So this is what a full sixty minute effort from the Dallas Stars looks like huh?
From opening puck drop to the final horn, the Stars looked like a team that was not going to be denied a full two points in regulation tonight. They out hit the Hawks by a 26-21 margin, they out shot them 27-23, had more blocked shots, more takeaways and in the faceoff dot they were still below average...
Well ok it wasn't a perfect game, but it was damn close and at the very least it's a huge step in the right direction for this club that looked lost at home the last few games. Not one single player in the lineup had a bad game it seemed.
Steve Ott opened the scoring late in the first period as he took a Brad Richards outlet pass that found it's way past two Hawk defenders. A minute into the second period, Brenden Morrow blocked a weak shot and cleared it to Mike Ribeiro who them found himself skating beside Jamie Benn in a two on one situation. One beautiful saucer pass and one-timer by Benn later and it was 2-0.
Two minutes after that goal, it was as if the previous scoring play was reversed as Morrow hammered home a one-timer off a Benn pass that was set up by Ribeiro. Ultimately chasing away Hawks starting goalie Corey Crawford and brining in old favorite Marty Turco to mop up. At that point though all the damage that needed to be done, was.
The Hawks let their frustration get the best of them as well perfectly displayed in the form of Benn taking up the time and effort of four different Blackhawks behind their net while they were on a power play only to have Duncan Keith come in with a cheap shot that was met with rather weak justice from the game officials (two minute minor) but harsher justice from Steve Ott who flew in and decided to take Keith to task for taking liberties with arguably the Stars best player over the past month.
Add a couple of more Stars goals in the third period. One from Jason Williams who deposited a textbook Turco giveaway into an empty net, and one from Brandon Segal who made his return to the Stars lineup tonight.
Throw in some rock solid defense that kept the Hawks to the outer perimeter of the Stars zone, Kari Lehtonen being very good as usual and a combination of not just one or two lines carrying the team, but all four lines for the Stars doing their part and you have the fantastic result you see before you.
Just like the loss against the Sharks the other night didn't doom this club to another season without playoffs, the win tonight doesn't lock any kind of playoff position up by any means. The two points though are critical in terms of making sure that the Hawks don't gain any kind of space in the standings as well as help set the pace for the likes of the Flames, Coyotes and Ducks who are all on the Stars heels.
- Stars special teams: The penalty kill was very good and killed all four of the times they were shorthanded and did so only allowing three shots in total. The power play wasn't as much as they went 0 for 4 and while they did have seven shots and you could argue that the Segal goal that came directly after an expired Hawks penalty was a result of having the extra man pressure, it'd still be nice to see the Stars pot one.
- Other Stars getting points: Lehtonen picked up an assist (and set the team mark for points by a goalie in one season). Richards and Ribeiro had two assists each. Morrow, Benn and Tomas Vincour had solo helpers.
- Kari now has his second shutout of the season and of this seven game home stand. The Stars defense did a tremendous job in the last five minutes of the game locking down the hawks forwards to make sure any chance they had to score on Kari wasn't a good one.
- Hard to pick just three stars of this game as everyone was great. That's not just speaking as a Stars fan either. There wasn't a single Star where we could say they should have been better than they were. So I'll defer to Mike Heika's picks for the three stars, but with a slight twist:
1a - Kari Lehtonen (DAL)
1b - Jamie Benn (DAL)
1c - Brenden Morrow (DAL)