The Dallas Stars got off to a quick start in Denver as they faced the lowly Colorado Avalanche, but a bad night on special teams and a painful bounce in the third period meant they left the Pepsi Center with no points as they fell 4-3 to the Avalanche.
The power play was 0-for-6 and gave up a shorthanded goal, and even a three-point night from Jaromir Jagr wasn't enough for Dallas on Wednesday. To add injury to insult, the Stars lost both Ray Whitney and Stephane Robidas to upper body injures.
Here's how it happened in Denver.
It was another quick start to the game, this time thanks to some very suspect goaltending from Semyon Varlamov.
The Stars opened the scoring with a little less than eight minutes gone when Jaromir Jagr was left curiously unmarked in the slot and given all day to shoot. He didn't pick a corner exactly, but his wrister wormed its way through Varlamov and crawled on the ice just inside the left post.
Trevor Daley doubled the Stars lead a few minutes later as he trotted into the offensive zone and unleashed a writer from the circle. Varlamov got a good look at the shot but again couldn't make the save.
Dallas nearly made it 3-0 on a late power play, but Ray Whitney's snipe was waived off for goalie interference. Erik Cole had entered the crease, then became entangled with one of the Avs defenseman, which prevented Varlamov from full range of motion in the crease. It likely wouldn't have made a difference, but it was the correct call.
Despite the scoreline, the Avs actually outshot the Stars in the first period 13-10, and Colorado carried some of that momentum into the second frame. The teams traded odd-man rushes for a while, and it was the Avs eventually getting on the board when the defensive pairing of Jordie Benn and Jamie Oleksiak got a little fouled up, allowing Mark Olver to put the Avs within one.
A defensive gaffe from Trevor Daley led to the Avs tying the game on a shorthanded 2-on-1. Daley attempted to find Loui Eriksson in the neutral zone but didn't hit the pass nearly hard enough, and Gabriel Landeskog made the Stars pay.
Whitney gave the Stars the momentum back with a very patient backhand shot late in the period, but it wouldn't last.
The Stars started the period on the power play thanks to Cody McLeod's silly late hit on Derek Roy at the end of the third, but like most of their special teams on Wednesday, nothing came of it. And the Avs tied the game soon after as Ryan O'Reilly roared down the left wing and beat Lehtonen with an unscreened shot to the near post.
The Avs seized the momentum from that point, forcing several odd-man rushes and earning a power play with less than 10 minutes left when Brenden Dillon was beaten and forced to trip an Avs forward to avoid giving up a prime scoring chance. But the Avs gave the chance right back when Cody Eakin had his nose raked by a stick. The Stars created several prime chances on the shortened power play but couldn't break the tie.
Colorado took the lead for the first and only time with less than four minutes left in the game. Stephane Robidas took a shot to the side of the head that dropped him in front of Lehonen's crease, and that left two unmarked Avs to swat at the rebound. Chuck Kobasew was the one who banged it in.
Jordie Benn's failure to hold the line with 15 seconds left was the icing on the cake.
The good, the bad and the ugly
- To start with the good, Brenden Dillon continues to impress. He got a little iffy in the third period (along with the rest of the defense), running around, making some silly passes out of the zone and getting beat with speed to the outside, but overall he had a very solid night. The Avalanche were not happy at all with him by the end of the second period. He got away with what should have been an interference or roughing minor early, but he continues to be a player that makes an impact.
- To steal a line from Twitter: Jaromir Jagr is a man. He's 40. He was all over the place tonight and could have easily had a few more points with some bounces. There's not much you can say about him but wow.
- Ray Whitney, before leaving the game (we'll get to that in a bit), was also quite good. The lack of his puck patience really hurt the Stars in the third period when things got scrambly.
- In the good news on the injury front, Robidas (who took four stitches and had his helmet broken by the shot the took) says he's fine and will play tomorrow against the Los Angeles Kings. Sometimes I wonder what that man can't come back from.
- That leads us into the bad portion of tonight's game, starting with that fourth goal. It was a wacky turn of events, from Robidas taking the shot off the helmet and understandably dropping like a stone to his stick wedging itself under Lehtonen's pad and pushing it away from the post. That's what opened up the hole the puck eventually squired through. I'm all for breaking down plays for accountability, and I'm sure Lehtonen wants it back, but it was just.... weird and a bad break all the way around.
- Plus if the puck bounces away from the crease, that play gets blown dead immediately because of how Robidas is hurt. But it went in the net so quickly that the referees understandably didn't have time to track what had just happened and stop the play for Robidas' safety. I can't fault them on that one.
- The third goal was also an odd deflection that Robidas basically had well played. I'm a little more critical of Lehtonen on that one, as it beat him short side, but it's still O'Reilly couldn't place as well if he tried again.
- Ray Whitney left the game after the second period with an upper body injury and was "questionable" to return, though he never did. No word yet on what the injury is and if it will keep him out long.
- And when Whitney left, both the Stars transition game and zone exits went haywire. They stopped completing passes. I'm not sure why that is, other than I know the young defensemen started to get a little puck panicky, but it was a huge problem that led to the Avs seizing the momentum as the third went on.
- Let's get to the power play, Oh, the power play. Like much of the night, this was a very frustrating mixed bag. The shorthanded goal was obviously a terrible, horrible moment for Trevor Daley at the tail end of a pretty blah power play set. And it was 0-for-6 with opportunities at key moments in the game. But they almost converted at the end of the first period on the waived off goal, and they did everything but put the puck in the net on one late in the third.
- The chances were there, but the conversion wasn't, and they have to start converting on those at some point. When it comes down to it, the power play is what really failed the Stars on Wednesday.
- This was a really weird game because the Stars didn't play poorly other than the issues on the power play. Sure, the Avalanche got some momentum late and rode it (and their team speed) to chances in the third, but the Stars created enough Grade A opportunities to have a few more goals before things started to get hairy. On one hand, when the path is correct and the result wrong, it's hard to be too angry. But on the other, they gave up a two goal lead for the sixth time this season (fourth loss in such scenarios). And no matter how fluky the goals that led to that were, it's still something that needs to be addressed.
- Finally, wherefore art though Jamie Benn? He looked better tonight, particularly on defense where he made some great subtle plays. But better isn't good enough for the man that will dictate the future for this club.