The New Jersey Devils tend to clog the neutral zone on teams in order to slow the pace down. They were relatively successful at this tonight against the Dallas Stars -- for about half of the first period.
Dallas did not come out with a good start. Passes were not crisp, puck protection was nearly non-existent, and the Devils forced a lot of turnovers. One of those turned out to be fairly costly, with Jamie Oleksiak turning the puck over in his own zone that lead directly to the first goal against. Paired with Jyrki Jokipakka, the two rookies did not show themselves well on that first goal.
Then things started to turn in favor of the Stars.
Led by Ales Hemsky, who played like a man on fire tonight, the Stars started to push back. They dominated the shots on goal in the second half of the first period and forced Cory Schneider to make some big saves.
They would continue to turn it on in the second period, and the Stars were finally rewarded for their effort. Hemsky drew a penalty to put the team on their first power play of the night. Though the goal came right as the penalty expired, the captain Jamie Benn put the Stars on the board with a heck of a blast that found the top of the cookie jar. It was a nice setup from the backdoor pass from Tyler Seguin.
Patrick Eaves added a second goal on a seeing-eye shot that found the space right between Schneider and the goal post. It was one that nine times out of ten the goaltender will stop, but it was a really good shot that Schneider got caught cheating on by Eaves for his first goal of the season in Dallas.
The Devils adjusted in the third, and seemed to push back a little bit more. They tied the game about mid-way through the last frame, even though Dallas was outplaying them in many categories, when Patrik Elias used his hand to pass the puck back to a driving Damien Brunner who pushed the puck under Kari Lehtonen.
Unfortunately hand passes are not reviewable, otherwise I think this goal could have been waved off. Instead, the Stars found themselves tied up even though they had outplayed New Jersey for a majority of the game. The Devils would be allowed to setup in the zone late in the last regulation frame too much. They spent too much time in their own zone; after a drive to the Devils net it would be an almost one-and-done situation where they couldn't get any good cycle time in the offensive zone.
The game would eventually go to overtime, which was pretty evenly matched between the two teams. Jason Spezza and Jamie Benn would seal the win for the Stars in the shootout, each scoring on their tries. Benn finally used his speed to enter the zone on his chance, and looked more like the usual shootout moves we're used to seeing from the captain instead of that slow-down-loopty-loop stuff we saw last season that never really worked.
Nice to see the captain back in shootout form.
*Hemsky deserved to be rewarded for his play tonight. He easily drove possession on his line, with several prime looks. It's just a matter of time before he capitalizes and gets going. Just wish it had been on the effort tonight.
*Trevor Daley needed to bury his chances. He had two very good looks that he just couldn't put home, though he should have, early in the game.
*Antoine Roussel had a pretty good bout against Bryce Salvador. I would fight someone that gave me that many kidney shots in a shift, too.
*The 25 shots on goal in regulation was the lowest amount allowed so far this season.
*The Stars didn't put the Devils on the man advantage a single time this game, a first this year.
*Breakaways -- Dallas had several breakway chances by Vernon Fiddler, Erik Cole and Hemsky. None of those converted into goals, though, and it could have gone a long way to shifting momentum tonight.