When last Kari Lehtonen returned to the Dallas Stars lineup after an extended absence in December of 2011, the Dallas Stars perhaps thought their problems were solved, and promptly fell by a score of 4-1 to the Blue Jackets.
It was deja vu all over again tonight as Lehtonen returned with the promise of lowering the goals against, and Dallas failed to support him offensively, or defensively at times, allowing the Oilers to breeze to a 5 -1 win on American Airlines Center ice in front of 17,041.
The Stars had experienced team-record goal scoring in recent weeks, potting three or more in 11 consecutive games, but that train had to come to a stop eventually. Two fluky goals in favor of the Oilers compounded the frustration, and the penalty trouble continued.
Dallas killed five Oiler power plays, including two lengthy 5-on-3's while the game was still in reach, but the nearly eight minutes spent on the job through two periods, coupled with going 0-for-4 themselves, left little time or opportunity to catch up. The hooking call 12 seconds into the third and the goal that followed were purely academic.
It wasn't quite the return that Kari Lehtonen was looking for, and perhaps the Stars' puck-luck on offense ran out a bit. Either way, they've now lost five of their last eight games and are sliding undeniably in the wrong direction.
Erik Cole looked good on a line with Cody Eakin and Reilly Smith, and will now get two days to get acclimated with practice time before the Stars try to avenge this one on Sunday against the Blues.
It was Edmonton's first regulation win in Dallas since 2006. The Stars have allowed 33 total goals in their last eight games.
Before many parents could even complete their ice-cream-in-a-little-helmet transactions the Oilers struck when Sam Gagner threw a puck in front from behind the goal-line that deflected off of Jamie Benn, or Kari Lehtonen himself to give Edmonton a 1-0 lead. Vern Fiddler promptly afforded Edmonton's fifth ranked power play their first chance of the night shortly after, before the Stars could even get a SOG.
Dallas pushed back, and hard, out-possessing the Oilers and driving play toward their net throughout, but got nothing and then went down 2-0 when the Eakin line got caught scrambling in their own end after lost puck battles and a brilliant Jordan Eberle pass.
Consecutive boarding calls gave Edmonton a 5-on-3, which they carried into the...
Dallas would survive the 5-on-3 and remaining 5-on-4 Edmonton power play time, but little else would go right in the period.
The Stars traded a pretty even shot total with the Oilers and earned three power plays along the way, but rarely (if ever) was Dubnyk truly tested and the home team, even with Edmonton down two defensemen at times in the frame, simply could not execute.
Brenden Dillon found himself with a partial breakaway late in the second during four-on-four play but was poke checked by a charging Dubnyk to deny Dallas on their best change of the game. Seconds later a partial Derek Roy breakaway was cancelled by another too-many-men bench minor for Glen Gulutzan's bunch, giving the Oilers an entire (additional) minute of 5-on-3.
Dallas would kill the 5-on-3, again, but allowed the nail in the coffin with 14 seconds left on a fluky goal by Jeff Petry, and entered the final frame down three.
The Stars picked up where they left off, taking a hooking call 12 seconds into the frame, and Edmonton finally broke through on the power play to put the game even further out of reach than it already was.
Frustration penalties would follow as garbage time ensued as Edmonton enjoyed more power play time.
A Dallas power play in the middle of the frame generated three or four high quality looks, but as was the case all night long the Stars just couldn't connect, and Dubnyk faced little of any real danger.
Lehtonen continued to face quality chances and insult to injury: Ben Eager scored his first of the season, beating Lehtonen on a one-timer that sent fans heading to the exits at last.
Jaromir Jagr would add a perfunctory goal to deny Dubnyk of the shutout he nearly...experienced.
- There's not much to say about this one. It's unfair to complain about lack of offensive execution when the team comes off their best goal scoring streak in a decade. So we'll give that a rest for one night. These are the same lines, basically, and the same talent - but also the third game in four nights.Erik Cole had good jump in his debut and that Cody Eakin line was among the best early at generating chances, or at least getting close to them as Dubnyk stopped largely harmless shots for the most part. There appears to be little need to change the forward lines going forward, but you never know what two days of practice at home will bring with a new acquisition.
- Gulutzan did change things up a bit in the third in search of offense, placing Eriksson with Benn and Jagr and Cole with Roy and Roussel.
- Jamie Benn continues to pile up the minus ratings. -3 in Nashville. -3 in Columbus -2 tonight. That's concerning, and if anything may prompt a line change it's that.
- The penalties.
- The penalties.
- The penalties.
- It's the sort of penalties they're taking, or at least it was tonight. Two boardings, a slash and a too-many-men penalty. Those are not things Glen Gulutzan is going to be happy about, but we've been saying that for two months now. What the fix is we do not know.
- The Stars bounced back nicely after getting scored on in the game's opening minute, dominating the first period's middle portion. If they had scored there this game is different. If Dillon scores on the breakaway when it's 2-0 the game is likely very different. That's just the way hockey goes. The question is - Do they have time for shoulder shrugging games like this? Their points percentage is already down to 11th in the West.
- Jamie Benn's blind-side cross-check with the puck nowhere in sight on Ryan Jones could be suspension worthy. It was unnecessary to the absolute nth degree and purely out of frustration. Stay tuned for more on that one. He played showed signs of frustration for much of the night. Gulutzan said after that he doesn't think it's suspendable.