The Vancouver Canucks came in to tonight's game looking for revenge after giving up a third period lead in their own building last week.
It was a bit of a messy one, with plenty of turnovers and miscues on both sides, but it certainly made for some interesting hockey.
Dallas surrendered two quick goals early in the third frame, and would spend the remainder of the period trying to catch up. The final 10 minutes of the game were extremely exciting to watch. Unfortunately, it would not be enough, as the Stars lose 4-3 in regulation against the Canucks.
Here's a look at how it happened:
The Stars wasted little time in getting things started, with Jamie Benn scoring just 35 seconds in. The momentum carried them for a while and they successfully kept pace with the Canucks. They were able to keep Vancouver from really establishing and maintaining any offensive pressure through most of the period, allowing just 7 shots on net.
However, the Stars were dreadful on the dot, losing 10 of 13 in the period. They were also 0-2 on the power play. Other than those areas that need improvement, the only unfortunate part of the frame was a mysterious penalty on Reilly Smith, which led to a Vancouver goal.
There was a lot of back and forth to start this frame, with Vancouver and Dallas trading some decent scoring chances. After Jordie Benn mishandled the puck in his own end, Cristopher Nilstorp made a sparkling save. The rebound was favorable, allowing the Stars to immediately take it to the other end of the ice for a Michael Ryder goal.
With Vancouver on their heels, the Stars had a couple of other scoring chances immediately following the goal, but failed to cash in. Naturally, the Canucks recovered, and were able to generate some chances of their own. During a 4-on-4, Kevin Bieksa got past a sliding Larsen, and scored a bit of soft goal to tie it up.
Antoine Roussel and Zack Kassian traded punches, which led to a huge momentum shift that favored both the Dallas Stars and the Vancouver Canucks. (I kid, of course. It had no real effect on the game, just like most fights.) Given the way the previous game went, it was expected to get a little heated.
The Stars looked good on the power play for the first time in the game, but still could not net the goal that they needed to retake the lead. Instead, Jason Garrison scored on a shot from the point early in the frame, to put the Canucks up 3-2.
Henrik Sedin scored less than two minutes later to put the Canucks up by a pair. The puck bounced out of the offensive zone at an odd angle, and led directly to a Vancouver 2-on-1. They played it perfectly, leaving Sedin the entire net in which to dump the puck.
Just a few minutes later, though, and Captain Brenden Morrow is given a gift of a goal by Vancouver and Ryan Kessler. All he had to do was stand in the crease, and wait for the puck to hit his tape. It was all but a formality after that.
After a hooking penalty on Morrow, the intensity of the game escalated, with the fans urging the Stars on. They successfully killed the penalty (the first full two minute power play for Vancouver), and generated several more scoring chances when trying to tie it. It seemed like they would score at any second, if they could only connect on the final pass before the shot.
Unfortunately, the Stars could not get the tying goal they needed, having to kill a penalty in the final two minutes of the game. A resounding thud to end the game, considering how play was going before then.
This game could probably have been well in hand by the end of the second frame if the Stars had managed to score on a few of their prime chances. Instead, they had to take it to the third, where they collapsed early on.
Some other thoughts from the game:
- We have been saying since the last game against the Calgary Flames that the Stars big names needed to start scoring again. They came through tonight as Jamie Benn, Michael Ryder, and Brenden Morrow each got goals. The only question now is whether or not they can mix in the youthful goals at the same time.
- In order to win tonight, the Stars needed to keep pressure off of Nilstorp. They were relatively successful in the first two frames, only giving up 15 shots during that time. Considering that the Stars were previously giving up 40 a game, this is a marked improvement. Overall, Nilstorp had a bit of an up and down night, making some great saves during the game, while also letting in a weak backhander through the legs. He didn't lose the game for the Stars all on his own, and I suppose that's about all you can ask for a backup goalie.
- The Stars have got to learn to stay out of the box. Bad calls are going to happen, and that first penalty against Smith was a questionable one at best. However, they still have to find a way to kill the penalties against, whether justly earned or not. I also cannot stress enough how frustrating it is to see penalties in the offensive zone. Those should not be happening every game. Whenever the Canucks were on the power play, they looked extremely dangerous. A big reason for that was...
- The faceoffs. The Stars have got to get on the right side of this percentage, and fast. They went 3-10 in the first period, giving up valuable possession of the puck in the process. It led to the PP goal by Vancouver, and a couple of other good chances as well. They did better through the rest of the game, but part of that was that the Canucks controlled the faceoff dot so well, they just pushed the puck down the ice to get it out of their zone as soon as possible.
- The Stars' power play still needs some serious work. Part of it looks much better than the previous season. They can now enter the zone with possession, rather than just dump and chase. However, it is still not generating the goals or chances that it really need to. I'm no power play specialist, so I can't say how best to fix this. I'll just go with the normal fan answer and say "SHOOOOOOOT!"
- It's obvious that the Canucks are not the powerhouse they used to be. They had their fair share of miscues throughout the game, which allowed the Stars to hang in there. Defensive turnovers, lack of rebound control - these are things that we did not see in previous years against this team, but were in abundance tonight. Figuring that the Stars had similar issues, it made for a fairly even match.
- Cashing in on scoring chances is something that the Stars need to do more often. There was one set I made note of in the second frame with seven minutes left. There were three incredible chances, and no goal. If they had cashed in on even one of those opportunities, it could have resulted in at least a point for Dallas. Instead, they leave the arena empty handed.