Vernon Fiddler scores the lone goal for the Stars in a 4-1 loss to Columbus 12/29/2011. via www.myhockeyshots.com
In theory, a string of zero road regulation wins will end at some point. The Dallas Stars happened to be the ones to allow that string to come to end, losing 4-1 to the Columbus Blue Jackets, who had not won a road game in regulation this season yet.
The first period started off with a decent shift by the Stars' third line of Eric Nystrom - Vernon Fiddler - Radek Dvorak. Not too long after that energy shift, Rick Nash scored on a wide open net when Philip Larsen and Alex Goligoski got caught going to the same side on their defensive coverage. And less than 4 minutes into the game, the Stars were down 1-0. Fiddler, who was probably the best player on the Stars team tonight, had a phenomenal defensive move to save a puck that had trickled past Kari Lehtonen and was assuredly going into the net. He continued his strong play by tying the game up at one apiece when he banged home a rebound from a Nicklas Grossman shot from the blue line past Steve Mason.
The second period saw the Stars get a little bit more turnover prone, much to their detriment. Despite outshooting the Blue Jackets in the first period, the Stars were too lackadaisical with their puck handling. Soft passes that went nowhere, turnovers in their own zone, and drop passes with no one to pick it up led the Blue Jackets to score goal number two.
The play continued in much the same way into the third period, with more turnovers and sloppy play in their own zone and around their own crease. Not the game the Stars were hoping for with a tough stretch coming up against the Boston Bruins and the Detroit Red Wings at home.
More thoughts on the game after the jump.
Puck possession and handling was not too hot tonight. It seemed as though a lot of the Stars' players had trouble with keeping the puck tonight. They had a lot of very uncharacteristic passes that did not go in the direction of one of their teammates. There were also an extraordinary amount of turnovers within their own zone. Passes were often overshot and not crisp from tape to tape. A lot of the mistakes seemed to be all mental and not necessarily mistakes committed under pressure early in the game. It then got worse as they tried harder to dig themselves out of the deficit they had fallen into. Larsen seemed to be the victim of a lot of this tonight, and the young Dane had one of the worst games he has had to date while called up to the Dallas Stars.
Vernon Fiddler was the best Stars player on the ice. Not only did he score the only goal for the Stars, Fiddler was also one of the best defensive forwards on the ice. He saved what looked to be a guaranteed goal in the first period, clearing the puck from going over the line when it had squeaked past Lehtonen. He drew penalties. He killed penalties. Every time his line was on the ice, they had some good shifts in the offensive zone with some good cycling of the puck.
The penalty kill was good and the powerplay looked dangerous. The streak of two powerplay goals allowed in the past four games came to an end tonight. The PK was perfect, killing off two penalties and keeping the Blue Jackets off of the scoresheet on a 4-on-4. Lehtonen, in his first game back from a groin injury, was the Stars' best penalty killer by far. On the other side of the specialty teams, the powerplay actually had some very good looks on the job. Even though they did not connect on three chances in the game, it was probably one of the best powerplay looks displayed in the past month or so. Alex Goligoski spent an entire powerplay on the ice, playing on both units. Jamie Benn's unit, usually the second powerplay unit, started the third powerplay as the first unit. There were plenty of shots on net, but nothing connected. Ultimately, the powerplay needs to connect for the Stars to take the next step towards being playoff contenders.
Kari Lehtonen looked good in his first game back. He had one save that made me wince in pain when he did the splits - after a groin injury sidelined Lehtonen recently, that was disconcerting to see. He winced a bit afterwards, but Ralph Strangis and Daryl Reaugh seemed to think it may have been from the outstretched glove pulling at his shoulder. Lehtonen seemed to get better as the game wore on, finding a good grove, and kept the Stars in the game under enormous pressure at the end of the second period.
Defending Big D's Three Stars Of The Game:
1. Rick Nash (CBJ)
2. John Moore (CBJ)
3. Vernon Fiddler (DAL)
03:50 - CBJ Rick Nash (11) - Wrist Shot - Assists: Ryan Johansen (7)
08:57 - DAL Vernon Fiddler (5) - Wrist Shot - Assists: Radek Dvorak (14) & Nicklas Grossman (3)
02:10 - CBJ Antoine Vermette (5) - Wrist Shot - Assists: John Moore (1) & Mark Letestu (5)
06:09 - CBJ Rick Nash (12) - Wrist Shot - Assists: John Moore (2) & Nikita Nikitin (13)
19:58 - EN CBJ Fedor Tyutin (3) - Wrist Shot - Assists: R.J. Umberger (10) & Marc Methot (5)