Afternoon games weren't exactly kind to the Dallas Stars last season as they went 1 and 4. This season's stretch of afternoon games didn't start much better as the Stars dropped a 3-2 shootout loss to the Edmonton Oilers.
The problem with afternoon contests most times - and this is true for almost any level of hockey, not just today's game or the NHL in general - is the players take a little bit longer to get into a groove and actually playing the game at their usual level. (And based on the bad officiating both ways for both teams, we can throw refs into that group as well.) Generally a key to winning these games is to be the first team to find your legs and get a jump on the scoreboard. Which is what the Stars ended up doing about ten minutes into the first as they started applying pressure low in the Oilers zone and cycling the puck well.
Their hard work was soon rewarded at the 15:51 mark as Mike Ribeiro got the puck from behind the Edmonton net, danced around dour different Oilers and then fired a shot from the slot that was saved by Oiler goalie Jeff Deslauriers but Jamie Benn was right in front of the net untouched to bang in a rebound that pretty much landed square on his stick for the 1-0 lead. Also of note, Brenden Morrow extended his points streak to seven games with a point on that play with an assist.
Less than four minutes later James Neal made it 2-0 after a nice pass from his landlord Brad Richards and suddenly it looked like the Stars were going to have a very good Saturday afternoon.
Then the second period happened. Again.
Maybe what we're seeing here is a weakness of a Crawford coach team... Opposing team's make adjustments and the Stars fail to make adjustments or respond to the change in game's pace. Even worse today, the Stars let their typical sub-par play in the second period carry over to the third period where they seemed to play not to lose as opposed to playing to win.
Funny thing about playing not to lose... I've rarely seen a hockey team that plays like that actually not lose. More often than not playing not to lose will end up in a loss. It's like putting on a prevent defense in football with eight minutes left in the game when you're only up by six.
After outshooting the Oilers 18-10 in the first, the Stars were outshot 26-17 in the rest of the game. That's not to say that the Stars didn't have any chances to score after the first, but it is an indication of how much the Oilers stepped up their game compared to Dallas.
With no real sustained pressure from the Stars, the Oilers crawled back into the game. First with a goal from Lubomir Visnovsky that looked like it could have bounced off two players but upon further review didn't hit anyone and for as strange as it sounds, the lack of a deflection may have thrown Marty Turco off as he played the shot expecting a bounce or two.
The Oilers kept chipping away at the Stars defense (which for the most part was ok in the game) and Turco (who was outstanding) and with about three minutes left in the game finally got the game tied at two after a Ladislav Smid point shot went off Stephane Robidas' leg and past a surprised Turco who clearly wasn't playing for a deflection at that time.
That isn't a typo by the way... Laddy Smid... A member and president of the "I haven't scored since 2007" club not only had a goal but he also had an assist on the first Oilers goal. Maybe we shouldn't be stunned that the Stars did end up losing because honestly any team that allows Smid to have a two point night deserves not only a loss but also for Southwest Airlines to actually charge them to carry their bags on the next flight.
Cue overtime where the theme of the Stars not doing much offensively continued and Marty kept the Oilers at bay with some solid stops in the extra frame.
In the shootout it seemed to be more of the same that you've seen from the Stars... And not in a good way.
Richards comes in with speed and takes a wrist shot... only to be stopped.
Neal (who was by far the best Star on the ice today despite what I am about to say) is maybe taking after his mentor a little too much as he pretty much tried the same thing as Richards did and missed the net.
Loui Eriksson thankfully broke up the shooting party with a nice forehand / backhand deke to tie to extend the shootout... which ended two rounds later when Morrow clanged a shot off the post while the Oilers Shawn Horcoff fired a puck five hole on Turco that barely squeaked through his pads to win the game.
Yet another frustrating result to what after the first was a frustrating game for Stars fans... And I am sure for players and coaches alike. The Stars offense is as cold as the snow that has been in falling around Texas the last few days and special teams wise the powerplay is pretty much non-existent right now to go along with the anemic offense. At the very least the penalty kill efforts for the Stars have been quite good, but this team's defense isn't quite good enough to win these 2-1 games constantly which is what has been asked off them far too many times this past month.
Again there are positives to take way from this game. Neal is starting to return to his crashing, shooting form. Mark Fistric maybe had his best game of the season defensively. Jamie Benn is firing at will now and still crashing the net. Turco was great and the reason the game even got to an overtime and a shootout
Most of all, even though I know Stars fans are very sick of the one point losses and the shootout failures, at the very least the Stars are gaining points with these losses and not being left in the dust by not collecting loser points.
Defending Big D 3 Stars of the game
1st Star: Jeff Deslauriers (EDM) - Gave his team a chance to get back into the game with some great saves in the first that continued for the entire game.
2nd Star: Marty Turco (DAL) - Did everything possible to try and win a tight 2-1 game. His work in the third especially helped the Stars get to overtime.
3rd Star: James Neal (DAL) - By far the best player on the ice for either team. A goal and seven shots on net plus a handful of hits.