Tonight's game really was a tale of two teams.
In the first period, you saw what this team could be: quick, energetic, dynamic, offensive. They held puck possession and dominated the Blue Jackets for the first half of the period. The shots on goal at one point were 8-0 in favor of Dallas.
The top line took their words from the loss against Nashville to heart and finally scored their first goals of the season. First was Tyler Seguin with Jamie Benn and Colton Sceviour assisting. The goal was made possible with some nice net-front work by Sceviour. The second goal was vintage captain Benn, an unassisted effort in which he made quite a few Blue Jackets players look like they weren't even on the ice as more than just obstacles on his way to the net.
That kind of offensive threat coming from Dallas had Columbus defensemen playing scared; they would back off in the zone so as not to get caught -- and subsequently torched -- by the forwards from Dallas instead of activating on offense.
A 2-0 lead heading into the second and the Stars looked like they were on a roll. Until the penalties started and the other team reared its head instead.
The second period took the Stars' offensive game out completely. It started with the carry over penalty from Erik Cole's hooking minor at the end of the first. Goaltender Kari Lehtonen made what should have been an easy clear on the penalty kill and instead shot it straight into the stands.
It seemed to rattle Lehtonen a bit, as he followed that up with a weird skate into his net when he went to play a puck that took a funny bounce and tried to change his direction back to his crease instead, causing the net to become dislodged and leading to just an overall strange sequence of events.
The disjointed feeling continued into the period, as the Stars were called for more penalties. What that did was cause a majority of the first and the whole second line to be taken out of the game almost completely on offense, as guys like Seguin, Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky don't kill penalties. When you're spending a lot of time on the penalty kill, those guys are just sitting on the bench and getting out of the rhythm that had worked so well for them in the first.
The penalty kill has been really good early on this year, but you can't keep testing it and the Stars would allow the tying goal to be scored on the man advantage.
In the last frame, you saw a bit of both sides of the team. It seemed to be played more evenly, with neither team trying to give too much and allow that go-ahead goal. Seguin battling at the front of the net combined with a lot of bodies in front of Sergei Bobrovsky allowed a deflected goal to give the Stars the lead. That kind of battle and fight was reminiscent of the first period team we saw.
Lindy Ruff seemed to shorten his bench a little bit in the third, rolling the top three lines more often. It's a change from what he usually likes to do which is to roll four lines.
A Tyler Seguin hat trick on the empty net goal and the leadership of Jamie Benn helped lead the Stars to the first win of the season. There are things that need to be fixed, assuredly, but it was a heck of an effort from the top line tonight. As Lindy Ruff said, when they're on you're likely to win.
Nice to see them on.
A few other thoughts on the game tonight....
*Jamie Benn was in full on beast mode tonight. Look up "leading by example" -- you'll find his game tonight as example number one.
*Kari Lehtonen showed glimpses of his old stout self in net, but he still just doesn't look quite settled into the season right now. It's hard to pinpoint just why it feels that way, but he isn't doing all the things we're used to back there. Huge third period from him to shut the door and help seal the win.
*Brenden Dillon took out a linesman early in the second. He went to clear the puck while the Stars were on the penalty kill and it looked like it hit the linesman right on a non-padded area. It was quite a bomb from the defensemen, too. Luckily, he returned to the game later in the period. No word on whether that caused the refs to call some questionable penalties against Dallas in the second (kidding....they earned those calls. Mostly. One of the Columbus players seemed to have been holding his stick rather loosely on one of those calls.)
*Kevin Connauton made several strong defensive plays, utilizing his skating and positioning to help cut off passes and shooting lanes by Blue Jackets. I felt like he had a fairly decent game tonight.
*Spezza and Hemsky have pretty decent shot totals through three games, but neither have found the back of the net. Bad luck dragons.
*Jordie Benn and Brenden Dillon had a pretty good night. Every time there was a big defensive play made with good positioning or getting back to cut off an odd-man rush it seemed like it was one of their two names called as making the play.
*While the "pit bull" line of Cody Eakin, Ryan Garbutt and Antoine Roussel were rather quiet tonight, I felt like it was a nice bounce back after some of the terrible penalties they took in the third period versus the Predators.