Talk about teasing your opponent with victory.
Jamie Benn's gamewinning goal with 4 seconds remaining gave the Stars the win, in a game they almost handed to the Coyotes on a silver platter.
Make no mistake about it: tonight was all about Jamie Benn, right from the first few shifts. Crawford made it very clear that he was going to be double-shifting Jamie Benn all night, and the only question was how the 21-year-old would respond.
Well, he responded with a dominant performance. Lately, that's been the case. With the Stars missing Brad Richards and still nursing some festering wounds, Jamie Benn provided the kind of spark tonight that kept his teammates energized throughout the game. We talked about it in the game thread, how confident he looks right now with the puck. And yet, he's had nothing to show for it on the scoresheet lately, so you felt that eventually he'd make his mark there at somepoint.
It didn't happen in the first period, but an equally impressive performance by Tom Wandell more than made up for it. After creating a couple of chances earlier in the frame, Wandell finally cashed in when he slapped home a pass from Toby Peterson that beat Ilya Bryzgalov over the shoulder. It was Wandell's second goal in as many games, and we'll go into his night a bit more later on.
Wandell's goal was a culmination of a period of dominance by the Stars, as the Coyotes were kept on their heels in their own zone for most of the first 20 minutes. The Coyotes surged in the second period, but Kari Lehtonen kept them out of the net. You had to wonder just when Phoenix would cash in, since they came out even stronger to start the 3rd period. But once again, Dallas weathered the storm. The Stars eventually built a 2-goal cushion when Jamie Langenbrunner found the net with six minutes left in the third.
But leave it to Dallas to make things interesting...
After the jump, random thoughts on the game tonight...
After getting hounded in their own zone, Rotislav Klesla scored his first goal as a Coyote to bring the Stars lead to 2-1 with four minutes left. Ray Whitney tied it up with 38 seconds left, and suddenly the Stars looked ready to split a point with their rivals.
But leave it to Jamie Benn to say otherwise. Dallas went on the power play with 13 seconds on the clock, and somehow the puck found its way to Benn's stick in the slot. Benn fired it past Bryzgalov to win the game with 5 seconds until overtime.
It was a rousing way to start such an important road trip, and perhaps even a statement game from Jamie Benn. After working so hard on both ends of the ice, playing so strongly for the past week or so, there couldn't be a better way to cap that off than how he capped it off tonight.
Other assorted notes from the game:
- I think Tom Wandell finally might be regaining some of that confidence with his shot that he had before his injury last season, and it's paying off big time. If the Stars can start getting a little bit of production from him, it would go a long way in improving the depth for the chase for the playoffs.
- Kari Lehtonen played outstandingly again tonight. This had the looks early on of a low-scoring game, and Lehtonen kept the Stars in contention through some persistent surges from the Coyotes.
- Alex Goligoski showed why he can be frustrating sometimes tonight. He has great skills with the puck, but he gets carried away and tries to do too much sometimes. Not a horrible game by any means, but I'm sure he'd like some of those turnovers back.
- The Stars really, really missed Toby Peterson's hard work when he was gone, and you could see his contributions tonight. Lots of energy everywhere on the ice, and his battling led to Wandell's goal.