Kari Lehtonen held the fort for Dallas tonight in a big way. Credit Shannon Byrne on the photo.
The magic continues for the Dallas Stars, who defeated the San Jose Sharks 4-3 in a shootout Thursday night at American Airlines Center. That extends this run to points in nine straight (8-0-1) and puts them 9-1-2 in their last twelve over all. 20 of 24 points in that stretch. That will get it done.
The Stars were holding their own in the first period and had the game's first power play but couldn't convert. Loui Eriksson rang a shot off the post and then Ryan Garbutt took his first NHL minor penalty, shifting the momentum of the game wildly in the Sharks' favor. From 9:32 to 18:23 the Stars would get out-shot 11-0 as the ice tilted toward Kari Lehtonen's end. Dallas was fortunate to take a 0-0 tied to the locker room.
The stale mate continued in the second until Michael Ryder had just enough room on a partial breakaway to get off a shot that beat Antti Niemi. The Sharks continued to pepper Lehtonen throughout, but the Stars looked poised to take a 1-0 lead to the second intermission. Torrey Mitchell thought otherwise, and after some messy play in the neutral zone, he wound up one-on-one with Alex Goligoski, who couldn't out-muscle him. Mitchell beat Lehtonen in tight and it was tied 1-1.
Patrick Marleau would score just 25 seconds into the third and the Stars suddenly found themselves chasing a game they led just 27 seconds of total game clock ago. The Sharks would continue to dominate possession but Jamie Benn would tie the game on a great end to end rush to give the Stars hope deep into the third period. They couldn't make it last. The shots kept coming and the Stars lost too many puck battles. Eventually a shot from the corner found it's way into the slot where Joe Pavelski out-muscled Trevor Daley to give the Sharks the apparent win.
Except Tomas Vincour, given a massive opportunity by Glen Gulutzan with under 90 seconds to play, thought differently. With Kari Lehtonen on the Dallas bench and the extra attacker on, a Robidas shot would get through to Niemi and a mad scrum ensued. Tomas Vincour would get credit for a goal that needed to be reviewed, and overtime was just a few ticks away.
Mike Ribeiro had a breakaway in the extra session, but a great stick play by Marleau would foil it from behind. A Trevor Daley pinch then left Michael Ryder to cover on defense, and he had to take a holding penalty, giving the Sharks a 4-on-3 power play, but Dallas survived to the skills competition.
Such a fine hockey game had to be settled in a lousy way, and the Stars needed five shootout rounds and Tomas Vincour to beat Niemi after Benn, Ribeiro, Eriksson and Ryder all failed. Kari Lehtonen was perfect at the other end.
The beat goes on for this team. Back in a few with additional thoughts.The Stars are doing what you call "finding ways to win games", because some of these haven't exactly been pretty. The Sharks put 48 shots on Kari Lehtonen and he stopped 45 of them, plus five more in the shootout. That's also what you call "leaning hard on your goaltender," and now the decision to start Bachman in Vancouver looks even better.
The bottom line, though, is that without Ott and without Souray for most of the game, they found a way to get it done with clutch goal scoring and more strong penalty killing. They don't ask how on April 8th, they just ask how many, and right now the Stars point total is skyrocketing and they're managing to hold off intense competition. 79 down. Another 13 or 14 to go.
- Steve Ott missed this game with back spasms. Not the illness it was reported he also has earlier this morning. Toby Petersen figured to slot in with Jake Dowell reportedly being ready for Saturday's game, but the Stars activated the latter and put him in the game after Ott stretched at pre-game skate but decided he couldn't make it. Ryan Garbutt slotted up onto the "second" line with Jamie Benn and Adam Burish. Garbutt finally recieved the kind of exposure many had hoped, and he quickly put a stamp on this one that we've heard a lot about from the folks down in Cedar Park: Taking minor penalties.
- The last time the Sharks visited the American Airlines Center the two teams racked up 100 collective PIMs. With so much more on the line this time (and without Steve Ott) the game took more of a playoff type feel and the chippy stuff was kept out of it nearly completely. I can't say we were expecting that.
- Sheldon Souray left the game midway through the second period and didn't return. Glen Gulutzan would continue to play Daley with Fistric and Goligsoki with Larsen, using various members of those groups with Stephane Roidas throughout the remainder of the game.
- With Steve Ott out and Brenden Morrow close, it leaves a power play unit of Benn, Burish and Wandell as the second option, which when the Ribeiro line is the combo that draws the penalty, makes it their first option. This happened in the third period and they failed to generate much on a PP that could have put them ahead. You have to wonder what kind of Brenden Morrow the Stars will get back, and if it will help rectify this situation a little. We'll find out Saturday. Or Tuesday.
- Attendance was 16,812, definitely a high for a Thursday night this year I'm guessing. Expect a big one on Saturday when the Ducks come calling. Get your tickets now because that one could sell out.
- Roidas broke another two or three sticks tonight. Seems like someone at that factory dislikes the Stars fairly intensely ;)
- Tale from the press box: The Stars ask Heika for the three stars of the game with about four or five minutes remaining, no matter the situation. Tonight he tried to change it several times. The final version didn't make it down to the scorers table and Tomas Vincour was left off, though Mike meant to put him on. Sometimes things just don't work out in a loud building full of screaming, happy people. Oh well. He tried.