The Glen Gulutzan era started with a bang on Friday night at home against the Blackhawks, hit a major stumbling block on Saturday night when they returned the favor 5-2, and then seemed destined run even further off the road when a frustrating game was in the dying seconds of what seemed certain to be a 1-0 Phoenix win.
Then Sheldon Souray unleashed one of his patented big shots from the left point and Loui Eriksson tipped it in past Mike Smith to tie the game at one. The Stars then killed an overtime penalty en route to a 2-1 shootout win courtesy of Ribeiro and Eriksson tallies in the skills competition.
With Ilya Bryzgalov departed from Phoenix and Glen Gulutzan's more patient game installed in Dallas, the equation seemed changed enough to prevent this kind of a mucked up game, but the frustration Stars fans have known against Phoenix since Dave Tippett arrived there manifested itself in a big way once again despite the victory. Sheldon Souray changed the tone of this game in one shot (and the tone of this recap considerably).
The Stars will take a lot of film out of this one, and not the good kind, particularly on the power play which Glen Gulutzan called "atrocious" in his post game press conference and took responsibility for it as well.
It's worth mentioning that the Texas Rangers won game two of the ALCS in walk-off style mere seconds after Mike Ribeiro netted the shootout winner, capping a frustrating night on both fronts with joy for those two follow both teams. We'll let Lone Star Ball fill your Rangers needs, but looking down at the ice for a shootout attempt and back up at a television for bases loaded pitch after pitch was a unique experience.
6,306 turned out for what was unfortunately the smallest crowd in Dallas Stars regular season history at American Airlines Center.
Talk about a big (unexpected) two points and I'll be back with more in a bit...
The Power Play: The first period was marked by special teams play, and the Stars earned 5:41 of power play time altogether, generating very little. Through twenty minutes and three power plays they managed just seven shots on goal to the Coyotes eleven. Power play trouble would continue throughout with many of the same issues fans saw in Chicago on Saturday night with the lost faceoffs and poor entries. We'll be talking about this more as the week continues, I'm sure.
Seven power play opportunities produced only six shots. The final power play lasted only 31 seconds before Steve Ott took the Stars off the job, needing a goal and only having three minutes in which to score it. They escaped in the end but the second minor penalty of the game for Mr. Otter came at an inopportune time.
The Penalty Kill:The Coyotes lone goal came on a power play but otherwise the Stars penalty kill was effective again, often killing penalties up ice and keeping quality chances to a minimum. Phoenix went 1 for 7 (10:39) total and generated only seven shots on goal in that span. The power play has a long way to go, but the PK unit is nearly where the want to be early in the season.
Too Many Men: The Stars took their second and third bench minors for too many men on the ice tonight. They were guilty of that only six times in all of last season. Once was an annoyance. Twice was a coincidence. Three times makes you wonder what's going on over there. They'll get it cleaned up, no doubt, because they're a very detail oriented team.
Passing Lanes: It's painful to continually say this about the Coyotes but they are a very well coached bunch and it manifests itself in all kinds of ways, not the least of which is their incredible ability to junk up the passing lanes and make things frustrating. Frustration was the overriding feeling of the night.
Shots on Goal: The Ribeiro line generated a grand total of four shots on goal tonight. Jamie Benn led forwards with 4 SOG, including a couple of high quality looks that Mike Smith got, and Sheldon Souray led all shooters with five (not including the one that was tipped on the Eriksson goal, which was the biggie).
Kari Lehtonen: Continues to be spectacular, and the only part of this team of this team that is above reproach after a start to the season that has been shaky in general (though the standings indicate otherwise).
Minor Penalties: The Stars have now taken 14 minor penalties in their first three games and Steve Ott took two tonight. That's a place he can't go if the Benn/Eriksson line is to be as effective as Stars fans hope it will be.
The Attendance: Much will be said about the attendance. Much more will be said from outside the Metroplex, which is neither here nor there. The why is unimportant and it will be addressed through ownership and various other avenues (hopefully winning). What IS important is it's effect on the game unfolding on the ice. People always say that professional athletes shouldn't need to be motivated and that they should play just as hard and with just as much energy, but the effect on the play tonight was undeniable. These guys notice the crowd. They see what's going on, and it bugs them as much (or more) as it bugs us. The energy in a building like the United Center undeniably assists the Chicago Blackhawks. The lack of it here tonight had at least something to do with the malaise of the first two periods. If it's going to be a regular thing, the Stars are going to have to find a way to summon that energy themselves, and most opponents will not usually be so accommodating as to let them hang around to find some in the third period.