Sure, the Stars came out of Rexall Place with a 3-0 victory, Kari Lehtonen's first shutout in 27 games. But the Stars were 0-for-6 on the power play and missed a penalty shot which led to the game being much more tense than it needed to be for 59 of the 60 minutes.
On the plus side, the Stars penalty kill came up big when called upon. The biggest shorthanded challenge for Dallas came near the beginning of the second period when Ryan Garbutt was whistled for delay of game only 30 seconds after Stephane Robidas had been sent to the box on a holding call. That left the Oilers with a full 1:30 of 5-on-3 time. A little helping of the crossbar and a large helping of Lehtonen helped the Stars get through the entire span with no harm done.
After the Stars worked their way out of penalty trouble in the second period, Rich Peverley finally opened the scoring when he followed his own shot to the lap of Devan Dubnyk. With Antoine Roussel creating havoc in front, Oilers goalie Devin Dubnyk couldn't control the rebound, and Peverley was able to quickly roof a shot under the near side crossbar.
The Stars had a chance to take control of the game in the third as they got their own extended stretch of 5-on-3 play. But with 1:12 of power play time, their second 5-on-3 of the game, the Stars were unable to get a clean look despite some extended possession.
Rookie Valeri Nichushkin had his own chance for the insurance tally with three minutes left when he was awarded a penalty shot after being hooked from behind by Anton Belov. It was a fairly week penalty shot call as far as those things go, so justice was probably served when Nichushkin couldn't sneak it inside the post past Dubnyk.
Dallas finally managed to put this thing away when Tyler Seguin blocked a centering feed, then snapped a fadeaway saucer pass from his knees that slid into the empty net at the other end with 51 seconds left. Roussel sent the Oilers faithful home in an even worse mood after he collected a clearing attempt just inside the blue line and added a second empty-net goal 30 seconds later.
Thoughts on the game:
- The Stars have been on a bit of a homecoming train recently (one more, kinda, coming up this weekend in Vancouver as they see old coach Glen Gulutzan), and unlike some venues in recent memory, the home crowd reception for Shawn Horcoff was a warm one. Horcoff played 13 years in Edmonton, is No. 5 on the all-time games played list and generally did everything the team asked of him during his tenure, including wear the C. The Oilers had a brief video tribute for him, and the crowd gave him a standing ovation. On the Dallas end, Horcoff got to start the game and wore an "A" in place of the injured Ray Whitney. Those were all nice touches on what must have been a bit of surreal night for him.
- Nichushkin continues to create all sorts of chaos, in a good way, in the offensive zone. His penalty shot might have been a bit of a weak call, but he created the chance with some solid play off the puck and then a strong drive to the net. He's still got lots of young-kid things to work on - taking fewer Mike Ribeiro-esque extended shifts and telegraphing his moves less chief among them (he had five shifts of more than a minute tonight, the longest a 1:22 stretch) - but he continues to ooze talent.
- The power play. Oh the power play. It continued its really maddening problems of looking good-but-unlucky in some stretches and simply pitiful in others. If it was one thing, like it always looked terrible, then it would be easier to deal with almost, as we could pick apart something very specific. But just like most other nights recently, it looked great but unlucky at times (like Cody Eakin's hit post) and just bad in some others.
- The penalty killing was very solid, however. And it had to be after the Stars got themselves in penalty trouble early in the game. The calls eventually evened out and, indeed, ended up in favor of the Stars, but they had to rely on the PKers to get them there.
- The sheer amount of special teams play in this game meant Travis Morin saw fairly limited minutes - a little more than six overall. He didn't do anything special in that time, but he didn't look out of place either. Assuming the next game doesn't have the equivalent of a full period of special teams play, I suspect we'll get a better look at what he brings at the NHL level then.
- Kari Lehtonen is made of hockey magic, and nothing you can say will convince me otherwise.
- Okay, so it's not that straightforward. Lehtonen very nearly made a big mistake when coming out to play a puck that wandered into the trapezoid. But he was pretty darn perfect in this shutout and really demoralized the Oilers early with a huge glove save (bailing out Brenden Dillon in the process who, for some reason, let go of his very talented check). That was as pretty as they come.
- Points out of the first night of a back-to-back is the easy part. Let's see if they have figured out that second-night thing now.