It doesn't have to be pretty, it doesn't have to be clean. A win is a win, and two points count regardless of how you get them at the end of the day. This late in the season, take the points and move on to the next.
The first period proceeded much as the last six first periods the Dallas Stars have played - the opposition did not score and neither did the Stars. The Stars seemed to dominate the puck possession in the first, with several extended shifts in the offensive zone. Adam Pardy had probably he best period of play, sneaking down to the goal line and getting a good look at a puck he put into Matt Hackett's goalie gear. He had several shifts where he was deep in the offensive zone and made some good plays. Jamie Benn had the best chance, with a 2-on-1 breakaway developing with Vernon Fiddler on his side. He slowed in front of Hackett, and had faked him out to go down low and leave the top of the net open, but an aware Darren Powe kept Benn from being able to get the shot off. Minnesota would get away with having too many men on the ice and would catch the first powerplay of the game when Fiddler cross checked Jed Ortmeyer. Minnesota would get a bit of momentum and close the shots on goal to be close and the scoreless period would end with the Stars outshooting the Wild 10-8.
What can you say about the second period? Well...it's best summed up as inconsistent officiating and blown opportunities. The Stars had several prime chances in the middle frame. The best one was probably on the powerplay when the puck rebounded out straight to Mike Ribeiro's stick. He one timed it on net, and through traffic, Hackett was able to punch it out and make the save. Both teams became a bit unbridled in the second, taking a combined 14 penalty minutes (only two of those offset one another.) The penalties were mainly of the "safety call" variety. After Minnesota got away earlier with too many men on the ice, Tom Wandell was called for charging, Minnesota took a boarding, followed by two Brenden Morrow penalties - both for tripping - and the second looked like it should have been a matching holding penalty on the Wild. The best you can do is fight through it, and Kari Lehtonen would come up with several big saves to keep the game scoreless through two.
Jamie Benn would bury a nice cross ice pass from Morrow to give the Stars a 1-0 lead. Both teams would trade physicality and get away with plenty of holding/interference in a nasty third period. Mark Fistric would take a stinger in the knee on a blocked shot and give a nice scare on a blueline already missing big guy Sheldon Souray. He would walk it off and come back to finish up the game without missing a beat. Loui Eriksson would get a nice shorthanded chance but couldn't beat Hackett. With the goalie pulled and the extra man on the attack, Minnesota would pressure but not beat Lehtonen on his way to back-to-back shutouts.
A few thoughts on the game after the jump.
- Pardy was all over the play early in the game. He played ninja and snuck down to the goal line for a really nice chance in close on Hackett. He had no less than three chances down in that area, sending another puck clear across the crease late in the game. Only one noticeable turnover, which didn't cost the team anything, and nothing but positives the rest of the game. He also gives a very nice between period interview, very well spoken and honest answers when asked about his 'rocky' season in Dallas and being out of the lineup when asked about it by Razor.
- Fistric has probably been one of the biggest reasons the penalty kill continues to click. He and Lehtonen showed a flash of Craig Ludwig and Eddie Belfour, with Fistric taking away the bottom of the net and Lehtonen taking away the top on the first penalty kill of the game. He was all over the blocked shots tonight, providing Lehtonen with the defense needed to get another shutout.
- How good is Lehtonen? Night in and night out undoubtedly the Stars' MVP. Nice to see his strong play getting rewarded with a few shutouts recently - there have been plenty of those he's deserved over the season and not been able to hold onto.
- Hackett had another stellar outing against Dallas, having stopped all 10 shots he faced in mop up duty previously. He robbed several chances from the Stars in the game, seeing pucks well through traffic. The Stars definitely had good looks tonight, and Hackett was solid in net for Minnesota.
- The penalty kill came up strong again, killing off all four powerplay opportunities the Wild received tonight.
- The Stars did another good job of not turning the puck over very much, with stretches of absolute domination of possession in the game.
- Stars have taken 21 of the last 22 points available to them.