Similar to other games this season, the Dallas Stars' inconsistencies showed through tonight. Instead of extending their streak out to a fourth win in a row, they would again be halted from reaching that streak this season.
The special teams became the main downfall, as the Stars allowed two power play goals to Carolina on the first two power play opportunities the Hurricanes received. The penalty killing hasn't looked all that stellar lately, and they've been able to overcome that in this streak on the back of their offense. But when the offense wasn't there tonight, Dallas wasn't able to overcome letting those goals in.
Anton Khudobin was the best player in the game tonight, as he turned away nearly everything he saw. Dallas has had issues with hot goaltenders this year and they've looked equally frustrated in those games previously. The frustration was there again tonight, as nothing was working for the Stars forwards. They're going to need to figure out ways to get back to the simple plays, driving to the front of the net and continuing to put pucks there, to beat netminders in these situations.
Wide open hockey characterized the first period tonight, with both teams trading chances early and often. The Stars have the speed for that type of game, but it always seems to burn them if they're chasing a team doing the same. Dallas had a some quality chances, but Anton Khudobin was the story in the first. He was more than up for the task, stopping everything Dallas shot his way. The power play in the first continued to have good movement, but yet again nothing to show for it on the scoreboard.
Early in the first, Ray Whitney left the game with a lower body injury and would be doubtful to return. Coach Lindy Ruff appeared to be double shifting his centers, with Tyler Seguin, Cody Eakin and even Jamie Benn seeing time on the fourth line as well as on their normal line.
Not far into the second, Carolina would take an early lead off of one of the flukiest goals Kari Lehtonen has let in this season. The puck was shot up and it went right over Lehtonen who didn't even see it. (To be fair, most of the people on the ice didn't see it at first either.)
The wheels would really start to come off when the Stars took a delay of game from rookie defenseman Patrik Nemeth putting the puck over the glass. On the ensuing penalty kill, they'd extend that lead to 2-0 when Brenden Dillon failed to clear Jordan Staal out of Lehtonen's view. A bomb by Justin Faulk from the blueline would deflect in and off Staal, who shouldn't have been allowed to stand there to begin with.
Another penalty from Nemeth, another tipped puck off of Eric Staal on the power play made the game 3-0. Jordan Staal was again allowed to setup shop in front of Lehtonen with Dillon not getting the positioning on the Carolina players in front of his netminder. Lehtonen would be pulled after the third period, and Tim Thomas would enter for clean up duty.
Seguin would get a goal for the Stars finally at nearly the halfway mark off of a great snap shot. The goal was setup by Trevor Daley who made a very nice pass from neutral ice to Valeri Nichushkin, who would pass it to Seguin to put home. It was a beautiful goal for Seguin's 34th of the season.
Starting the last twenty minutes on the man advantage, Dallas would need a goal early to change the complexion of this game. Alex Chiasson had the best chance of the power play off a nice shot from the circle to Khudobin's left, but the puck somehow stuck in his equipment. Noticing a trend here?
The frustration of not being able to get anything past Khudobin marked the rest of the game, as the Stars continued to get solid chances but nothing was getting into the net. The Stars were playing with supreme urgency to try to get a goal to get within one and turn the game around. It led to several risky plays, and the Stars just couldn't cover for their own mistakes tonight.
The penalties would get out of control with about seven minutes left, as Dallas would get two extensive 5-on-3 penalty kills. They managed to kill them off, but the frustration levels were obviously so far beyond coming back that even Seguin managed to get a 10 minute misconduct out of it (and he's been mentioned as a potential nominee for the Lady Byng award) presumably for mouthing off after the penalties were being doled out.
Not like lions but like lambs tonight. Very frustrated lambs.
A few other thoughts on tonight's game...
- It's just one game. Re-rack and move on to this weekend's set in Florida.
- Lehtonen got beat by a flukey goal, and then the other two were on redirects. He didn't exactly look bad, but I think that first one kind of got into his head tonight.
- Tonight was a rough one for two blueliners -- Dillon and Nemeth. For Dillon, he was a big part of the problem on allowing those power play goals because he didn't clear out the man in front. For Nemeth, it was the consecutive penalties in the second when the team came unhinged. Both need to erase this game and get back to their Washington form instead.
- Oh power play, wherefore art thou production?
- Thomas looked pretty good on his clean up duty, even if he did allow the last goal of the night. He had some quality stops in there and kept the Stars in it.