One thing the Dallas Stars have managed to do over and over again across the past few seasons was to come out flat in the first period after having several days off in a row. A start like that would have been detrimental to the Stars if they wanted to have a chance against the rolling Los Angeles Kings. Luckily, the Stars did not do that tonight; instead, the majority of the first period was played in a very fast paced, north-south style.
The Stars have been having their share of penalty problems over the season, although it has been trending in the right direction. Staying out of the box against the Los Angeles Kings is paramount, as the Kings currently are third in the league in home ice penalty killing. The Stars power play converted on two of three chances -- quite a feat.
The Stars would get on the power play when Keaton Ellerby stuck his stick out and Eric Cole tripped over it to draw the tripping penalty. Jamie Benn would complete a beautiful pass to Jaromir Jagr, who was floating around off the side of the net with no Kings player covering him, and he would bank it in to put the Stars up 1-0.
Jamie Oleksiak would make a rookie mistake, putting himself in questionnable positioning when he went down below the goal line to double team a guy his D-partner Alex Goligoski already had tied up. That left Vernon Fiddler to act as a defenseman right in front of the Stars net. He screened Kari Lehtonen's view of Trevor Lewis and Lewis would pick the corner high glove side to knot the game up. In the grand scheme of things, taking a 1-1 tie into the intermission on the road against a hot Kings team was not a bad position to be in.
In the second period, the Stars lost a lot of puck battles. What they did do well, led mainly by Stephane Robidas and Brenden Dillon, was to keep the majority of the Kings' plays to the outside by keeping on the guy with the puck if he came down the middle of the ice to cut off their ability to make a play. They got caught several times in their own zone chasing the guy with the puck, pulling them out of position and opening up space for the Kings to create something. Jeff Carter would take advantage of one of those times and float the puck towards the net. It went right off the back foot of Jordie Benn and past Lehtonen, who becomes victim of an "own-goal."
Turnovers at the offensive blueline were prevalent, with the Stars players making long reach passes through the neutral zone that would be easily broken up by the Kings. The Stars didn't see a lot of offensive pressure in the second.
The offense came to life in the third frame. They cashed in for the second time on the power play. Brenden Morrow was rewarded for going to the front of the net and being in the right place at the right time by sneaking one softly across the goal line to beat Jonathan Quick. They don't have to be pretty for them to count! Jagr would add his second of the night and Antoine Roussel would put the win away with an empty netter at the end.
Dallas played a great third period, and the best part was that they were not content to just take a two goal lead and try to nurse it home. The Stars continued to push the offense, coming close on a few chances on scrambles in front of the net.
A few other observations on a good road win:
- Cody Eakin had the most pivotal play of the game, scoring a goal in the second to tie the game back up. That was the moment where the momentum really shifted for the Stars heading into the third period.
- Jarrett Stoll put Jamie Benn in a headlock and pulled him down to the ice at one point in the game. Both Dallas and Los Angeles got away with some things that most definitely could have been called as penalties.
- The Stars couldn't win a faceoff for anything, and it really showed on the special teams. It didn't allow the Stars to get a good cycle setup in the offensive zone, so their goals scored on the man advantage were the result of quick moves instead of extended passing plays.
- Stephane Robidas and Alex Goligoski had great games tonight. Robidas made about four great consecutive defensive plays in the second period on an extended shift where he couldn't get out of the zone. Goligoski was aggressive on offense tonight, with several shifts pinching down low into the zone. I thought this was one of his best games of the season so far.
- Jamie Oleksiak materialized seemingly out of nowhere for what looked to be a fantastic breakaway chance that was cut short when Alec Martinez tripped him at the knee.
- I liked the Stars top power play unit in the game tonight. The puck possession on that set of Cole-Jagr-Eriksson-Benn can do some dangerous things.
- Derek Roy had a very good defensive game. There were several times where he would drop back to support a defenseman and cover to allow a D to threaten down in the offensive zone.
- Eric Nystrom had some fantastic shot blocks early in the game, sacrificing his body to cut off shooting lanes.
- Dallas is now 6-1-1 in their last eight road games.