The Stars did exactly what they wanted to do for 59 minutes. They were intense, they played with more energy at home than they have so far this season and displayed the offensive prowess we were promised when Marc Crawford was hired. Unfortunately, one bad play in the final minute led to yet another overtime loss for the Stars.
What everyone will undoubtedly be talking about is the phantom delay of game penalty called on Nicklas Grossman in overtime. The refs claimed that Grossman put the puck out of play from inside his own zone, when it was plainly clear we was still outside the blue line. The Flames won the game just seconds into the ensuing power play.
While that was certainly infuriating, it would have been unnecesary if the Stars had closed the game out. Overall however, it was a highly entertaining game with great goaltending, big hits and a ton of shots.
So, I had a full recap written but apparently when I hit 'publish' last night, it vanished into the ether. Here's a truncated look at the events of last night's game as well as video highlights.
Before anyone goes and blames the penalty call for the loss, this game was filled with missed opportunities by the Stars. Dallas outshot Calgary by a healthy margin, put pressure on the Flames for nearly the entire game but failed to take advantage of the chances they had early to put the game out of reach.
The Stars had multiple power play opportunities early, including a lengthy 5 on 3. While they were able to muster some good chances Curtis McElhinney made some great saves early to keep the Stars out of the net. Once that started to happen you could see Dallas start to try and get that perfect cross-ice pass to open up a clear shot; with the defensive corps that Calgary has, that proved to be nearly impossible.
From the very start you could see what the game plan for the Stars was: funnel the puck to the net and crash the crease. The Stars had multiple chances early with rebounds just out their reach, while the Flames defensemen did a great job as well preventing any decent shots off of rebounds. Yet the Stars stuck with their plan even when they were foiled early and went down 1-0 in the second period. They kept the pressure up and were eventually rewarded with some great plays and a 2-1 lead in the third period.
What was most frustrating, however, was to see the Stars all of a sudden sit back in the final five minutes and work to keep that one-goal lead. They took the pressure off and disappeared into a 'prevent defense'. The style that had dominated the Flames for most of the game (strong forecheck, pressure up the ice and great plays in transition) disappeared and Calgary took advantage.
This team can respond to a loss like this in a number of ways. Either they become frustrated and sullen from losing a game in which they played so well, or they learn from it and move on with a chip on their shoulder. They must realize that with their full roster on the ice they can become a special, special team while at the same time knowing they failed to put forth a full effort from start to finish.
While we have focused on most of the negatives, to be expected after a loss like this, there are still some good things to pull from the game:
- The Stars rolled four complete lines out on the ice. Marc Crawford has been known for using three primary lines and seldom using his fourth; tonight the line of Wandell, Sutherby and Brunnstrom was just as dangerous as the top line.
- Brenden Morrow and Mike Ribeiro regained their mojo...to some extent. The return of Jere Lehtinen to their line seemed to rekindle a bit of the magic from a few years ago. Morrow was crashing the crease, playing hard on the boards and causing general chaos for most of the game.
- James Neal continues to be a force to be reckoned with. There's talk growing that he might be invited to join the Canadien Olympic team, and it should happen if he continues this level of play.
- Aside from leaning the wrong direction around a screen on the game-winning goal, Marty Turco looked sharp once again. His ability to negate a forecheck with his passes up ice and along the boards makes a world of difference for this defense.
- This was as fast as I've seen the Stars play this season: they were making crisp passes, the transition game was clicking and they were establishing a strong forecheck. After so many lackluster games in front of the home crowd, it was great to see them finally put on a good show at the AAC. Unfortunately, it ended in a loss.
- Good to see Brad Richards pissed off after the game. Not about the penalty, but about their overall effort. That's exactly what I wanted to hear: no excuses, just a focus on what the Stars failed to do right.
- Finally...Jamie Benn needs to shoot more.
DBD's Three Stars of the game:
Curtis McElhinney, Calgary: Stopped 38 of 40 shots and kept the Flames in the game after a flurry of chances for the Stars in the first period.
Stephane Robidas/Karlis Skrastins, Dallas: Normally you don't give one spot to two players, but the two defensemen played out of their minds last night. Skastins had two points off of two great assists, and Robidas had five big hits and five blocked shots.
Jarome Iginla, Calgary: Game winning goal for Calgary and a great effort on the tying goal in the final minute of regulation.