Despite dominance in the faceoff circle, the Capitals couldn't find a way to catch the Stars' offense, as Dallas defeated Washington in a fast-paced game that surely left Lindy Ruff and Barry Trotz in search of oxygen tanks after 60 minutes.
The Stars did themselves a favor by earning the first power play thanks to a good foray into the offensive zone by Cody Eakin that drew the "free hand" call on Nicklas Backstrom. After some decent puck movement and then a messy-but-successful re-entry, Jason Spezza made a sweet blind backhand pass to an open Tyler Seguin in front of the crease. Seguin, this time, made no mistake, and the Stars found themselves with a 1-0 lead before the seats were warm.
GIF: psst Caps, I wouldn't recommend leaving Tyler Seguin open like this. http://t.co/4bBGPiFvTG— Steph (@myregularface) January 18, 2015
Washington's first shot on goal was also a premier scoring chance for Joel Ward, as a 2-on-1 breakaway for Washington nearly ended up with a rebound being put away, but Lehtonen was in the right spot to turn it aside. Cody Eakin would manage to turn the corner on Orpik on the ensuing rush the other way, but Justin Peters kept the five hole secure.
Ales Hemsky found himself alone again, but his attempted pass for the slam-dunk was foiled by the sixth Capital on the ice. That would result in a short-lived powerplay, as Spezza was nailed for interference on a shorthanded bid the other way, and Kari Lehtonen found himself called into action again right off the bat, managing to swat a dangerous puck away with Alex Overchkin lurking on the doorstep. The 4-on-4 time was eventful but ultimately unfruitful both directions.
Lehtonen was tested a few times from out wide, but he looked like a goalie that was rested and ready, turning pucks aside without much trouble.
With about two minutes left in the first, Jyrki Jokipakka sent a wrister towards the net that Erik Cole tipped under Peters's glove hand. The zebras would send a fax to the War Room, but the response was a big fat "whatever, man," and the goal would stand.
The momentum would continue with another power play after Seguin was tripped near center ice, but the power play couldn't generate more magic (which is what it seems to take these days), and the first period would end with the Stars holding a two goals to naught advantage.
Dallas extended its lead to three on a 3-on-1 goal from Spezza early in the second period. Erik Cole laid a juicy one-time-me-please pass that #90 made no mistake on whatsoever. However, Washington would finally get on the board as Joel Ward (again) made a sweet odd-man-rush pass of his own to Eric Fehr on a 2-on-1 that came about after Oleksiak let a hot puck get through his skates at the point. Fehr would wait a beat then thread the puck through Lehtonen's five hole as Kari came across the net.
Alexes Ovechkin and Goligoski would meet with a bang behind the Dallas net when #8 lined up the Stars defenseman on something that probably wasn't charging (but was sure a lot closer to it than whatever Seguin was called for on his charging penalty the other day). Goligoski bailed just in time to miss the worst of the hit, but Antoine Roussel's two-handed face wash in the ensuing fracas would earn a minor from the referees. The Stars would kill the penalty, but Andre Burakovsky would score just after Roussel's egress when Matt Niskanen's ugly zone entry went full frog prince after Burakovsky buried the poke-checked puck with a (screened) wrister to the far corner.
The Stars almost got back up by two again in the period's dying moments, but Benn's slapshot off the rush was held by Peters while Tyler Seguin wept on the far side of the crease for the pass that did not come. The Stars headed to the third period with a tenuous 3-2 lead.
Sure enough, the lead would disappear in the first minute of the third as Alex Goligoski's point shot was magicked into an Ovechkin breakaway thanks to a Backstrom block, and you know what? Ovechkin is pretty good. He made a nice move at speed to sprawl Kari, and he promptly put the puck past him with the ease of one who has scored NHL goals before.
However, the 2015 Stars are not the 2014 Stars, per Antoine Roussel and Jamie Benn. Roussel and his linemates did some fantastic forechecking that ultimately resulted in a Klingberg wrister being tipped by Garbutt and bounced to Roussel on the back door. Dangerouss did not miss it, and the Stars' lead was 4-3. But Jamie Benn knows all about the Stars' goal prevention abilities, and he buried a sweet Seguin cross-ice pass off the rush before the crowd had even really gotten its "Roooous" chant going full-force. Props to Sceviour on Benn's goal as well, as Colton properly "dummied" the Seguin feed with Niskanen trying to defend him, which allowed the puck to float freely to Benn for the slam-dunk goal.
The Stars would quickly demonstrate the importance of big leads, as Joel Ward and Troy Brouwer were both given glorious scoring chances on the doorstep, but Kari was able to physically stop or mentally will the pucks away from the twine both times. Without checking the stats, I would say the Stars and Caps exchanged about 62 scoring chances in the first five minutes of the third period. That is a rough estimate.
From the ten-minute mark onwards, the Stars felt like they were in fire prevention mode. After some good bend-but-not-break defense, Alex Ovechkin found Backstrom with a gorgeous pass through the slot that the Stars never should have allowed. Kari had no chance on the one-timer, and we had a 5-4 game with about three minutes to go.
The Capitals poured on the pressure for just about all of that time, and Seguin and Roussel didn't help Ruff's blood pressure, squandering a chance to close out the game as they couldn't hit the empty net with just under a minute to go. It wouldn't end up mattering, however, as the Stars foiled the subsequent Caps push without too much trouble, finding a win for Kari Lehtonen in a game that never really looked like a sure thing for 59 minutes. The Caps won over two-thirds of the faceoffs and puts far more pucks toward the Dallas net, but five goals is a tough obstacle for even Alex Ovechkin's team to overcome, and the Stars will be happy with any victory as they head to Chicago.