Well, the Dallas Stars got our message about stronger starts, dominating the Carolina Hurricanes in the first period en route to a 1-0 lead, but an uneven second and third periods including a little too much time on the penalty kill produced an unsavory product on the whole, leading to overtime...
Brenden Morrow had three glorious whacks to end it but couldn't squeeze it past Ward. Trevor Daley had a golden opportunity but couldn't connect on an open net. Then Brad Richards had Ward scrambling in his sights and couldn't beat him either. To the shootout they went, and Brad Richards delivered a scintillating change of pace sizzler over the right pad of Ward. Raycroft stopped all three shooters, including our old pal Jussi Jokinenn, and Stars win 2-1 to keep their outright lead of the Pacific Division.
Dallas started this one out exactly the way you want right from the opening faceoff. The first 52 seconds of the game produced a couple of high quality scoring chances and drew a penalty. The ensuing power play was one of the better ones we've seen all season long, despite lack of result. Carolina was more agressive on subsequent PK's, mitigating the man advantage for the Stars a bit, but there can be no doubt the first period was one of their best in some time.
Then came the second period...
The second period saw things open up a bit, perhaps to the Stars detriment. The Canes came out with a renewed sense of purpose and ratcheted up their physical play, pressuring the Stars and forcing them into some mistakes. Dallas out-shot them 11-9 in the second period but did not have the better of the chances and spent four minutes killing penalties. A bad turnover (though the NHL scored it a "takeaway" for Carter) in the corner resulted in an easy pass out to a wide open Tlusty and the score was tied. The rest we talked about and the good guys skated away with a win despite only scoring once.
The highlight of the night was the Jere Lehtinen tribute video played in the first period. When it was over Lehtinen was put up on the big screen (a la Mike Modano) and the crowd here did him justice, standing and applauding relentlessly for several minutes (certainly before the tv broadcast re-joined) and Lehtinen was visibly moved, patting his heart and saying thank you. It was a special moment that not very many people were here to see, naturally. I suspect I'll have more on this at a later time.
- It has not been the best week for Stephane Robidas. After all the undeserved calls in Chicago, he was whistled for a tripping call in the second and upon coming out of the box was cross checked pretty blatantly in the back, only to look back at the official with no result. His bomb from the right point in the 2nd hit something and caught iron. He's due for one of those to find the net.
- The Richards line had the lions share of the chances once again. The Ribeiro/Morrow line needs to get a little something going earlier. Morrow had some good, good chances in the overtime period, but on the whole the Ott/Burish line was perhaps a more effective trio tonight.
- Steve Ott just keeps getting better and better. His first period, in particular, was gargantuan. He had short-handed opportunities, 4 shots, and an effective backcheck. His all around game is fun to watch now, but then he took it too far. His minor penalty in the third that nearly put the Stars down in the final minutes could have been avoided. He committed interference behind the play and the ref let it go. He then continued to pester and chirp and the benefit of the doubt disappeared.
- Those waiting for Gleason vs. (Ott) or someone were disappointed tonight. A tight score kept the fights away.
- The boarding on Woywitka in the corner in the first period looked really bad from the press box and I had a thought that could have been 5 minutes, but as he was perfectly ok, that's not the way the league rolls most of the time. Maybe it wasn't that bad. I need to see it again.
- In the wake of Petersen's absence, Brian Sutherby continues to be an effective penalty killer.
- The penalty kill was good all around, going 5 for 5. Then again, I think most of us find ourselves asking why they needed to kill that many at home against a weaker sister of the Eastern Conference.
- Raycroft was good, statistically, but didn't have to deal with much in the way of dangerous scoring chances or sustained pressure (other than the shootout). He fought the puck a little but reeled in most of the rebounds he spit out there. Then he came up huge in OT on Joe Corvo with just under a minute remaining. Full marks in the shootout. Brilliant stuff. Let's hope he can do it again tomorrow.
- 13,012 at times sounded like 12. They stayed though, and got into the game in OT when the Stars got dangerous again.
Defending Big D 3 Stars of the game:
1. Brad Richards, because he's awesome all the time.
2. Andrew Raycroft, because he was huge in the shootout.
3. Steve Ott, because despite that bad minor, we love his game right now.