The old hockey adage goes that your best players have to be your best players, and that's exactly what happened for the Dallas Stars on Tuesday night.
Tyler Seguin scored two goals, John Klingberg had a goal and an assist, and Kari Lehtonen stopped 35 out of 37 shots as the Stars dropped the Edmonton Oilers by a score of 3-2.
Dallas played a strong opening 40 minutes, holding leads of 1-0 and 3-1, before falling into their same old bad habits and capitulating in the third period. Much like Saturday's game against the Los Angeles Kings, however, the Stars managed to claw and scrape and hang on long enough to get the W.
The victory extends the Stars' winning streak to three games, and gives them a record of 3-1 on their current five-game home stand. The Stars close this stretch out on Friday night against the Minnesota Wild.
Here's how tonight's game unfolded:
Defense? What defense?
The defensive struggles this season for both teams are well documented, and they were on display to start the game as the two teams traded chances at both ends. Cody Eakin had the best chance early, with ample time alone in the slot, but was robbed by the sprawling right toe of Viktor Fasth.
The Stars, as they've done a lot this season, opened the scoring by getting something that they haven't seen a lot: a goal from a lucky bounce. A slapshot from the neutral zone by, who else, John Klingberg ticked off a stick on it's way down and handcuffed Fasth for a 1-0 Stars lead.
The Stars appeared to be headed to the second period with a lead, up 1-0 and on the powerplay for the final two minutes, but would surrender a shorthanded goal with 30 seconds left. Trevor Daley got caught pinching at the blueline while Boyd Gordon flew past him. Gordon's first shot was stopped, but he managed to push home his rebound while standing over an outstretched Jason Demers.
Shots were 17-16 (or the total shots in a Minnesota Wild - Nashville Predators game in 2004) for the Oilers after one.
The Stars wouldn't let the late goal at the end of the first rattle them, coming out strong and taking control of the game in the second.
Seguin extended his NHL-leading goal total to 16 at the 5:59 mark of the period, going in on a breakaway and roofing a perfect backhand above Fasth. The play, however, wouldn't have happened were it not for an unbelievable outlet pass from Klingberg in the defensive zone. Seriously, check your highlight reels tonight for the whole play.
Seguin wasn't done there, taking a Jamie Benn feed and wiring a perfectly-aimed wrist shot above Fasth's shoulder in the final few minutes, upping the Stars' lead to 3-1.
As is tradition, a strong opening 40 minutes was put into jeopardy by hesitancy and soft play in the final 20.
Edmonton's top line set up a cycle five minutes in and got the Stars defense chasing before Taylor Hall snapped home a one-time off a pass from behind the net to cut Dallas' lead down to 3-2.
The Oilers came terrifyingly within inches of tying the game with a little over four minutes left as a puck squeaked through Kari Lehtonen, but Eakin swept a rolling puck off the goal line to save a sure goal. The Oilers also hit the crossbar in the dying seconds, but the puck bounced off to safety, giving the Stars the win.
Thoughts and Observations:
- John Klingberg continues to play at a level of rookie hockey that can only be described as "OMGWTFLOLBBQ." There just aren't better words left to use at this point. He now has 8 points in his first 8 NHL games. I think even Alex Chiasson is jealous of that kind of start.
- Lindy Ruff switched up his lines early in the second period, putting together groups that are more in line with what fans were expecting before the start of the season. The Pitbulls line was reunited, Erik Cole went up with Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky, and Patrick Eaves joined Benn and Seguin on the top line.
- Cole is what I'm going to call from now on as a "0 or 60" player. He's either completely invisible on the ice, or fighting through three or four bodies on the other team to generate an incredible scoring chance, but never anywhere in the middle. He had some great looks tonight and even drew a penalty for his efforts.
- Jyrki Jokipakka and Jamie Oleksiak were given significantly more ice time tonight than in previous games, obviously because of the level of competition at hand. Jokipakka played 17:44 while Oleksiak played 15:39. Despite a few hiccups from each, both players had solid, respectable outings.
- Ryan Garbutt took a dumb, unnecessary penalty in the third period for kneeing Taylor Hall. It was easily avoidable, and was obviously going to get called by the refs. When you're protecting a one-goal lead such plays are totally inexcusable. It will be interesting to see if he receives a fine or suspension (or both) for the incident.
- He doesn't get much attention, but I'm going to give a shout out here to Patrick Eaves. Not a flashy player by any means, but he's a good worker bee that seems to fit well into every situation that Ruff tries him in. He helped set up Seguin's game-winning goal with some nice forechecking, and now has 7 points in 16 games.