A third period power play at home to ensure an outcome that includes points.
Saturday against the Tampa Bay Lightning they couldn't punch through. Monday night against the Buffalo Sabres they finally did. Alex Chiasson ended a 20-power play drought in the third when Jamie Benn's slap shot deflected off of him and past Jhonas Enroth for the eventual game-winner in front of a national audience on NBC Sports Network.
The Stars would have liked to have had it sewn up before all of that, however. 39 shots followed 41 on Saturday and 34 on Thursday as the Stars continue to pour the pressure on these Eastern Conference teams with little in the way of goal production to show for it.
That included 16 first-period tries tonight that Enroth turned aside with facility. Kari Lehtonen sparkled when called upon at the other end, particularly in the third period after Tyler Ennis scored his second of the game.
Dallas takes two of three on the home stand, good enough to hold the tenuous grasp on the second wild-card spot for tonight. Columbus has been a pretty good team this season, and they await as the Stars board a plane post-haste.
Buffalo looked like a team that has nothing left to lose (oh, right...) to start the period, shot out of a cannon, surprising a Stars team that wasn't quite ready to go. Luckily John Scott is still employed in Buffalo. His Tripping penalty put the Stars on a power play that did everything but score.
Then Cody Hodgson put Dallas on a power play that did everything but score. And then Zemgus Girgensons did the same.
The chances came in waves while Buffalo spectated and yet the Stars could not convert, out-shooting the Sabres 16-5 in the frame. Tyler Ennis managed it, though, on a rush coming off a Dallas turnover and Lehtonen had no chance on the play.
Assisting on the play? Star-killer Matt Moulson, of course.
Dallas out-attempted Buffalo 29 to 10 (10!) in the period.
Things picked up where they left off with the onslaught continuing, though after a dominant first period Ruff chose to mix his lines up a litte bit to the following:
Whitney unwittingly picked up an assist soon after when a Jordie Benn point shot found its way past Enroth to knot things at one. The Stars' fourth power play of the evening introduced more danger in the Sabres' end, but to no avail.
The Stars would increase their advantage to 24-9 before Buffalo started to push back and Kari Lehtonen was forced to make a sensational stop on Matt Moulson off a rush.
I was going to write that the Sabres had watched the Stars exhaust themselves, and that momentum had definitely stalled heading into the third period, and so it was. Until a Trevor Daley point shot found its way to the post, bounced off of some innumerable number of objects and found Alex Goligoski, who had a wide open net in which to shoot it.
2-1 Stars with just 5.1 seconds remaining.
Two blatant trips on Buffalo's part went uncalled early in the third, then a lucky bounce off the high glass behind Kari Lehtonen came right to Tyler Ennis' stick in front who poked home the easy goal to knot things at two.
Energized by their continued uncommon run of good fortune, the Sabres attacked with speed just seconds later and Antoine Roussel found himself in the box for hooking after trying to break up an odd-man rush.
Fairly even play broke out following the kill, disturbingly, until Kevin Connauton drew a call and put the Stars on a power play they'd finally convert when Jamie Benn's slapshot ticked off Alex Chiasson in front and past Enroth.
Then it was the Kari Lehtonen show, and show he did. Well. The too many men on the ice penalty that basically ended the game received less applause than did the "Taco Goal" enticement to begin the third period, and the Stars skated away with a win they earned, but almost had taken away from them by another uncommon performance in goal.
Theorizing that Whitney is placed on the top-line to showcase him for a trade is a fun thing to say. Because we think we're funny and everything on the internet is a joke. If you start actually believing such foolishness, go to bed.
Nichushkin had one of his "Oh, Val..." games, trying to do too much and he got booted off the top line for it. Too many turnovers and rookie moments. It's part of it. We know that. He'll be back. Because he's Val Nichushkin. Moving on...
80 is a weird hockey number, Christ Stewart.
The power play. The power play, the power play, the power play. Pretty tough to say that it was bad. It was not. It generated a plethora of good looks in the first period, any one of which could have easily gone in. It's easy to cry fowl from here, but if you're coaching that power play you're telling them to just keep at it. Like earlier in the year, they'll start going in if they continue to earn those looks.
Columbus wrapped up yet another win over the Leafs and were headed for the airport before the Stars had even started the third period. Advantage: BJs.
Scoring on the empty netter would have put them at... 40 shots. Which would have been a pretty stylish way to distance from that whole... thing.
Congratulations to Lindy Ruff on winning his 600th game against the club that stole so much of his life. I kid. We like to have fun.
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