When the Dallas Stars win big at home this year, it often comes with a large helping of quick-strike goals from the offense.
And although there weren't three goals in a little more than a minute again Thursday night at the American Airlines Center, the Stars used another fast burst of offense - this time two goals in 17 seconds - to defeat the Vancouver Canucks by the score of 4-1.
Fresh off an 11-game goalless drought, Jamie Benn scored his third goal in as many games early in in the first period to open the scoring. Tyler Seguin was able to slip a pass through to Benn, who had beaten Kevin Bieksa to the slot after a neutral zone turnovers, and Benn picked the top corner over Luongo's left shoulder.
The Stars doubled their lead 17 seconds later on the back of the current Cape of Confidence wearer, Colton Sceviour. Rich Peverley found Sceviour driving hard to the net, and Sceviour was rewarded with his third goal of his NHL career and third in the last three games.
Vancouver quickly cut the lead in half as Chris Higgins got free down the right side and roofed a shot over Kari Lehtonen, and the teams went to the locker room with Dallas up 2-1.
After it seemed like the Canucks had the puck deep in the Stars end for most of the second period, Erik Cole made the game 3-1 Dallas after he stole the puck just outside the Canucks blueline and worked it into the zone. A quick shot handcuffed Luongo and snuck under his arm to restore the Stars two-goal cushion.
It looked like the Stars had taken a 4-1 lead very late in the second period after Ryan Garbutt forced a turnover that found its way onto Cody Eakin's stick, but the goal was waived off by referee Wes McCauley, who called Garbutt for interference after he picked off defenseman Dan Hamhuis.
What looked like a petty call at live speed was pretty blatant on replay - Garbutt made a beeline for Hamhauis and was thinking collision all the way. It was the second offensive-zone penalty of the game for the Stars.
The Stars escaped that penalty, and it didn't take long before they actually got their three goal lead, as Seguin and Cole made some great passes across the offensive zone that ended up with a slam-dunk goal from Valeri Nichushkin, who has his mother and sister in town from Russia. This goal chased Luongo from the game, and he was replaced by Eddie Lack.
Other than a brief foray by Antoine Roussel into the Canucks bench (assisted by Zack Kassian and Bieksa), the rest of the game passed uneventfully as the Stars picked up their first back-to-back, regulation home wins of the season.
More thoughts from a medication haze
- Given the score, it would be pretty easy to overlook the performance of Lehtonen in this one. But the big Finn had a more-than-solid effort in this game, including a very fancy glove grab early in the second period when it was still a one-goal game. More than picking up his 100th victory for the franchise, this victory looked meaningful because it looked like the calm, confident Lehtonen that Stars fans have come to adore the past few years rather than the guy who was struggling a bit recently.
- Also much improved in the past few games is Brenden Dillon, who still has some hiccups where he tries to do too much but has more-or-less settled back into a simple, effective game playing alongside Alex Goligoski. Having that pair more settled makes a huge difference to the whole blueline.
- This was my first extended look at Cameron Gaunce, and I was quite impressed. He's playing a simple game that relies heavily on positioning, which is just what you want to see in your rookie defensemen. While fellow defensive rookie Kevin Connauton can get a little over-zealous at times with the puck, Gaunce makes simple, smart decisions. He's not being forced to play the most difficult minutes yet (nor should he be), but it's a very nice start to his Dallas career.
- I think Shawn Horcoff, Antoine Roussel and Ryan Garbutt are having an internal competition to see who can take the most offensive zone penalties this season. Horcoff and Garbutt were the guilty parties tonight. That needs to stop yesterday.
- Nichushkin does take long shifts, doesn't he? Somewhere, Mike Ribeiro is smiling and nodding.
- That first line was hemmed in their own zone tonight at times, especially in the second when they got matched up with the Sedins, but they were explosive in transition and had some beautiful passing plays besides the one that led to Nichushkin's goal.
- Also not to be lost in this is Cole's performance. His spinning pass to Nichushkin was beautiful, and his goal, while a weak one from Luongo, was really important as it seemed to break the Canucks will a bit after the dominated much of the second. He's been rolling right along recently, and if Sceviour wasn't already wearing the Cape of Confidence (trademark Daryl Reaugh), I'd say he was the bearer.
- There was a great interview with Stars owner Tom Gaglardi early in the second period. As Brad mentioned on Twitter, a cup full of Internets for the person who can get us the audio of that.
- The power play was nothing to write home about again, surprise surprise. It has moments of looking almost there and moments where you almost want to go down there and try to do it yourself. Vancouver does present a formidable penalty killing challenge, but I would have liked a slightly more positive night coming off of actually scoring a goal last game.
- That's 7-2-1 against the Pacific Division this year. Can the Stars go back?