in it. Had it not been for him, the game would have been over much sooner than it was.
Theodore kept up that strong play in the third, denying Jamie Benn on a pair of two more solid scoring chances halfway through the third period. The series of saves from a well-focused Theodore seemed to spark the Wild and give them a second wind as they started to attack the Stars defense a lot more.
Credit coach Mark Crawford for taking a well timed time-out to settle things down and allowing the Stars to take a breath. It paid off as the Stars managed to pick up a third goal off a James Neal wrister that Theodore got a big chunk of, but couldn't stop all of it. Benn made sure to really put the hammer down with his second on the night with about five minutes left in the game and put the exclamation mark on what I think you can call a near-perfect road win for the Stars... The seventh in a row for the team which ties a franchise record.
Stars starting goalie Andrew Raycroft meanwhile made sure that any chances the Wild had to get on the scoresheet were turned aside - and make no mistake, the Wild did have their scoring chances. Raycroft's composure in goal - as it has been all season - has been remarkable this season and while he was helped greatly by a defensive unit that really seems to be hitting their stride in terms of puck support and clearance, he was square to all shots and directed rebounds away from Wild players time and time again. This wasn't an "easy" shutout by any stretch for Rayzor, so it was very nice to see him able to keep the goose egg on the scoreboard.
More thoughts and the three stars after the jump...
- Benn's goal by the way - which I am sure we will have posted on this site later on this evening if not tomorrow - is easily his best of the season, the prettiest goal scored by any Dallas Star and no doubt a top five goal in all of the NHL.
- Jamie Langenbrunner looked fantastic in his re-debut with the Stars with three credited shots on goal and missing another four on top of that, although it sure seemed like he had more than that. The line of him, Steve Ott and Adam Burish gave the Wild all kinds of fits all game long and suddenly it would seem the Stars have three top notch lines to roll and hopefully take pressure off the likes of the Richards line to be a main producer of offense game in and game out.
- Other Stars picking up points on the game: Brad Richards and Brenden Morrow picked up each yet another pair of assists while Nicklas Grossman, Loui Eriksson and Mike Ribeiro all had solo assists. Daley also had an assist to go along with his goal.
- Special teams was not needed particularly too badly as the team only took two penalties and killed them both off. The power play did go 0 for 3, but did have four shots on goal and did look fairly good, or at least as good as an 'oh-fer' power play can look on a night. Again, credit to the Wild goaltending for keeping the Stars off the scoresheet in that respect.
- Trevor Daley also had an outstanding game on both ends of the ice. That contract extension is looking better and better by the day - especially when you consider what the likes of Jack Johnson just signed for yesterday. The rest of the Stars defense as I mentioned is starting to give the impression that they've fully embraced the system they've been taught and are executing it very well.