The start to this one was a lot stronger than their starts have been recently. Instead of getting out to an early deficit, Dallas was able to actually push the tempo of the game early on. It helped them to settle into a good rhythm, with the Stars keeping Chicago's chances limited in front of Lehtonen.
A last minute goal would change all that, and the Stars would spend the rest of the game chasing the play. Lehtonen had a really good game tonight, coming up with some key saves at big points in the game. One of the goals allowed by him was a weird bounce off of someone in front -- the puck looked to change direction on its way to the net.
The effort was there, and Dallas actually ended the game pretty close to Chicago in Corsi -- it was almost even at even strength between the two teams. Special teams again becomes the story, with a power play goal being the real difference maker for Chicago.
They can't win them all, but a point tonight would have been really nice. Instead, they get to re-rack and come back to the friendly confines of the American Airlines Center when they take on the Nashville Predators for military night.
Dallas started out the game pretty well, with some strong possession. Ryan Garbutt had one of the best chances early on with a breakaway chance when he got the puck behind Chicago's defense. Unfortunately, Corey Crawford came up with a grand larceny stop to keep the game scoreless. A big key to staying on the positive side of things tonight was to stay out of the penalty box, which Dallas did well for the majority of the first period. They actually were able to get the first power play opportunity, though nothing was doing on it.
The Stars continued pushing play, at one point leading Corsi with 60% of the Corsi-for events (a really nice indication of puck possession.) Dallas would get a somewhat questionable call when Cody Eakin was whistled for interfering with Crawford. He had appeared to be stopping to me and I thought he'd gotten an extra little shove on the backend. Either way, he sat in the box and in the waning minute of the frame the Hawks would take a 1-0 lead. What did we say was a key to winning this game again?
Shawn Horcoff had yet another breakaway chance for Dallas, and didn't convert. It's becoming a systemic issue with this team. Between Garbutt, Roussel, Fiddler and Horcoff recently the Stars could have had at least another three or four goals if they'd been able to put them in the net. Instead, more scoring chances go unconverted.
A pair of goals that took some funny redirections in front of Kari Lehtonen put the game out of reach, even though Garbutt had temporarily cut the lead to one by slipping the puck through Crawford's five hole.
Have to hand it to the Stars, they didn't have any quit in them in the third. Granted, they may have been outplayed for a large stretch of the third, but they kept battling -- something that they haven't always been able to do in the last period of the second half of a back-to-back. Garbutt would get rewarded for his great work on the puck tonight and cut the lead to one again for Dallas when he snuck one up and over Crawford between him and the pipe.
Time was not on their side, however, as that goal was scored with only about four minutes left in the game. Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin followed it up with several good chances, and they spent some time in the offensive zone. They got a few chances with the empty net, and saw an empty netter waived off due to it being played with a high stick at center ice. Seguin would rush into the zone and get a very unfavorable icing call (though it sure looked like he was even with the Hawks player coming back) that would force the ensuing faceoff into the defensive zone and Lehtonen back in net. An empty netter (for real this time) would seal the Stars' fate tonight.
Other thoughts on tonight...
- The power play didn't capitalize tonight, which was a big difference in the game. Chicago scored on their first power play and that really set the tone for the evening.
- On the positive side, Dallas didn't give up many power play chances against tonight so that is a nice change. The delay of game Seguin took in the third was just a very unfortunate result of him trying to make a play as he was on his back on the ice. It was just his third minor of the season.
- Seguin got an assist on Garbutt's first goal to extend his point scoring streak to 10 games now, a new career best.
- Nice to get some depth scoring, but Seguin and Benn were held off the score sheet tonight. You need your best players to score here down the stretch, and they just didn't get one in. They still had several chances, however, so it wasn't like they were completely invisible.
- Garbutt had one of his best games in a while. Nice to see him walk that line of being able to be a thorn in the side but not commit penalties that hamper his team.
- Anaheim clinched a playoff spot with the Stars' loss tonight, an unintended consequence to the loss. Dallas is now three points behind Phoenix with a game in hand, since Pittsburgh couldn't do us any favors in that department.