They don't ask you how, they ask you how many.
It's a good thing they don't ask how, too, because that game was not the prettiest we've seen from Dallas tonight. At the end of the western Canadian swing, they didn't look as fresh as they have in past contests. Vancouver was a pretty desperate club tonight, and it showed in how lopsided the shots on goal ended up in favor for them.
Special teams was once again a story line, but Dallas has found a way to win these road games lately. It's been a team effort night in and night out, and Kari Lehtonen continues to be the biggest constant factor in the Stars' winning.
Dallas came out in the first period playing with a lot of pace. Their mobility and fast skating allowed Dallas to get good possession early on. The first goal of the game -- Valeri Nichushkin's second of his NHL career -- was the product of a beautiful pass by Tyler Seguin and hard work behind the net from Jamie Benn. When I saw the goal originally it looked like Nichushkin had put the puck between Roberto Luongo and the post, but the replay showed it going through the fivehole instead. Deceptive little shot there.
They would get into penalty trouble early on which would slow their momentum Lehtonen would do what he does best and the Stars would take a 1-0 lead into intermission.
The second frame has been the Stars' best periods in games this year, but not tonight. They continued their little parade to the box and would spend even more time loading up the Vancouver power play. It appeared as though that would come back to bite them when Vancouver scored. That goal was waved off by the refs due to goaltender interference. I honestly was surprised at the call -- the contact looked incidental at best. The Stars got lucky on that call.
Crisp passes became problematic as the team started to look tired because of all of the penalty killing time they were spending in the frame. The play was overall just sloppy for the Stars and they continued to ride the luck dragon through the scoreless period.
Dallas came out a little bit better in the third period with their skating, and while the penalties continued, the backchecking of the forwards was stellar. Jamie Benn made a fantastic play to come back and lift the stick of a Canucks player in order to save a scoring chance off of an odd-man rush. It's one play in the grand scheme of things, but it's really nice to see the Stars getting back and covering up for one another.
Cody Eakin and Erik Cole would connect for the go-ahead goal on a 2-on-1 rush. Eakin made a perfect saucer pass that hit Cole right on the tape and he would snap it right through Luongo. It would stand as the gamewinner when the Canucks pressured in the Stars' zone but couldn't seem to get anything past a laser-focused Lehtonen.
A few other observations on tonight's win...
- Dear American Airlines Center patrons: say it with me -- KARI! KARI! KARI! Learn it. Commit it to memory. You'll need it on Thursday night when the New York Rangers come to town.
- Seriously though, Kari Lehtonen has looked nothing short of stellar since coming back from injury. He's 8-2-2 in his 12 starts since coming back. That's a possible 18 out of 24 points. Considering there are nights where offense seems to disappear, Lehtonen's strong play has been necessary to propel the Stars' forward progress.
- Nichushkin looks very comfortable up on that top line with Benn and Seguin. However, tonight was not one of the rookie's better nights when it came to puck protection. He had several turnovers and errant passes.
- I can't decide who has a better mustache -- Cole or Vernon Fiddler. Both are strong contenders for best "lip sweater."
- For proof that tonight wasn't one of the better skating nights by Dallas, look no further than the penalties called. Tripping (Benn), Cross-checking (Benn), Hooking (Shawn Horcoff), Hooking (Alex Goligoski), Cross-checking (Ryan Garbutt). That's a lot of safety type penalties that indicate Dallas was behind the play a lot tonight.