Jamie Benn wanted to send a message to his team early on, with what we could generously call a "fight" -- but more like a hug fest -- just six seconds into the game tonight.
It didn't seem to sink in for the first 1.95 periods, though.
The mental mistakes continued right after Benn went off for five minutes. A clear straight up the slot area by Jordie Benn jumped over one Arizona Coyotes' stick and straight to Connor Murphy, who would laser the puck right over Kari Lehtonen's head and in for the lead.
The turnovers, the bad passes, the drop passes to no one, the poor zone entries that has been the calling card of Stars hockey during this bad stretch was still there. Two very ill-timed back-to-back penalty kills added to the disjointed play, leading to an eventual Coyotes lead in shots on goal 17-6 over the Stars in the first period.
Whoa man, were the Stars in trouble.
The second period continued much of the same play, and Benn continued his fun night by committing several minor penalties that appeared to be born of frustration more than anything. The whole team was feeling the same way.
Then Vernon Fiddler got quite possibly the biggest chance to that point for the Stars on a breakaway on the penalty kill after picking off a pass at the point of the Coyotes power play. Mike Smith -- he of "struggling until he plays Dallas" infamy lately it seems -- shut down that chance, but it seemed to be the wake up call that Dallas was really looking for.
All of a sudden, the Stars started to get guys in front of Smith to create the chaos in front needed to score goals against the relatively stout defense of Arizona.
Two minutes of Tyler Seguin banging pucks into the net had the game tied, magically, for the Stars. Now they needed to just win the last 20 minutes, no small feat for a team that has been the worst in the third period, hands down.
Here was the difference for Dallas in the last frame that hasn't been there lately.
They got THAT save when they needed it from Lehtonen. The big Finn in net was huge in keeping them in it. The patience with the puck seems to have crept back in on the Dallas sticks, as many of the players started to settle down and make smart, patient plays. Instead of forcing the pass, the players would hold onto the puck for that extra few seconds until something smart came open.
Yes, there were still some turnovers and bad passes. There were way too many shots allowed in the third period, and not nearly enough put onto the net by Dallas. Again, they took a third period lead. Again, a lead was dispelled by a bad turnover in their own zone.
The message that captain Jamie Benn sent earlier in the game was received and embodied by Ryan Garbutt's individual effort on the penalty kill late in the third period. He made a smart chip along the boards and then hustled after it to get the breakaway shorthanded goal.
The rest of the team showed they took Benn's message to heart and literally shut the Coyotes down to make that standup as the game winning goal. They even piled into the crease to create a human body extension in front of Lehtonen's net to ensure they wouldn't allow another goal.
Lehtonen was the goaltender the Stars needed tonight, and looked more like himself than maybe any game so far this season. They have things to build on the way the game ended, and they'll need to continue that same play against the Los Angeles Kings on Thursday night.
Other thoughts on tonight's game....
*Can we keep John Klingberg? He was quite poised in his NHL debut tonight. While he didn't record a single point, his contributions to the possession game were noticeable. He handles the puck very well and didn't look out of place at this level all that often.
*How hot is Seguin right now? He had scored the previous five goals the Stars had scored prior to Erik Cole's goal in the third. He basically is the offense right now.
*Jordie Benn is struggling. With a capital S. His own zone turnovers have been rather detrimental lately. I'll add Brenden Dillon into the struggling with a capital S group as well.
*Dear Trevor Daley: you're too good to be doing dumb things like flipping the puck into the stands from your own end and committing delay of game penalties, much less doing it twice in the same game. The penalty killing needs you on the ice, not in the box.
*Jason Spezza's setup of Seguin's power play goal to tie the game was so very pretty.
*Nice to see the penalty kill not give the game away for a change. It's been fairly leaky lately, but they shut the door tonight on Arizona's six chances.