Following an extraordinarily spectacular pre-game show, the Stars showed some great energy through most of the first period and did a great job of controlling play. Jaromir Jagr made up for a missed breakaway chance with a breakaway goal late in the period, as the Stars rode the wave of optimism through a mostly positive first 20 minutes.
The second period was a different story, however, as penalty troubles plagued the Stars once again. While the calls by the officials were rough at best, the Stars allowed the Coyotes to take control of the game with two quick power play goals. Jagr got on the board for a second time on a late power play, as he and Ray Whitney showcased just how different this part of the special teams for the Stars will be this season.
The Stars fell victim to a rookie mistake when Jordie Benn's turnover led to a tying goal just minutes after the Stars took a 3-2 lead in the third period. The Stars would take the lead once more after another round of Jagr theatrics, as his deft pass ended up on the stick of Loui Eriksson.
The Stars power play and puck possession, as well as the added skill up front, certainly give this team a different dynamic than the teams we've seen in the past.
How you do feel after a big Stars win?
Some brief thoughts on a big opening game win:
This looked like a preseason game on the ice with a playoff atmosphere in the stands. The first period was particularly ugly, for both sides, as the teams played in the first real game situation since the season ended last June (the Stars haven't played since April). There were some ugly turnovers, some odd player collisions and general disarray on the ice for most of the game. To be expected, and will probably last at least another week or two.
Speaking of the playoff atmosphere, I don't think anyone anticipated just how pumped up this crowd would be for opening night. It seemed to be a combination of hockey finally returning after such a long hiatus and having a player like Jaromir Jagr on the ice in a Stars jersey. The fans were great, the atmosphere was great and the only hope is that the momentum with the fans continues to build as the season continues.
Back to the hockey: Jaromir Jagr is incredible. He was the best player on the ice, his puck possession skills are off the charts and it's clear that he's already building some great chemistry with Loui Eriksson. Almost as importantly, Jagr is a hockey legend that these Stars fans are openly and fully embracing. The AAC was sold out because Jagr was on the ice, I guarantee it, and getting two goals and two assists in his Stars debut couldn't have made for a better script.
Ray Whitney, Derek Roy and Cody Eakin also looked great in their Stars debuts, especially Derek Roy. These three players have helped the transition game of the Stars, although this was just one game against a Phoenix Coyotes team that likes to slow things down and not show much counterpunch in trying to push the pace up and down the ice.
While it feels great to get a big win, the Stars are going to have to clean a lot of things up. The defense was shaky as hell in their own zone more often than not, although it's clear that moving the puck up the ice will be much smoother from the back end than in years past. Whether it was rust, or communication, the Stars defense found themselves out of position far too often -- something that can't happen with the small size of the defense overall.
I'm not even going to bother talking about the penalties. None were of the "poor judgment" variety, with the officials calling the game much tighter than you normally would see in January. Stars just need to work on that penalty kill, which looked good at times and a mess at others.
Kari Lehtonen stopped 37 of 40 shots in the game and played as well as could be expected for his first real game since last season. He was particularly strong in the third period, stopping 15-of-16 shots in a frantic third period. Gulutzan said after the game they're leaning toward starting Crristopher Nilstorp in Minnesota, although a decision had not been made yet.
DBD's Three Stars Of The Game:
Jaromir Jagr, Dallas Stars
Loui Eriksson, Dallas Stars
Radim Vrbata, Phoenix Coyotes