Coming in to tonight's action we said this was your classic "trap game" for the Dallas Stars. We knew the Stars were going to come up against a very desperate team in the form of the Calgary Flames and with the game being the last before the Christmas break and the Stars at home and having come off a fairly convincing win a few nights ago themselves, there was fear that the Stars would struggle in this kind of situation and ho boy did they ever struggle.
The fact the Stars squeaked out a point in the standings out of this game is at least some sort of consolation I am sure for the players, coaches and fans because this was one of those games where I think it's very fair to say that the Stars - outside of the stellar effort from Kari Lehtonen - didn't exactly deserve any.
Calgary came out very determined and much like the Canadiens tried to do the other night, used their speed to put a tremendous amount of pressure on the Stars defense. Unlike the other night though where the Stars simply took away that pressure by connecting on passes and making smart clears of their own zone, Dallas found themselves pinned down in on their side of the ice for great lengths of time far too many times during the game.
Not that the Stars were outright horrible because they weren't really. In fact all things considered, they only trailed behind once in this game by one goal for a length of six minutes and ten seconds - which happened in the first period when Anton Babchuk scored a power play goal for the Flames before Mike Ribeiro answered with a power play goal of his own.
The Stars and Flames played a scoreless second period and in the third Brenden Morrow gave the Stars a 2-1 lead two minutes into the final regulation period. Problem is the Flames kept playing a hungry and desperate type game that had them outshoot the Stars 15-7. Alex Tanguay scoring on a breakaway with less than two minutes left in the game as the Stars defense was caught flat footed and had lost track of keeping a man on him as he coasted around the blue line.
Overtime settled nothing and the shootout seemed to be a mirror image of the entire game as the Stars couldn't get any real offense going against a suddenly hot Mikka Kipprusoff and Flames could do no wrong getting two goals behind Lehtonen who did all that was possible both in the skills competition and all night long really to will the Stars to a win.
A disappointing way to roll into the X-mas break for sure, but they did get a point and... well at least that's something right?
(More thoughts and three stars after jump time)
I know the feeling a lot of Stars fans will have is that this was a missed opportunity by the Stars to get two points against a much weaker opponent. Granted there is some legitimacy to that argument, but in the NHL's western conference, there is no such thing as "an easy two points" and the Flames, for as much as they've struggled still have a lineup for of very talented players and a goalie that can win games on his own. Nights like these will happen - the Stars in fact you could say had one a while ago in San Jose where they played the role the Flames did tonight.
Bottom line: No need to panic, or get worried that the magic is now all gone. Nights like this will happen to all teams and the Stars are no exception. Be happy with the point and after some egg nog and turkey (a combination I recommend keeping separate this weekend) move on and get ready for Sunday.
- Jamie Benn upped his studly-ness rating up a few more notches by not only taking on Jarome Iginla in an early bout at center ice, but then taking a bit of flesh with him as well by connecting with a solid punch that would have KOed most players in the league but only managed to stagger the very tough Flames captain. Hat tip as well to Iginla for taking off his visored helmet before the fight... something we don't see much any more of from players who don that type of headgear.
- Special teams struggled a bit as the Stars power play went one for three and the penalty kill took care of three of the four times they were shorthanded although the Flames goal with their man advantage came with one second left in the penalty.
- Also getting points for the Stars on this night: Loui Eriksson, Jamie Benn and Brad Richards all had assists. For Loui and Brad, they were able to continue their point streaks which both stand at five games.
- Just to explain the three stars that are upcoming... DallasStars.com listed their three as Ribs, Kari and Tanguay. Kari in my mind is the biggest reason the Stars got a point out of this game and Ribs was good with his two points on the night. Tanguay though didn't have that outstanding of a game up until he had a chance to shine with two breakaways. While it may be a bit cliche, I thought the Flames captain was the best player on the ice tonight for Calgary followed closely by Ales Kotalik who as well had a pretty solid effort himself.