The Central Division cellar-dwelling Dallas Stars remained there Friday night, losing their second game of the year to the Chicago Blackhawks at home, losing a third period lead, and more importantly, losing half of their top defensive pairing in defensive Robidas.
The diminutive heart and soul of the Stars' back-end went down to make a play on the penalty kill mid-way through the second period and caught his leg under himself against the boards, immediately crying out for help.
Dallas held a 1-0 lead through that time but as Robidas was rushed to UT Southwestern the best team in the league turned on the jets and started rushing past the Stars. Patrick Sharp deflected a puck home to tie the game and then the Stars were able to hold on for dear life to survive to overtime.
Uneventful through the four-on-four was, the shootout was a thriller with little in the way of scoring through 21 shooters before Smith ended it for Chicago after Kari Lehtonen gave his team chance after chance to take it.
They're 1-0-1 on the homestand but with 27 points they stand above only Edmonton and Calgary, and now they've lost Stephane Robidas for an extended period of time. They'll continue with the Oilers on Sunday.
The Hawks won the possession battle, as one would expect, 18-3, directing puck at Kari Lehtonen's net and, if not for an unwitting save by Marian Hossa in Lehtonen's crease, would have taken a 1-0 lead. Ryan Garbutt continued his assault on opposing netminders with three shots and Jamie Benn was spectacular, but defensive mistakes and near misses peppered the period the other way.
Corey Crawford made the worst decision of the frame, however, when he tried to play the puck behind his net and Shawn Horcoff crashed in and disrupted him enough to cause a bauble but not enough to draw a penalty. The real joy of the play was watching Horcoff outwork Hawk's captain Jonathan Toews, who was the first in to assist.
Horcoff eventually centered the puck to Rich Peverley who slid it into a gaping net for the 1-0 lead. Had the goal not been scored Crawford should have been whistled for playing the puck in the restricted area.
The brisk pace continued in the second and high-drama ensued when Alex Chiasson jumped a d-to-d pass in the offensive zone and was off to the races, impeded from behind. A penalty shot was awarded and Chiasson hit the post. It sounds impressive, but it's not even a shot on goal, and so a golden opportunity went by.
Even back and forth play continued until an Erik Cole drop pass to no one in particular led to a Dallas tripping call on Patrick Kane and on the ensuing power play the season debilitating injury, perhaps to Robidas and the Stars' playoff chance both, occurred.
They'd kill it, get one of their own, have a few near misses, including a nice Nichushkin opportunity (what else is new?) from Seguin right in front of the net, and then finish with a furious flurry of activity in front of Crawford, but in the end the 1-0 lead held.
In the end all anyone could think of was Robidas.
As word filtered in that Robidas' injury was a leg fracture the Chicago Blackhawks took little care, taking over the game with authority as did the Stars on Tuesday night.
Dallas was hardly allowed to touch the puck as the Hawks kicked it into the gear the big boys have, finally tying the game and beating Kari Lehtonen with a Patrick Sharp deflection in the slot to the joy of seemingly well over half of the AAC crowd.
Chicago had the lions share of the chances but Dallas pushed back as time dwindled and back and forth action ended in little dangerous as the two teams found their way to overtime.
As Razor said, overtime began with a lot of what one might consider "interpretive skating" - Back and forth but little in the way of substance. Each team's top duos nearly generated dangerous opportunities but the defenses held tight and neither Lehtonen or Crawford had much to do.
So naturally, a fine hockey such as this must be decided with the equivalent of NFL quarterbacks throwing footballs through hanging tires.
Jamie Benn - I don't want to describe that. It was awful. Miss.
Toews - Decided to shoot it after watching that mess, but Lehtonen got it. Miss.
Seguin - Also did some meandering dance that Crawford watched with amusement. Miss.
Sharp - Someone finally came in with speed. He beats Lehtonen
Peverley - Also decided to shoot the puck. Goal
Kane - Tried to get it through the five hole and Lehtonen barely stopped it. Miss.
Chiasson - Backhander but again, painfully slow. Not NHL quality shootout moves tonight.
Pirri - Speaking of not NHL quality moves
Horcoff - HORCOFF?
Hossa - Dallas goes Horcoff. Hawks go Hossa. Talent disparity? But he misses
Whitney - Slow approach. Slow shot.
Saad- Nice move but Lehtonen stretches out and makes save on his rear end
Eakin - Shoots blocker side. Save Crawford.
Versteeg - Shoots blocker side. Save Lehtonen
Garbutt - Miss miss miss zzzzzzz
Handzus - Hits cross bar
Fiddler - Tried to do the back hand move again, Crawford knew it.
Shaw - Lehtonen glove save and then showed him as he went by. 18 shooters
Jordie Benn. Not Nichushkin. Jordie Benn.
Kruger - Tried five hole. Save Lehtonen. Not sure why I'm still typing.
Nichushkin - tried five hole...maybe. Not a good one.
Smith - Someone finally tries to ELEVATE THE ____ ______ PUCK and he ends the game.
-The Fiddler line with Roussel and Garbutt continues to effective, and entertaining. They disappeared a bit in the third period. Garbutt continues to get scoring chances. We'll see if they can keep that magic up for a while.
-Jamie Benn was so good in the first period. As he was against the Ducks. It would be nice to see tha tline reassert their dominance on the score-sheet, however.
-Alex Goligoski appears to be first up to audition with Brenden Dillon with Robidas out indefinitely. Trevor Daley, then as he's been asked to do in the past, could get the job as mentor for Oleksiak or Connuaton.
-Kari Lehtonen didn't have to be super-human to get the Stars deep into the game. That's something.
-Why does Cody Eakin have a black mustache? That must be the subject of some mirth in the dressing room.
-Is Rich Peverley being used well with Cole and Horcoff? They came up with the big goal in the first (not saying much with the goaltender out of the net but it was opportunistic and good work by Horcoff), but they were largely lost the rest of the game, responsible for a turnover leading to the Kane trip and the Robidas injury.
-Alex Chiasson's game was good tonight. Ray Whitney's continues to be somewhat underhwleming to ye olde eye-ball test.
-First sell-out of the season at the AAC. No mystery as to why, unfortunately.