A win is a win is a win. It may not be the prettiest effort the Stars have given to date, but they'll take it - and the two points - and look towards their next game as they continue this early four game road trip.
Columbus came out exactly as everyone expected them to - pushing hard, playing like their season depends on this one game. To be fair, it just may. They have yet to win a game this season, are down several key players, were called out by their coach for not working a full 60 minutes, and the pressure is on to get going in Columbus.
After a solid defensive first period where neither team scored, the Stars played some sluggish play in the second period. Neutral zone issues, offensive zone entrance woes, and getting outworked on the puck was what marked the second period for the Stars. Kari Lehtonen, again standing tall in net, managed to keep the Blue Jackets off the board in the second and the Stars took a 1-0 lead into the third.
Then the Stars offense woke up - big time. Jamie Benn made all 6 Blue Jackets' players on the ice look foolish and scored a beauty of a goal. (That's 3 forwards, 2 defensemen, and the goalie for those wondering where my math went wrong.) Columbus cut the lead to 2-1 off a powerplay goal. Ryder then slips a Souray bomb fivehole through Mason to give the Stars a 3-1 lead. The Stars hung on through a late period surge by the Jackets to take the win, 3-2.
Once again, the Stars had a solid penalty kill night once again, killing 4 of 5 penalties. The powerplay still needs some work, going 0-2 on the night.
Some thoughts from Brandon Worley, taking notes from Nationwide Arena tonight, after the jump.
[Ed. Note: The following was written by Brandon Worley]
The Dallas Stars had a very interesting start to their road trip tonight as they took on the extremely desperate and dangerous Columbus Blue Jackets for the second time in four nights. The Jackets were facing a disastrous start to the season and in front of a small but very enthusiastic crowd, the home team gave it their all. Thanks to Kari Lehtonen, once again, and some timely third-period goals, the Stars withstood the barrage and are suddenly off to another hot start to the season.
What's amazing about this 5-1-0 start is that everyone knows the Stars are far from playing their best hockey. The team is struggling in some key areas and the Stars can't rely on Lehtonen's heroics every game like this but for now, the formula is at least working out while the Stars and the new coach figure each other out.
Gulutzan said after the game that he thought the Stars did a better job tonight in some areas but, once again, were struggling in some others. He was more positive tonight than last week while calling out some egregious errors in the second period. He didn't call out the Ribeiro line specifically but the way he played his fourth line in the third period, you wonder what sort of message that top line received. Gulutzan said there's no actual message, but there's no doubting that Ribeiro and his line are struggling right now.
Gulutzan made some strategic changes in the third period that seemed to wake up the Stars and while they allowed two goals, they had complete control for most of that period. Much of the success tonight had to do with the defensive coverage in front of the net, something the Stars have completely turned around from last season.
Some more thoughts on the game:
- We'll have more on this tomorrow, but Kari Lehtonen has been absolutely spectacular so far this season. Right now he's in the best shape of his life and he's playing with confidence. A lot of that has to do with his defense that, while a lot of shots are getting through, the Stars are doing a tremendous job in protecting the backside of the net and limiting rebound chances.
- Nationwide Arena would be the best hockey arena I've been to, if it weren't for the jumbotron. That thing is outdated beyond belief. Other than that, this is a beautiful arena with passionate fans -- at least the ones that showed up. This is one heck of a place to watch hockey.
- While the Stars are off to an incredible start on the penalty kill, showing some tremendous improvement over last season, they're still going to the box way too often. Just like tonight against the Blue Jackets, if you give a team enough chances -- even against the best PK in the NHL -- eventually they'll find a way to score. Now, the refs tonight were a bit ticky tack, but the Stars so far has set a bad precedence with the amount of penalties they're taking so far this season.
- At one point, the Stars had won 66% of the faceoffs in the game. That number evened out a bit with the Stars barely edging Columbus, 52%-48%. Once again, Mike Ribiero was the worst on the team. Jamie Benn won 6 of 9.
- As Josh alluded to in his post the other day, the Jamie Benn line is doing a tremendous job this season and was the best line for the Stars tonight. Gulutzan was playing this line against the Rick Nash line for most of the game and they still finished a collective +6 with four points between them.
- Jake Dowell has to be the unheralded star of this season so far. The tenacious center has been a force on the fourth line, generating some good chances while also playing some great coverage on defense as well. He's not seeing an awful lot of ice time but he's being effective in those minutes, which is exactly what you want from him.
- On the flip side, Tom Wandell has not had a good start to this season. He struggled in camp and he's struggling right now -- not many offensive chances and he's committing too many defensive mistakes. He might find himself expendable soon if this trend continues.
DBD Three Stars of the Game:
Jamie Benn, Dallas Stars
Kari Lehtonen, Dallas Stars
Sheldon Souray, Dallas Stars