Once again it wasn't as pretty a game as you'd like to see from the Dallas Stars but at this time of year anything positive can never be looked at as bad. The Stars were able to take full ownership of 7th in the conference with a big shootout win over the Calgary Flames and move into a points tie with Phoenix for first in the division. It's true, however hard that may be to believe.
With the Stars spending 40 minutes or so trying to decide what sort of defensive alignment they'd prefer to play Kari Lehtonen was looked upon to step up and he did not disappoint. Just like we've seen for most of the season the Stars goaltender was the best player on the ice for the Stars, making several monster saves in the third period to ensure the Stars got at least one point in the game. Lehtonen finished with 36 saves on 38 shots and was easily the player of the game.
Miikka Kiprosoff was just as good at the other end, eliminating several big scoring chances for the Stars with big saves -- including a number in overtime. With 78 total shots between the two teams it's amazing there weren't more goals; of course, we could also blame the officiating for that issue as well.
It was the special teams, however, that will define this game. The Stars tied the game in the second period off a brilliant Loui Eriksson breakaway on the penalty kill and the Stars finally got some power play magic with a big Michael Ryder goal to take the lead. The power play would stagnate in the third period, however, and the Flames would use that momentum to tie the game eight minutes into the third period. Another power play fizzled in overtime and the Stars missed a glorious chance to get a very important regulation or overtime win.
In the end, you can't feel bad about two points -- especially with the Stars in the middle of a big playoff race. They now have points in seven straight games, including three wins against teams they are fighting directly with for positioning.
More on the game after the jump.
- While the two points by the Stars tonight are huge, it seems much of the discussion tonight is going around the horrendous display of officiating that permeated this game. It wasn't all about the Stars since blown calls went in each direction but it was astounding how many hooks, slashes and interference plays when uncalled. Jamie Benn getting tripped in open ice with the puck is the first call that comes to mind, or the missed boarding call in the first period. The NHL has seen a drastic drop in called penalties as the season has progressed and I'm not certain that's necessarily a good thing. Don't call everything but at least call the obvious ones.
- I don't think Dallas Stars fans quite understand just how good Kari Lehtonen has been this season. Once again, this time in Calgary, Lethonen was looked upon to stand strong for his team and overcome some defensive breakdowns, most notably in the third period. Even more importantly, he rebounded from a bad shootout against Pittsburgh to make too big stops against Alex Tanguay and Olli Jokinen.
- Stephane Robidas didn't have the best game of his NHL career with several sticks exploding during a shot attempt and then what appeared to be a skate blade falling apart on the ice. Luckily for Robidas none of the miscues led directly to scoring chances although he did get caught scrambling without a stick on Glencross' goal in the second period.
- For whatever reason, the Dallas Stars coaching staff decided to completely go against what had been working during the past six games and messed with the zone start formula that had been working so well. Josh will have more on this tomorrow but the result was, once again, Mike Ribiero and company becoming scoring chances sieves and Jamie Benn and his line failing to get much offensive zone pressure. Fortunately, the Stars decided to go back to the old system and it paid off in the third period -- although the tying goal was allowed off a bit of a defensive scramble.
- Loui Eriksson was once again a monster for the Stars with a goal and assist tonight, and now has 11 points in his past nine games. His breakaway shorthanded goal tonight was something we don't normally see from the Swede but it was certainly one of the prettiest goals we've seen all of this season from the Stars.
DBD's Three Stars Of The Game (since Calgary media is insane, apparently)
Kari Lehtonen, Dallas Stars
Jarome Iginla, Calgary Flames
Loui Eriksson, Dallas Stars