One day Alex Chiasson's goal scoring touch will cool off, but that day hasn't come for the Dallas Stars rookie just yet.
Chiasson scored his second goal of the season - and his eighth in nine career NHL games - and it stood up to be the game winner as the Dallas Stars picked up their first win of the season 2-1 over the Washington Capitals at the American Airlines Center.
Chiasson's continued hot hands, along with some strong penalty killing in the final 30 seconds, were keys for the Stars comeback which gave Lindy Ruff his first win as the team's head coach.
It looked like more of the same early for the Stars when Stephane Robidas was called for tripping, which put the formidable Capitals power play on the ice. The Stars penalty killers had a few opportunities to get the puck out but failed to capitalize. The same couldn't be said for Alex Ovechkin, who was left all alone in the left circle and just buried a shot past Lehtonen.
Erik Cole evened up the game off a beautiful feed from Tyler Seguin. Seguin collected the puck behind the net, then spun and fired the pass to the slot without looking, and Cole slammed home a one-timer for his first goal and Seguin's first assist of the season.
The Stars caught a break - or perhaps it should be said Kari Lehtonen drew a break - midway through the second period when Nicklas Backstrom appeared to bunt home a strange bounce to give the Caps a 2-1 lead. But in his attempt to get at the puck, Backstrom had cross-checked Lehtonen in the head, which was caught by the back referee. After a brief conference at center ice, the referees waived off the goal because of goalie interference.
The NHL even weighed in with the official word during the game.
At 8:01 of the second period in the Capitals/Stars game, the puck entered the Dallas net. Referee Mike Leggo determined that Nicklas Backstrom made incidental contact with goalie Kari Lehtonen and prevented Lehtonen from doing his job in the crease -- no goal, no penalty.
Goalie interference is the referee's call on the ice and is not reviewable. Could you argue there should have been a high sticking or cross checking call on the play? Sure, but I think Leggo was the back ref on the play and wouldn't have been able to tell the degree of contact. Could you argue the goal should have counted? Eh, probably not.
Shortly after, Chiasson potted his second of the season after a scramble at the net to give the Stars their first lead of the game.
While the Capitals continued to create pressure as the game went on, including a nervy sequence late in the third when Chiasson failed to take an advantage of a delayed offside to clear, the Stars were much more confident in their defensive zone positioning than they were in the season opener against the Florida Panthers.
That was tested late after Tyler Seguin was whistled for delay of game - puck over glass with 35 seconds remaining. A veteran heavy penalty kill kept the Caps in neutral of their own zone for the first 25 seconds, and Lehtonen came up with one last save to seal the victory.
Other things of note
- Rich Peverley might not have scored a goal, though he came close on quite a few occasions, but he was a huge factor all over the ice, especially as the game wore on. The little things he brought to the team - the awareness of the dangerous players in the defensive end, the sneaky little moves to win puck battles, the faceoff ability - were invaluable as the game wore on. Lindy Ruff indicated he might move Peverley up off the fourth line if the game indicated, and while I didn't catch that happening expect in the final four minutes, he will easily move up the lineup in the next few games.
- As nerve-wracking as the third period was at times, the Stars held the Capitals to just four shots. Two of those game on the last second scramble at the net (and I mean last second - they happened with two and one seconds left, respectively). Dallas gave up 25 shots overall in the game. For as much as they struggled with that against the Panthers, it was a welcome sight.
- A lot of the shot count drop can be attributed to a much calmer game in the Stars defensive zone. While there were still a few problems - and a few too many failed clears for my personal taste - the positioning and positional support was just orders of magnitude better throughout the game. Maybe some of the first night was nerves, or a new system, or simply just trying to hard, but they seemed to get it much more under control tonight.
- Jordie Benn continues to be a much calmer presence this season than last. He still has a few bobbles with the puck around the offensive blue line, but he recovers much better. He's also really settled into a simple, steady game in his own end. He and Daley were a very solid pairing tonight (though they did get caught on at least one odd-man rush that Daley played well).
- Lehtonen didn't have to be spectacular tonight. Let me repeat that for effect. Lehtonen did not have to be spectacular tonight. He made a great reflect save at the end of regulation and was his same, solid self, but he wasn't forced into spectacular scramble saves like we've seen in the past. This can only be a good thing if it continues.
- That's not to say there weren't problems. The Stars came out very slow to start the first and second periods. The defense is still having some issues with their decisions on the puck - and while this applies to Sergei Gonchar, it also applies to Brenden Dillon. Dillon was pulled off his normal spot in the rotation with Stephane Robidas and Trevor Daley was inserted in his place for the final, frantic penalty kill.
- Stars defensemen weren't the only ones with problems in their own end. There's still some issues with breakouts in general, whether that's a forward skating the puck up on his own or having the whole group of forwards come back far enough for a group move up the ice. I pointed out Chiasson's flub in this area in the recap, but he was far from the only player that it happened to. That said, the issues on Saturday were still much improved from those they had Thursday night.
- The first line is also still working through some things. Cole's goal was a lovely bit of passing from both Jamie Benn and Seguin, but overall they were fairly quiet. Cole was probably the best player on the line in the game with a couple key backchecks as well as the goal. I think some of this chemistry bleeds over into the power play, which is still... not good. They have time to work on it now, though.
- All in all, it was a solid step forward. While there are still plenty of things to work on over the five day break before the game against the Winnipeg Jets, the Stars immediately cleaned up some of the most worrisome problem areas from the season opener and got the first of their veteran big goal scorers going. Two goals might not be enough to win most hockey games, but the Stars made it work for them tonight.