Five wins in a row.
That in itself is a feat I don't think most of us thought would have happened this season. Three in a row? I'm sure we felt that wasn't totally unreachable. Four in a row? Well ok they could do that a few times in a row in a season if they got lucky. But five? Not in today's NHL with most teams and definitely not with the Stars. Heck, one of our regular readers here on DBD had stated she was willing to get a tattoo done if the Stars reached such a lofty goal.
To get win number five against the Washington Capitals
of all teams? That didn't seem likely either and oh, by the way they went with the backup goalie Andrew Raycroft
tonight which before the game and throughout the day had many a Stars and hockey fans overall asking "Why don't they want to win five in a row?"
That very question continued to be asked as the we went through the first period in which the Stars overall effort and skating ability again could be described as 'lethargic' at best. The Caps peppered Raycroft with 14 shots in the first period, many of them in tight and within ten feet of the goal crease and yet Raycroft turned every shot aside with a very calm, almost unnerving - at least for the Capitals players I am sure - poise. As if to say with his play "what, me worry?"
Then the Dallas Stars
did what the Stars always seem to do when they are outplayed in the first period and that was come out with a much better effort in the second and third periods. Perhaps not as well as they played in games against St. Louis mind you because this was the Capitals after all and wither you like to admit it or not they do have a deeper and more talented team and were still going to be in this game, but the mood of the game changed in the second and the Stars helped it along by forcing the Caps to take three straight penalties in their own zone trying to defend Stars attacks. It was on the third in a row and fourth power play chance of the night that the Stars finally capitalized with Mike Ribeiro
scoring his fourth goal of the season.
Great goaltending on one end, Stars score first at the other... Could this really be happening?
In the third the Stars got into a little penalty trouble of their own and the Capitals did manage to tie it up on a power play of their own which for about twenty seconds seemed to suck the life out of AAC. I say twenty seconds because that was exactly how long it took for Brandon Segal to float a knuckle-puck into the very far, top corner on Caps goalie Michal Neuvirth to retake the lead for good.
The expression on Segal's face after that goal of mixed shock and glee was probably echoed on every Stars fan's face at that same moment. From there, Raycroft made sure not another puck passed by and the one that did with about seven seconds left in the game was franticly waved off (we'll have more on that in a moment) by the referee.
And now here we sit.. Five game win streak in tow, some of us now have body ink to get done (well ok, only one of us) and the Stars themselves have to feel very good about a win like this where again, it wasn't the most well played overall, but did feature plenty of grit and heart.
And an outstanding goaltending performance from 'the backup' who ended up saving 37 of 38 shots .. which is by far the biggest and best part about this story.
(More thoughts about the last minute of play, the game overall and three stars after the jump...)
Lets put to rest any controversy over the Caps disallowed goal with 7.6 seconds left in the game. Clearly Karlis Skrastins in an effort to get back to cover the front of the net did most of the crashing into Raycroft which plowed both of them into the goal. If Alexander Ovechkin pushed at the back of Skrastins at all could not have put in too much force into is as Karlis was crashing in no matter if Ovechkin was there or not. I believe the key in having the goal waved off is two-fold: Ovechkin was smack dab in the middle of the goal crease and there would have been no way for Raycroft to move into position to make a save. Because referees are always going to rule in favor of protecting the goalie's right to make a save even if Ovechkin had nothing to do with Skrastins taking out his own goalie - which we really don't think he did - he's still in the middle of a very chaotic scene in the crease and that makes him look guilty.
If "goalie interference" was a reviewable play, then maybe the no-goal call is overturned. It's not however and in that situation I think the official was right to call off the apparent goal.
- What was with the bouncing pucks? I don't think I've ever seen so many 'blown' scoring chances for both sides in a game in a long time and it was blown chances by guys who know what do with a puck like Alexander Ovechkin and Loui Eriksson and Alexander Semin. Between that and Matt Niskanen cracking glass with his shot in the third period, it was a strange night in that respect.
Some streaking numbers and dates to throw at you all: First, the Stars become only the eighth team in the NHL this season to have a win streak of five or more games. (Thrashers, Penguins, Caps, Ducks, Kings, Flyers and Canucks are the others) The Stars are 7-0-1 over the last eight home games. This is the first time the team has recorded at least one point at home in eight-straight games since Dallas had points in eight-straight home games from Dec. 31, 2008 to Feb. 8, 2009. The Stars are undefeated at 8 and 0 when leading after two periods. Finally, Washington has not won a regulation game in Dallas since Oct. 17, 1995.
- We'll just 'assume' that Segal totally meant to take that kind of shot and knew what he was doing all along ok? He had a nice hard working game and has been playing better as of late so it was nice to see him be rewarded.
- Ribs has a five game point streak now and four goals in his last eight games. Brenden Morrow, James Neal and Brad Richards as always also had very strong games and they all picked up assists tonight.
- There was a thought by some - and I was one of them - that felt starting Raycroft in goal tonight was perhaps Marc Crawford's way of getting the defense to play tougher in front of their goal like they had in the previous Raycroft starts. While that didn't exactly happen tonight, they were again pretty good as a unit in at least doing enough to disrupt second and third chances on goal after initial shots. I thought Jeff Woywitka and Stephane Robidas (of course) were particularly strong in this regard.
- Raycroft now has a .949 save percentage and is 3-1-0 this season. Just like Kari had earlier, I think Stars fans can worry less about how Andrew will play this season as a backup as he's proven himself to be quite dependable right now in that role.
Defending Big D Three Stars:
1 - Andrew Raycroft (DAL)
2 - Brandon Segal (DAL)
3 - Mike Ribeiro (DAL)