Hockey is a funny game. The Dallas Stars blew a third-period lead in January to the New York Islanders, of all teams, at home, and lost to them for the second time that month. Then the same group of humans goes to Anaheim, famously impenetrable Anaheim, and takes the full two points in a shutout of one of the league's most potent offenses.
Trying to make sense out of it is tough. Enjoying the victories individually is easier.
Lindy Ruff pulled the strings on his goaltending situation, whether because Kari Lehtonen needed a rest, or because of a hunch on Dan Ellis tonight, and got a stellar performance out of his backup in the win, including support throughout from collapsing forwards and the group on the blue line. And more than a little luck on occasion.
On the other end it was Trevor Daley of all people providing all the offense they'd need in the second period before an empty-net goal in the waning seconds sealed the 2-0 win.
The Stars power play was kept off the sheet again tonight in four tries, but close calls throughout the game's first 40 minutes had Dallas threatening to exacerbate Anaheim's frustrations.
Dallas hung on for dear life at times in the third, but in the end it's Dan Ellis' 14th career shutout, a rest for Kari Lehtonen, and a big two points on a night when the Minnesota Wild couldn't even get one out of the Calgary Flames.
Surviving the first ten minutes in a hostile road environment is tricky, and the Stars had some hiccups, but as the period settled down they equaled the Ducks in chances and metrics.
The Stars were the victim of a bad call on Alex Goligoski after Corey Perry shenanigans hoodwinked the officials and Dallas had to kill a dangerous Anaheim power play. Dan Ellis was equal to the task to the tune of just six shots.
Dallas out-attempted the Ducks 17-16 in the frame, and earned a power play in the last minute thanks to interference by Ben Lovejoy.
The Stars lost Cody Eakin after a puck struck him just above the eye, luckily, and he did not return in the frame. In the second, stitched up, visor in tow, he was able to go.
The period was a breath of fresh air after the mucked up affair with the Devils, with end-to-end action throughout and plentiful chances for both teams. More importantly, the Stars survived scoreless.
Cody Eakin's return was not without merit when five minutes into the second period he combined with Rich Peverley on a scoring chance in transition, and Trevor Daley, along for the ride, was the benefit with a loose puck to slam home to give the Stars a 1-0 lead.
Dallas continued to at least equal Anaheim's play throughout, riding a 19-13 shot advantage late into the frame despite several dangerous plays around Dan Ellis' net.
Corey Perry received his comeuppance with a hooking penalty nearly 13 minutes into the period, and not only could the Stars not extend their lead, but Perry himself sparked a flurry of Anaheim chances right out of the box that nearly tied the proceedings at one in what was the most threatening volley the Ducks had on the night to that point.
A Tyler Seguin partial breakaway, a Jamie Benn shot off the cross-bar, several passed up shots by Valeri Nichushkin, and two point blank chances by Rich Peverley went by unrewarded in the frame, but the Stars took a 1-0 lead into the third. Antoine Roussel and Luca Sbisa incurred roughing minors at the period's expiration.
Four-on-four play greeted Dallas and Tyler Seguin nearly squeaked free a couple of times. Alex Chiasson rang one off the post just after on a long wrister.
Cody Eakin, making headlines in all three periods, then took a hooking penalty in front of Dan Ellis after the backup failed to secure a rebound, causing a mad scramble. Dallas killed the penalty with facility but Anaheim started a relentless push, jumping out to an 8-1 shot advantage before half the period had expired.
They'd have to weather another storm when Jamie Benn went off for tripping at 11:21. Dallas put just five shots on Hiller in the third, and one additional on an empty net.
Through 40 minutes it was a masterpiece of a team sticking together in a dangerous road situation. The final 20 were far from that, but they found a way and shut out Anaheim- Something no one this season had done, in handing them just their third regulation loss at Honda Center.
It's late. Observations tomorrow perhaps. Go to bed.
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