The Dallas Stars were two minutes away from at least a temporary reprieve from the back-to-back demons of the past two seasons, but another late mistake cost them the chance for two points, at least in regulation.
But thanks to a great effort from Loui Eriksson fighting through hook to get to a rebound of a Derek Roy shot, the Dallas Stars walked away from Nationwide Arena with a 5-4 overtime victory, giving them a 2-15-2 record in their last 19 back-end of back-to-back games.
Here's how it happened in Columbus....
Less than an hour after Stars fans got the news Michael Ryder had been traded to the Montreal Canadiens for Erik Cole, the Stars took the ice with decent energy in Columbus. Jaromir Jagr drew an early power play opportunity after Derek Brassard was forced to hold him. Although the power play couldn't cash it, it did help establish some early momentum.
The Stars finally broke through first with exactly five minutes left in the period when Alex Goligoski forced a turnover at his own blue line. He got the puck up quickly to Cody Eakin who bounced the puck off the outside of Brenden Morrow's skate and in. The goal was reviewed but was clearly not a kick.
It look lees than two minutes for the Jackets to even the score as Columbus won a faceoff clean and Nikita Nikitin beat a relatively unscreened Richard Bachman with a quick point shot.
Then the Stars and Jackets exchanged quick rebound goals. Derek Roy punched in a rebound at the side of the net past a fallen Sergei Bobrovsky, but Bachman left a juicy rebound of his own out a few moments later, and a lapse in coverage by Jamie Benn allowed Dorsett to tie the game.
The offensive outburst continued as Antoine Roussel continued his sparking NHL rookie season. He tipped a point shot from Brenden Dillon to the short side post of Bobrovsky to restore the Stars' lead.
After Dillon and Colton Gillies got involved with some shenanigans behind the play, the period opened with a few minutes of 4-on-4 hockey. The Stars carried more of the play, but Bachman came up with a smart shoulder save on a quasi-breakaway to maintain the Stars lead for the moment.
But a tripping penalty by Ryan Garbutt put the Stars back on their heals, and though he was out of the box by the time Cam Atkinson scored to tie the game, the Stars hadn't yet recovered defensively. There was once again a guy standing all alone in front of Bachman. Jamie Benn was once again the closest Stars forward in the vicinity.
Cody Eakin gave the Stars their lead back as his shot from the point snuck just through Bobrovsky and rolled slowing over the line with a little more than six minutes left.
But like most of the other back-end of back-to-backs recently, a key mistake at the end of the period cost the Stars. Jordie Benn held a puck too long behind the net then turned it over with a pass up the half wall. The Jackets quickly capitalized on the turnover - and on the man left open by Benn's misadventure - R.J. Umberger - to tied the game at 4 with less than two minutes left. Bachman might have been able to make the save, but it was a very quick release from the top of the crease.
The Stars had by far the better play in the overtime with the only three shots on goal, the final one finding its way around Bobrovsky. Derek Roy fired the puck from the half-wall, and Eriksson fought through a pair of hooks to slide the rebound around Bobrovsky's outstretched pad.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly
- 2-15-2. That first two makes all the difference in the world, at least for the moment. It's far too soon to say the Stars have overcome their back-end of back-to-back demons, but that has to be a huge weight off their shoulders for the short term.
- Also, it's nice to see Loui Eriksson heating up a bit. That's two goals in as many games for him, which ties him for the team lead with six. We hold him to such a high standard that it's easy to say he's struggling at times. And to be fair, he did not look like himself for a good chunk there. But he's started to find his way again, and it's paying off on the scoresheet.
- There was also an assist party tonight, as you might expect with five goals. Eakin, Alex Goligoski, Stephane Robidas and Roy all got their ninth assists (eight and nine for Robidas) to move into a four-way tie for the team lead.
- This team's offense has really been clicking recently with goals from all over the lineup. Tonight featured three goals from the second line along with one each from the first and third. Nice to finally have that balanced attack they were missing at the beginning of the season.
- Jamie Oleksiak wasn't spectacular, and he did finish at a minus-1, but he looked markedly more comfortable in the NHL game as the minutes clicked down. He used his size to box out Jackets forwards for rebounds, and he was able to hold people against the boards with more confidence. He still looks a little panicky with the puck on his stick at times, but as far as the rookie defenseman learning curve goes, today was a nice step forward.
- Given today's late trade, the personnel shortage on defense and in net and the back-to-back woes, the Stars could have easily folded their tent several times in this game. It's bad that they kept putting themselves in those situations, I know, but I did like how the reacted when backed up against the wall.
- As far as the bad, it wasn't a great night to be a Benn brother. Jamie Benn was the likely coverage-lapse culprit (or at least the closest forward in the vicinity to a wide open Jackets player) on two of the goals, and Jordie Benn did not handle the play that led to the final Jackets goal well at all. It is just one game, and both Benns have definitely shown they are better than this, but I think those two will scrap this one. Jamie is now minus-6 in the past two games, and while plus/minus is a flawed stat, it does say something about his overall defensive game recently.
- Richard Bachman wasn't terrible, and he definitely had some better moments in the game. A save on a breakaway in the third period helped the Stars maintain the lead for the moment, and he looked more confident as the game went on. But he'd probably like the Jackets first and fourth goals back if he had his say, particularly the fourth. And four goals on 20 shots against isn't going to help his save percentage. That all said, he did enough to get the win, and they don't award style points.
- Penalties weren't a problem in this game, but that's only because referees Wes McCauley and Greg Kimmerly needed someone to bleed before something got called. I know many people like this style of officiating, but it frustrates me to see someone like Trevor Daley very obviously tripped from behind in overtime with no call. Plus when you have games like this, it just makes it that much harder on the players when they do decide to enforce the rules.
- At the end of the day, it's a three-points-out-of-four road swing for the Stars and five points in their last six despite a defensive lineup with perhaps the fewest games experience in the NHL and two backup goalies that are struggling a bit. With so many pieces of this team's defensive game out of the lineup, I'm not sure I could have asked for much more than that even if they way they got there gave me an ulcer.