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Dallas Stars defeat Tampa Bay Lightning 4-3 in shootout

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It's good to have them back. What more can we say? The Dallas bench and the American Airlines Center itself both boasted some changes on Wednesday night as the Stars defeated the Lightning 4-3 in a come from behind win that needed the shootout to settle things.

There were a lot of things to keep an eye on tonight, as the style of play from the Stars has been reported to be changing, Jamie Benn skated with Mike Modano, Tyler Beskorowany got a chance to prove himself (update: word is coming down now that he's been signed to a pro contract), and Marc Crawford was presented to a Dallas home crowd for the first time with emphatically mixed reaction. The Lightning had story lines of their own, boasting new defensemen both young and old as Victor Hedman made his NHL pre-season debut.

Follow the jump for my observations from the game and a look at those new HD scoreboards in the arena...

Special Teams:

This game featured 19 minor penalties and two fights. For a pre-season game that was niether particularly physical or nasty by any stretch of the imagination, the two teams sure did rack up the minutes. Some of it was young, sloppy play, and some of it was just getting re-adjusted to the speed of the game. (And perhaps a little of it was the zebra's just doing what they do best, but I digress...)

The Stars PP unit featured a four forward line (something not seen in practice) and included Brad Richards and Matt Niskanen at the point, Modano, James Neal and Loui Eriksson up front. The second power play unit featured Jamie Benn and Steve Ott with a host of unsavory characters like Andrew Hutchinson and other people I don't want to see on a PP line.

  • Matt Niskanen was given every chance in the world to score from the left side of the ice. They set him up Brett Hull style on at least 4 or 5 occasions, and though he didn't get one through, it struck me as something I'd like to see more of.
  • Face-offs. A PP needs a good face-off to get started and the Stars won 52% of theirs tonight. That's a trend I'd like to see continue. The first goal was scored immediately following the face-off, and Loui corralled it and slammed it home.
  • Would have liked to see Benn get PP time with the big boys, but he was relegated to secondary duty with Steve Ott. They didn't exactly put any heavy pressure on.
  • Richards was bombing them from the point. His health is so important to this thing.

The Goaltending:

  • Marty Turco was confident, stopping 12 of 13 in 31 minutes of play. He had some nice saves and I didn't see anything that concerned me much.
  • His puck handling was solid. No nervous moments.
  • The shot that beat him was the finest shot Todd Fedoruk ever took in his life, trust me, and it started with Niskanen getting caught up ice (otherwise Nisky had a good game).
  • Tyler Beskorowany was tested immediately and responded well. Neither of the goals he allowed particularly upset me. One was just a great tip, and the other I'd pin on the Stars defensemen (Skrastins, in this case) losing a battle in front and letting chaos reign in front of the young netminder.
  • He was money in the shootout. He got a 3 year contract. Enough said. I like this kid.

5 on 5:

Let's just say I have some concerns here and I'm not really sure it's fair to judge it on a night like tonight with all of the penalties being tossed about with reckless abandon by the refs. The new HD screens gave us a great look at Crawfords face every time play was bogged down with special teams, and while he was civil, he looked a little frustrated. Neither team was able to roll the lines like they wanted to and establish any kind of rhythm in the 5 on 5 game.

Even so, I thought the pace of the game slowed significantly the longer it went on. I don't want to say that players were tiring, but perhaps became more tentative in the second half of the game. By the time the 3rd period rolled around I was wondering what happened to "up-tempo" and was it ever coming back?

Miscellaneous notes:

  • Andrew Hutchinson is someone who maybe I don't want to see jumping up on offense so much, if tonight was any indication.
  • A growing number of fans in the lower bowl throughout the game were making quite a ruckuss down there, and it sounded to me like they were taunting Marc Crawford. If you were down there, can you please let us know what the deal was with that? It got pretty loud. [UPDATE] We now hear they were taunting Kurtis Foster. The consensus way up in our section was that is sounded like "Crawford".
  • I'd like to tell you that Jamie Benn played an amazing game and that he should be here, but I can't do that tonight. Blame all the penalties, blame whatever you want but he didn't wow anyone. He had a couple of nice chances and that was about it.
  • Even though Philip Larsen took a couple of tripping penalties (ah, the exuberance of youth), I was still pleased with his performance. 

Alright, it's a pre-season game, let's not analyze it to death. They got sloppy, they got behind, and the big boys buckled down and found a way to get it done. Neal, Eriksson and Richards was a great line tonight.

These were the talk of the arena...

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These pictures do them little or no justice, but they're pretty spectacular compared to what was there before. Heika called it "jerryworld junior" which I think is apt.

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The game presentation was greatly improved upon for the first time in many years.

And thanks to everyone who participated in the game thread. That was fun.