Against the team that drafted him, Joe Nieuwendyk get's his first win as the Dallas Stars General Manager.
After two games that were up and down affairs, where the Stars had stretches of dominance as well as struggles and lost both in shootouts, this was a game the Stars were primed to take control of. The Flames were playing their third game in four nights and were on the tail end of a back-to-back and the Stars took advantage, jumping on Calgary early and never letting up off the pressure for the rest of the game.
Recap after the jump.
The first few games, it seemed as if James Neal was the only Dallas Stars player with any true get up and go, as he powered the Stars forward with three goals and some impressive play in the offensive zone. Friday night, several other young Stars forwards stepped up and led the charge against an undefeated Flames team that while tired, was confident after an emotional win on Thursday night.
Mike Ribeiro opened the scoring just 62 seconds into the game when he turned a fired a loose puck past Flames goaltender Curtis McElhinney. It was the first time this season the Stars had scored the first goal, and the lead sparked the Stars into playing their best first period of the season so far. Outshooting the Flames 15-11, the Stars never let up on the pressure in the offensive zone and had several great chances in tight late in the period.
Alex Auld was impressive in his Stars debut, making several great saves early to maintain the momentum for the Stars and give the team the confidence it was lacking at times in the first two games. He was solid positionally but more importantly did not allow any egregious rebounds off the big shots by Flames defensemen. He was calm in the crease and never out of control. Exactly what the Stars needed.
The Stars would go up 2-0 in the second period off a nifty goal by Brian Sutherby, before the Flames got on the board with a power play goal by Dion Phaneuf. Tom Wandell would put the Stars up by two once more with a fluky goal, when his booming shot careened of McElhinney's pads and in.
Things would get hairy in the third, when Steve Ott was inexplicably called for goaltender interference on a Stars power play. Fabian Brunnstrom had apparently scored on the play when the puck slid under the arm of a diving McElhinney, but the no-goal was upheld after review and Ott was sent to the penalty box. The Flames scored on the ensuing power play to get back within one shot of a tie game, but a Loui Eriksson goal off a great Brad Richards pass put the Stars up by two with just over ten minutes to go.
Thoughts on the game:
- First the bad: The Dallas Stars penalty kill continues to struggle. They are now 5-for-12 on the penalty kill this season and have dropped to 28th in the NHL at 58%. What's frustrating is that they don't appear to be an inept PK unit that allows the opposition free reign in the offensive zone; they're aggressive and mostly successful at what they're trying to do. Unfortunately, most of the goals scored on the Stars have come on the PK this season.
- The Stars are being carried early in the season by their young players. Jamie Benn, James Neal, Tom Wandell and Fabian Brunnstrom have all been the most consistent on the team this season and are setting the pace for the rest of the Stars players.
- Karlis Skastins is turning into a much, much better free agent acquisition than anyone would have guessed a few months back. We knew he'd be a solid addition to the blue line, but no one thought Skrastins would turn into the dominating, shut down defenseman he's been the first few games of the season.
- This was the first time all season I've felt like the Stars finally embraced Crawford's system, and really played without thinking too much. There were still some breakdowns trying to get the puck out of the zone while attempting a flashy breakout pass, but overall the team is starting to to get it.
- Steve Ott has not had a good start to the season. Some untimely penalties (one not entirely his fault) that led to power play goals and a shot that rang off the post is not the impact most Ott should be making.
- For the first two periods, I was wondering what happened to the Brad Richards line. They were hardly heard from all game, until making several astonishingly good plays in the third period. Yet looking at the scoresheet, it's apparent what happened to that line: Jarome Iginla managed just two shots on net and was a -2 for the game. Mission accomplished, guys.
- Finally....who isn't impressed with Jamie Benn? How can you not be? He's making things happen with the puck, using his size and agility to his advantage and is deceptively nimble when the puck is on his stick. He's had several great scoring chances so far this season, his first NHL goal will come sooner than later.
BW's Three Stars of the Game:
Tom Wandell, Dallas - Was the best player for the Stars on the ice tonight, leading the team in shots (4) and providing a much needed energy spark in the first period.
Alex Auld, Dallas - This was the stability in net the Stars were missing in the first two games.
Rene Bourque, Calgary - Was nearly unstoppable all game, and gave the Stars fits whenever he was on the ice.