Kari Lehtonen returned to form in the Stars' 4-3 shootout win over the Coyotes. Credit Shannon Byrne on the photo.
The Dallas Stars ended their two game losing streak Tuesday night on NBC Sports Network and, though they gave a point to the Phoenix Coyotes in the process, held onto the Pacific Division lead with a total of 85 points with nine games remaining.
They started by surviving the first period, in every sense of the word. After Loui Eriksson put the Stars ahead 1-0 just two minutes into the game the Coyotes out-chanced them and out-shot them throughout, resulting in a Korpikoski goal to tie it.The Stars also had to kill two Phoenix power play opportunities, both with Trevor Daley in the box. Shots were 9-5 after one with the score tied.
Several quality looks for the Ribeiro line and a missed breakaway chance by Vernon Fiddler got the second off to a much improved start for Dallas, but the fun was just starting. Michael Ryder would put the Stars ahead 2-1 on their first power play in over eight periods and then Shane Doan's elbow on Jamie Benn at 5:54 (more on that to come) set off a melee that resulted in 44 penalty minutes being distributed. Ryder struck again late in the frame to put the Stars up 3-1, and they had them right where they wanted them.
Except the Coyotes would not go quietly into the night. Defensive miscues and turnovers kept Phoenix in the game and they started taking advantage on a Dallas power play nine minutes into the third period. Ekman-Larsson made it a single-shot game with the Coyotes' 5th short-handed goal of the season, and Phoenix kept their foot on the gas until Ray Whitney got free on a Phoenix power play to beat Kari Lehtonen clean high to the glove side. Just like their game in Edmonton on Sunday, the Coyotes had sent a game they trailed by two in the third to overtime.
It was the Kari Lehtonen show in the 4-on-4 session as he turned aside five Phoenix shots, all of which seemed to be of the dangerous variety. Jamie Benn was ridden into the corner boards hard by Vermette and would get up woozy, eventually leaving the game. Dallas survived to the skills competition.
Kari Lehtonen would continue his dazzling display, stopping all three Coyote shooters he faced. Mike Ribeiro's lone shootout goal would be the deciding tally, but it was Jamie Benn coming back out onto the ice after it was assumed he was out that really got the crowd on their feet. We'll anxiously await word and update Benn's status shortly.
"We've got to find ways to secure two-goal leads going forward," said Michael Ryder. "We were fortunate tonight. Lehtonen was remarkable again for us."
Dallas moves to 85 points, Phoenix to 84. The Flames and Avalanche do battle tonight, as well as the Kings and the Sharks, but the Stars cannot be topped for the Pacific Division lead and will hold onto 3rd place tomorrow morning when the dust (and overtimes) settle. The race, remains incredibly, almost unfairly tight.
A win is a win, and now we'll get word the wounded as Mark Fistric also left this game with an upper body injury. More thoughts after the jump...Obviously the big topic of the night, apart from the outcome, is Shane Doan's illegal elbow on Jamie Benn. The league will look at it, but even under the Shannahan regime it's hard to say if anything else will be done about it. He received only a two minute minor on the play.
Doan was fined $2500 (the maximum allowed under the current CBA - wonder if they'll up that?) on the 16th of this month for a boarding play on Calgary's Mark Giordano last Friday night, so this will be his second offense in short order. I don't know if that makes him a repeat offender, officially, but you have to think it will weight on the decision.
If the Coyotes are without Doan for a game or three down this stretch, it probably won't hurt Jamie Benn's feelings, who appears fine but we'll wait and see how things shake out over the next 48 hours before we're fully out of the woods.
Of course you have to keep in mind that there was no injury on the play. The NHL always factors that in.
We had a video of the play up already tonight here, in case you missed it. Puck Daddy also put something up and guessed three games for the elbow.
Other jumbled thoughts...
- The long time Coyote fan will have surely remembered by now the irony of Dallas Stars fans complaining about Phoenix and a dirty elbow. Derian Hatcher's name will live in infamy because of what he did to Jeremy Roenick just as much as it will due to winning a Stanley Cup as an American born captain and Dallas Star. Good times.
- Penalty minutes would not be scarce tonight, but we didn't know that heading in. When Hanzal was whistled for holding at 4:43 of the second period it broke a 166:35 streak where the Stars were without a single power play opportunity. That spanned back to the second period in Minnesota. I joked on twitter that they might not remember how to do it. They scored 43 seconds later and I was very glad to be proven wrong.
- Mark Fistric left the game during the big scrum early in the second period. It looked like he was leaving for a misconduct but was not given a penalty. I watched him walk down the tunnel. That part (walking) definitely looked fine. It's an upper body thing. He did not return and we'll have to wait for word after the game or tomorrow at practice.
- Michael Ryder didn't just hit the post in the first period - He rocked the entire goal cage with that one and you could see it all the way up here at altitude in the press box. Those goals he scored were pretty darn impressive too, now that I think about it, and he almost won it in overtime with a couple of nifty moves.
- More than the chippy stuff, the injuries, the two points, the elbow, the scrums, and everything else.... What a Stars fan should really take away from the AAC tonight was the atmosphere in the building. The magnitude of the game was not lost on anyone, and the gut wrenching of the third, overtime and the shootout were extraordinarily reminiscent of playoff hockey. We're being treated to one of the highest, most exhilarating form of entertainment on the planet right now. We don't know how it's going to turn out, but enjoy it.
- Short handed goals are like blocked punts in the NFL. They're almost always part of a win. To allow the Coyotes just their 5th shorthanded goal of the season there is inexcusable, even if it did come on the heels of what looked an awful lot like a tripped Loui Eriksson at the other blue line. It cost them a point in their lead over the Coyotes. Nine additional games will tell how costly that is.
- 17,012 - Nothing much to say about that other than, "Nice job." Kari Lehtonen bobble-head night was a big success and the activities of the second period forward deserved that many witnesses and reactions. Way to fill the barn up for a big national television broadcast. Let's do it again Thursday and Saturday.
- Hats off to the intrepid gentleman in the lower bowl who took it upon himself, and only himself, to boo Shane Doan any time he even got near the puck.
- There's probably a lot more that could be said (like the nature of the Coyotes physicality as directed with laser-like focus at Jamie Benn's upper body) but we'll leave it for another time. Enjoy this one for now.