They responded with a resounding regulation win at Staples Center versus the Los Angeles Kings, a place that hasn't always been kind to the Stars lately.
The top line dominated and the team got some secondary scoring to roll to a 5-2 win over the Kings. They played a fast, pacey game tonight with a very impressive showing defensively by the forward corps. The puck support for Kari Lehtonen was really good to see, considering how many games this mix of blueliners had played together (which was exactly zero games, for those keeping score.)
Give props to Lehtonen who did have to make some very good stops in getting outshot by a healthy margin tonight.
It looked like it was going to be one of those games as the Dallas Stars got dominated in even strength possession in the first frame. That point was made early as Justin Williams would score the opening goal just over two minutes into the game. A lot of Stars fans at that point were gearing up for the onslaught.
It looked even more dire when Brenden Dillon would go awkwardly into the boards and appeared to be hurt. Thank goodness the voodoo hex that has been placed on this blueline didn't claim another victim for tonight, and he was back out on the ice. The second most veteran defenseman on the Stars backend was almost lost tonight to injury.
Then the dynamic trio of Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn and Valeri Nichushkin would start their dominating evening. Seguin scored a beautiful wrister off of a Benn setup. Benn would give them the lead with a phenomenal individual effort that beat rookie goaltender Martin Jones between his shoulder and the goal post. It was a heck of a spot to pick and Benn, mister shot accuracy himself, just blistered it right in.
Dallas had one of their defensive lapses (something we have to come to terms with considering the young defense that Dallas is rolling out there) and allowed Jarrett Stoll to score the equalizer when he was left uncovered. They'd close out the period with only four shots on goal in total. But somehow, someway the Stars were tied up 2-2. It's one of those ones that makes you scratch your head and know that there is no way they'd be able to hold on with Los Angeles if they couldn't muster up something better.
First Period Intermission
#ImValNichushkin wins all the internets tonight.
The best thing that happened in the second period was the Stars starting to dictate the pace of play. They were using their speed to move the puck up and down the ice. Even better was the team commitment to defensive play. The forwards started to come back and provide puck support in their own zone, picking up the man and keeping the shots on Kari Lehtonen to the less dangerous types. Good thing, too, because the man between the pipes, who usually is quite good at controlling his rebounds, was burping up some big juicy rebounds tonight.
The power play, a source of pure torture most nights for the team, came through with their third goal when Seguin made a really good read of the defensive play to find a seam. Puck to tape and Nichushkin popped in his seventh goal of the season.
Captain Benn would take exception to the increased physical play of the Kings forwards when Robyn Regeher looked to get his stick up on him trying to clear Benn out from in front of Jones. They had a spirited bout, giving Benn the Gordie Howe hat trick and setting the tone for the Stars in the last frame of the night.
Just have to lock down a one goal lead. No big deal, right? Against the Los Angeles Kings it is. This is a dangerous team, with plenty of offensive weapons. And they brought it to the Stars in the third period.
The Stars forwards continued to collapse in their own zone. At times, the puck would go to a space to find three or four white sweatered guys right there to clear it out. They did a very good job of killing off the penalty they took in the third (the Kings' only 'real' chance on the man advantage, because twelve seconds of it in the first period doesn't really count.)
A hustle play by Ryan Garbutt would spring the puck loose and Cody Eakin, the trailing forward, would catch it in stride and put the fourth goal past Jones. It was the first time in the young netminder's NHL career that he would allow more than three goals in a game (nine games played.) Even better -- the Stars didn't allow him to set the record for consecutive games won to start a career, stopping Jones at 8-1-0.
Other thoughts on tonight....
- The Stars took away three out of four points against two of the top teams in the Western conference. With the injuries they've dealt with, that is pretty, pretty good.
- I think Benn took exception to getting snubbed for the handshake after the ceremonial puck drop. He had one of his most well-rounded games of the season tonight.
- Shawn Horcoff scored a goal without scoring a goal. Yes, you read that correctly. He was awarded an automatic goal when he was tripped from behind with a clear shot at an empty net. That's an automatic goal given to the puck carrier.
- The Stars did a very good job for the second game in a row of staying out of the penalty box. That was a big reason for the win tonight, undoubtedly.