Jamie Benn opened the Stars 2-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets Saturday night with a couple of good chances. He was standing in front all alone and was stopped in overtime on a potential game winner. He hit the post in the shootout.
He was close, but a little off, just like the rest of the team in struggling to best Ondrej Pavelec despite putting 36 shots on him.
But before it got close, it was ugly. Really, really ugly.
The Jets were up 11-3 in the first period in shots on net and put 22 on Kari Lehtonen before the halfway mark of the game. They dominated possession and threatened again and again, taking advantage of poor play at the blue lines by Dallas.
The Stars' fourth trio of Vern Fiddler, Lane MacDermid and Antoine Roussel had their moments throughout, so it was fitting when they found the goal that tied things in the late stages of the third period, but it was not enough.
Three power plays, chances to grab some momentum even without scoring, were wasted in particular. Six minutes of power play time through the first 59 minutes yielded just a single shot on goal, and more than a couple of scares coming back the other way.
Like the odor of tequila wafting toward me in section 312 from a young woman's drink all game long, the stench of this one spread to every line and every period.
Dallas pushed back in the third, out-shooting the Jets 16-7 in the frame and even took a lead in the shots department, however briefly, before the Winnipeg blitz in overtime (after another failed power play...) and so deserve some credit for sticking with it and earning a point, but after the poor start against Calgary in front of the home fans they'd hoped to get things off on a better foot.
When Winnipeg wasn't winning the puck battles it seemed as though the puck was. Passes were a hair off. Timing was poor. There was miscommunication throughout. "It's definitely not a Picasso," someone in the press box remarked.
Upon the conclusion of the shootout (where Ray Whitney failed to hit the net), almost as if to mock, mother nature dumped rain in the area that was so thunderous and intense people are disinclined, as I write this, to even leave the concourse and go to their cars. The Stars could have used a little "more rain" tonight, so to speak.
Through it all Kari Lethonen was a rock, stopping 21 of 22 through just the first 30 minutes of play. Stellar again because the team in front of him demanded it. 37 of 38 in all when overtime was over, and the Jets hit their average for shots over their last eight coming in (also exactly 38).
Meanwhile Nichushkin continues to inch his way toward the expectations he found waiting for him in North America. Inch by painfully slow little inch. He was around it again tonight, to use a technical term. He had his chances, and he was the one that created them. It's coming. Soon.
But the Stars are left with what has to feel, despite the evening shot attempts in the third and the OTL point, like another stinker. They need better starts. They need cleaner transitions from zone to zone. They need a power play that gives them life when things aren't going as well as they'd like.
They need to beat a team that is seemingly trying to beat itself. WInnipeg's mantra coming into this one is that they've been finding ways to lose. When they leave Jamie Benn alone in front in the final minutes and when they take a bench minor for too many men with 24 seconds left, they're trying to do just that.
Buffalo presents an easy target in the eyes of some Monday night to start some confidence building and improve their 1-4-0 road record. Dallas is last in the division, three points behind these Winnipeg Jets to whom they just conceded two, and second to last in the conference.
-The Stars out-attempted the Jets 75-72 on the evening, surprisingly, after a terrible start in that department.
-Ray Whitney. Not Tyler Seguin. Not even Nichushkin. Ray Whitney. Lindy Ruff has said previously that he picks players for the shootout he's liked in the game. So is there a message there or is it just a hunch? Either way that doesn't appear to be giving yourself the absolute best chance to win.
-Dallas dominated faceoffs throughout. Dominated them. Winning 17 of the first 22, dominated, and they were still being out-shot by a large margin at that point. That shouldn't happen.
-Alex Goligoski had no power play time but killed penalties. He was OK in his return, paired with Jordie Benn, who continues to be one of the more noticeable (and not in a bad way) defensemen.
-The Stars were credited with 13 giveaways tonight. It's one of the worst, nonsensical stats in sports, but that's a high number that doesn't begin to describe some of the gaffs seen tonight.
-Thanks to those who made it out for our DBD group night.