With five days off between games, the big question facing the Dallas Stars heading into tonight's match against the Winnipeg Jets was whether the Stars would be rusty after so much time off, or if that much rest would have the team anxious and ready to go.
It turned out the Stars were more than ready, jumping out to a huge 3-0 lead in the first period that they managed to ride out into a final 4-1 decision.
Tyler Seguin had an excellent night, factoring in on all of Dallas' goals with two tallies and two assists for the first four-point night of his career, while Jamie Benn chipped in with a goal and two assists.
The bigger storyline as the game went on, however, was the loss of starting goaltender Kari Lehtonen late in the second period. Lehtonen stopped all 21 shots that he faced up until that point, but mysteriously left the ice during a TV timeout and never returned.
Mark Stepneski is reporting that Lehtonen has a lower body injury. More to follow as soon as the details emerge.
Dan Ellis came to the rescue in relief of Lehtonen for his first appearance of the season, stopping 22 out of 23 chances as the Jets made a strong push late, firing 20 shots in the third period.
Alex Chiasson opened the scoring for the Stars, because of course he did. Working down low on the powerplay, Chiasson was left with enough room to crash the net and slide the puck under Jets netminder Ondrej Pavelec. The magical start to his NHL career continues to keep rolling, as the big rookie now has three goals in all three games this season, and now nine goals in ten career games going back to last year.
It was also the first PP goal of the season for the Stars, after only generating one shot on the man advantage in their first two games.
That first goal opened the floodgates for Dallas. Seguin made it 2-0 with his first goal as a Star, taking a bouncing drop pass from Rich Peverley and firing a knucklepuck top shelf on Pavelec. Benn made it 3-0 with his first goal of the season, out-muscling big Dustin Byfuglien in front of the net to bang the puck home.
Seguin was absolutely flying all game long, and made it 4-0 at 5:10 in the second period, taking the puck at the left faceoff circle thanks to a Jamie Benn pass and firing home a hard slapshot.
With a 4-0 lead, the game was going entirely according to plan for the Stars. The crowd at the MTS Centre was subdued, and the Stars were beginning to settle into a defensive style of play.
Then Lehtonen left the ice.
With Ellis surprisingly stepping in, the Jets smelled blood and tried to make the most out of their lucky opportunity, storming back against a vulnerable Stars team. They controlled almost all of the play in the latter half of the game, and would get one goal back thanks to a Blake Wheeler powerplay marker early in the third period, but had already lost too much momentum by that point and couldn't complete the comeback.
The win puts the Stars at a record of 2-1 on the young season, and they will try to improve upon their newfound winning record tomorrow night in Minnesota against the Wild.
Ellis was already scheduled to get the start on Saturday, but now the question becomes whether or not Lehtonen will be the one backing him up.
Thoughts and observations:
- This was definitely Tyler Seguin's coming out party as a Dallas Star. He had four points, five shots on net, and a +2 rating in 17:04 of ice time, and was noticeable all over the ice on almost every shift. He even nearly completed the hat trick in the third, narrowly missing the net from a bad angle. He was the #1 star in the game. It wasn't even close.
- Dan Ellis was thrown into a tough situation when he came in, despite having a 4-0 lead to work with, but performed well. The Jets pushed very hard and there were definitely some scrambly moments for Ellis, as expected of a goalie coming in cold for his first appearance of the season, but he made a lot of key saves and, most importantly, knew when to freeze the puck when his teammates needed time to compose themselves. He showed the calm and collected mentality of a veteran goalie, and helped to prevent what could have been a dangerous comeback from Winnipeg.
- The powerplay, an obvious area of focus during the five days off, was much improved, with Dallas going 2-for-5 on the job. The Jets' penalty killing was sloppy, but credit still goes to the Stars for converting on the chances that they had.
- Alex Chiasson has ice in his veins. Or, as Razor mused, is wearing the "Cape Of Confidence." Whatever the metaphor, the rookie's remarkable success story just keeps building with another goal, as well as an assist. Once again tonight he was extremely confident with the puck, and also once again used his sneaky offensive awareness to find some room and make something happen.
- Dallas' best defensive pairing tonight? Jordie Benn and Trevor Daley. They routinely exited their own zone safely, transitioned well through the neutral zone, and were steady on the penalty kill. Daley played 20:02 and Jordie played 18:18.
- On the opposite end of the spectrum, the pairing of Alex Goligoski and Sergei Gonchar had issues. There were a few mishaps with the puck and got caught chasing a couple times. They have not looked impressive in any game yet this year, and the thought continues to persist whether or not a steady, defense-first presence needs to be switched in there to smooth things out a bit.
- The final shots in the game were 44-31 in favor of the Jets, but those numbers are a little misleading. Not many of Winnipeg's shots were dangerous scoring chances, and with all of the momentum against them in front of a raucous crowd in the final frame the Stars didn't have much choice but to play on their heels.
- Once again, the mood of this game completely changed when Lehtonen left the ice. The other Dallas players were clearly concerned, and seemed thrown off their game because of it. There was no situation where it was clear how Lehtonen got hurt, but his last action before going off was a somewhat awkward side-to-side save. Keep your fingers crossed that the news that comes back is that whatever happened isn't very serious.
Update: Kari Lehtonen is day-to-day with a lower body injury
Stars coach Lindy Ruff said Kari Lehtonen (lower body) is day to day.
Stars coach Lindy Ruff said Kari Lehtonen (lower body) is day to day.— Mike Heika (@MikeHeika) October 12, 2013