The start most definitely wasn't what the Dallas Stars were looking for tonight. The Chicago Blackhawks put themselves on the board just over a minute into the game off of a snipe from Duncan Keith. "Here we go again..." was what many of us thought immediately afterwards; after all, that kind of start often leads to ugly games for Dallas.
Instead of letting that deflate them, the Stars actually responded with a nice push of their own. The fight was in them -- sometimes even quite literally.
Curtis McKenzie got his first career NHL goal on a very nice tip-in off of an Erik Cole pass. It was made possible because McKenzie was doing one of the things the Stars have been lacking quite often -- driving the net. Just 39 seconds later Shawn Horcoff would give the Stars the lead off of a nice Vernon Fiddler pass that found him on the circle looking at a gaping net.
Is has been a problem in many games, the penalty kill for the Stars gave up the equalizing goal a little past the midway point of the first period. Poor Jamie Benn was the reason the Hawks were able to tie it up, as he deflected a point shot in past Kari Lehtonen.
It seems he can score goals that are waived off or goals on his own goaltender, but can't seem to find the back of the proper net legally as the captain's goal-less streak hit eleven games after tonight. It isn't a coincidence that the Stars have struggled during that stretch, either.
Antoine Roussel continued to not make friends in Chicago, as he threw the gloves down against Andrew Shaw. The only thing better would have been if he had scored a goal tonight. Hawks fans would have just notched another reason not to like the Frenchman.
A fairly uneventful second period followed the exciting first period, grinding down an already tired Dallas Stars squad on the second half of a back-to-back.
The third period continued to be the Achilles heel of this Stars team, who couldn't lock down defensively to back up their decent first period to capture a point.
Neutral ice turnovers. Turnovers at their own blueline. Poor defensive positioning. They looked like a team on the second night of a back-to-back in the third, and a team as good as Chicago is going to make you pay for every single miscue.
I don't blame Kari Lehtonen for his frustration with this game. He was hung out on a lot of those third period goals, and he faced over 45 shots on goal. That's not likely to be a winning recipe, no matter how much rest you have before the game.
With a big homestand coming up, the Stars are going to need to take a long look in the mirror and reset themselves on home ice. Or they'll find themselves dug into such a hole they will run out of runway before they can catch back up.
Other thoughts on tonight's game....
*I'm about to setup a campaign on Tilt to buy Jamie Benn a goal. Please get your wallets out, scrounge for change in your couch/car/purse/washing machine and donate. Because that seems to be the only way he's going to score these days....
*Cody Eakin and his line looked more like the line of last year than possibly any other night to date. In the first two periods, anyway. I'd like to pretend that third period didn't happen for anyone.
*I know it's small sample sizes and whatnot, but John Klingberg continues to impress with his poise with the puck and his attentiveness to detail. He got torched a bit in the third period, but that was everyone on the team's fate too.
*Ales Hemsky has got to be wondering what he has to do to score a goal too. I'm going to peg the game against Calgary as one to watch. If he hasn't broken through by then, I'm expecting a four goal outing that night. The Stars seem to love to play Canadian teams and Calgary has been on the bad end of Stars goal scoring recently.
*The Stars did not have a single power play opportunity until the last two minutes of the game when it was already well beyond out of hand and their fate all but sealed. They gave up four opportunities the other way.
*I bet Lehtonen would like a better birthday present than what he got on ice tonight. Hope the guys buy him a nice steak dinner.