The Dallas Stars won a huge game last night. Nothing can invalidate that fact. Down 3-1 after a cataclysmic six minutes in the second period, it appeared as though the war had already been lost, no matter how many battles remained.
As was often the case on this three-game road swing the Stars' third period was their best and they held their opponent off the score sheet while getting depth scoring of the highest order from rookies in Brenden Dillon and Antoine Roussel to secure the huge 4-3 win in a building that absolutely reverberating.
The cost of the victory, however, will define the Stars' season.
Kari Lehtonen left the ice in the first period, and briskly, after stopping a shot with this blocker. His stick was knocked from his hand, and it appeared at first to be an injury of his wrist, forearm, hand or fingers - But reports then surfaced that it was the dreaded "lower-body injury", and that his return was unlikely.
His status going forward, no matter the sensational quality of the win, will be what defines this contest.
Ultimately it could decide the Dallas Stars' season.
"He's going to be re-evaluated when we get back to Dallas," said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan immediately following the game. "It's a lower body injury so... He's going to be re-evaluate when we get there."
Richard Bachman should be credited this morning with stabilizing himself after allowing three straight goals on the first six shots he faced last night, but his overall numbers and performance on the season thus far make his play a bit of a question mark if Lehtonen is indeed out for an extended period.
Bachman excelled last season when Lehtonen missed extended time with a groin tweak, but has not appeared to be the same goaltender this season.
After signing a one-way deal in the off-season he saw his backup status challenged a bit by Cristopher Nilstorp before an injury sent the big Swede to the IR list and subsequently back to Texas. The next 24-48 hours, pending tests and evaluations on Lehtonen back in Dallas, could throw the two back into a battle for supremacy between the pipes.
Through the third Vancouver goal last night, Bachman had allowed 9 goals on 29 shots in his last two outings. The Stars answered the Canucks, not with fights, but with actual scoring chances, and protected him for the most part going forward, but he was able to gather himself.
Any false move or mistake in that third period could have cost the Stars a point or more, so his response cannot go unconsidered. It's an interesting set of circumstances for Glen Gulutzan and Joe Nieuwendyk moving forward.
If there was any good news (beyond a huge two points Friday night) it was that when pressed again by Mike Heika, and comparing it to when Kari went down in more dramatic fashion in Phoenix last year, the head coach agreed that perhaps it isn't as bad as that was.
"To me it certainly doesn't seem as severe," Gulutzan added.
He's no doctor and neither are we, so Stars fans will wait to hear some kind of update late Saturday or sometime on Sunday. In the mean time it wouldn't surprise anyone if Cristopher Nilstorp is re-called and Kari Lehtonen placed on IR, which could put him out at minimum seven days, starting Saturday.
As Stars fans hit the proverbial hay Friday night (as this is being written) there's at least hope that he could come out of it "day-to-day."
Update Saturday Morning: The DMN is indeed calling it "day-to-day".
"We got Cristopher Nilstorp to improve our goaltending depth in the organization, and we feel good about these two goalies,'' Stars general manager Joe Nieuwendyk told Mike Heika. "I'm not sure what Kari's status is, but we feel confident in our goaltending throughout the organization.'
In Vancouver, however, Richard Bachman demonstrated all in one contest Kari Lehtonen's importance to the team's playoff hopes, and also what might need be done in his stead, potentially, in a long term injury situation.