Considering Columbus got nine of the game's first 10 shots and seemed to be able to back the Stars defense off with minimal resistance, it appeared this was going to be one of those nights were the Stars just didn't have it.
But to their credit, and Kari Lehtonen's, they weathered the early storm and got timely goals from Brad Richards, including one on a power play goal just after a 5-on-3 had expired in the first to open the scoring, en route to a 2-1 win at Nationwide Arena in Columbus Saturday night.
And speaking of Lehtonen, I daresay he answered a number of question about any potential rust in only surrendering, officially, a Fedor Tyutin goal off a bad bounce at the end of the first period. An apparent go ahead goal in the second was waved off after Ethan Moreau was judged to have interfered with Kari Lehtonen's ability to make the save.
However slim that chance might have been, but I digress since Columbus took full advantage of a very questionable holding penalty on Karlis Skrastins the last time Dallas was in Ohio just 12 nights ago.
We'll get into the officiating and more after the jump.
From the start, the Blue Jackets jumped on the Stars. And despite numerous whistles in the first 10 minutes of the first period, they were able to establish their game by forcing the Stars defensemen to back up as soon as they crossed the blue line.
Lehtonen got tested early. But to his credit, he made some outstanding saves to frustrate the Blue Jackets, whose tempers appeared to boil over starting at the 11:09 mark when Jakub Voracek committed a needless and stupid penalty by driving his man right into Lehtonen to earn himself a roughing minor. 1:06 later, Marc Methot put his team two men down with a cross-checking penalty.
While the Stars didn't actually score on the two man advantage, they were the beneficiary of a Sami Pahlssen stick betrayal just as the penalty to Voracek expired. And Richards took advantage when his laser of a shot found the back of the net to give the Stars a 1-0 lead, which seemed to frustrate the young Blue Jackets even more.
I don't watch too many of Columbus' games, so I don't know if this is Voracek's regular bit or not. But he got sent back to the penalty box about a minute after Richards goal was scored for cross checking. Though he could have also been nailed for a slew foot.
Shockingly, that wasn't the most egregious officiating error on a dangerous play. Midway through the second, Nicklas Grossman double clutched on a shot, giving Tom Sestito time to line up him from the blindside. Fortunately, Grossman appeared to miss most of the attempted hit. But it was enough to knock him woozy for a bit and get the dander up from his teammates.
It's a textbook example of the kind of hit the NHL says they're trying to rid the game of.
And it went uncalled for reasons unknown. Credit to Razor for trying to get that reason out of Brad Richards. And with discretion being the better part of valor, Richards hesitated before telling Razor, 'not to go down that road.'
It's one thing to complain about the lack of a call when Brent Seabrook throws his stick at a puck carrying Trevor Daley as he's flying down the wing. It's completely different when it's a player safety issue that the refs are flat out ignoring.
Jamie Benn tried to seek some level of retribution by going after Rick Nash moments later, earning himself a trip to the penalty box. But that's the only shenanigans that came from the Stars after the hit.
Perhaps if the game wasn't so close, they might have done more.
Now to be sure, I'll flat out admit the interfering with the ability to make a save call on Ethan Moreau that wiped out a potential go ahead goal in the second period was...ridiculous. There was minimal contact and Lehtonen would have had to have grown Inspector Gadget legs to even have a chance to make the save.
The fact the call went in favor of Dallas is some solace. But I'd still they rather get these calls right.
Anyway, the third period turned into a nip and tuck affair before Richards scored off a 2-on-1 with a shot that just beat Mathieu Garon to his right and just inside the post to give the Stars a lead.
And unlike what happened in their last trip, there would be no phantom holding call to setup some late game magic from Rick Nash.
Instead, Antoine Vermette killed whatever hope the BJ's had left of tying the game by taking a slashing penalty with just over 20 seconds left in regulation.
And so, the Stars head to Detroit tomorrow having won what may be the grittiest road win to date this season.
Defending Big D Three Stars
3. Mathieu Garon CLB - Gave his team a chance in the third after the Stars took the lead. And he jousted with Brenden Morrow on the Stars first PP chance of the night.
2. Brad Richards DAL - His two goals were things of beauty. And Dallas doesn't win this game without his contribution. Why?
1. Kari Lehtonen DAL - Because just as Cliff Lee really loved playing in Texas, he just liked Philly a little more, Lehtonen did just a little more than Richards did to preserve this win. He ought to get a deserved day off when the Stars travel up to
alleged Hockeytown to take on the Red Wings tomorrow.