Well, that's one way to come back from a break.
Jamie Benn and Patrick Eaves scored goals, but they were one goal-scorer behind Montreal, dropping the game by a final score of 3-2.
The Stars were the better team overall, outshooting the Habs 42-26 and controlling most of the play, but couldn't find enough ways to get past Carey Price.
Special teams also played a large role. Both teams went 1-for-5 on the powerplay, but Dallas failed to convert on two five-on-threes and only scored one goal on a five-minute major.
The Stars played well, but not well enough to get the win. They'll need to draw the positives from tonight as they head to Ottawa to face the Senators on Thursday.
If the Stars were hoping for a fresh start to get away from some of the demons that haunted them in the first half of the season...well, that didn't happen tonight.
The Stars were the better team in the opening frame, and out-shot the Canadiens by a hefty 16-9 margin, but wound up trailing 2-1 after 20.
The Habs opened the scoring 06:07 in on one of the flukiest goals that you'll ever see, with Alexei Emelin firing a weak shot from the left point down the boards that took a weird bounce and slid through the 5-hole of an unprepared Kari Lehtonen.
As lucky as their first goal was, the goal that made it 2-0 was a dazzling showcase of skill when Alex Galchenyuk flew down the left wing, undressed Jordie Benn and lifted a scorching backhand over Lehtonen.
The Stars seemed all but destined to head into the first intermission down 2-0, but head coach Lindy Ruff had different plans. With 2.7 seconds left in the period and a faceoff in the Montreal end Ruff decided to pull Lehtonen to giver his team six skaters for the final faceoff. Their set play miraculously worked, with Jason Spezza winning the faceoff and Jamie Benn instantly snapping home a perfectly-placed shot to cut the lead to 2-1.
Instead of tapering off, the rapid pace from the first period only carried over to the second.
Montreal regained their two-goal lead less than five minutes into the period. With Ryan Garbutt in the penalty box Brendan Gallagher collected a rebound off a P.K. Subban shot and banged home the puck before Lehtonen was able to fully reset in his net.
With the Stars on a powerplay of their own two minutes later Canadiens defender Alexei Emelin hit Spezza from behind, sending him face-first into the boards. Spezza went off dripping blood from his broken nose, but the play gave the Stars a five-minute powerplay. It took them four and a half minutes to do so but the Stars eventually capitalized, with Tyler Seguin cutting through the Montreal penalty killers and feeding a salacious pass to Patrick Eaves for the slam-dunk in the blue paint.
Spezza would return to the ice with a full face shield before the end of the period.
Dallas got into some penalty trouble midway through the frame, on a necessary hooking call and a unnecessary too many men on the ice call. The Stars killed the first penalty and, owning possession of the puck, fed a breaking Alex Goligoski out of the penalty box. Goligoski lost the puck and slid to block it as Carey Price came out to play it, but wound up sliding under the Montreal goaltender, putting the Stars back on the kill on a questionable call. It got hairy, but the Stars managed to escape without yielding a goal.
The tide would turn, however, giving the Stars some powerplay time in the dying minutes, including thirty seconds of 5-on-3. Like it has far too many times this season, unfortunately, the powerplay couldn't convert, whittling away the Stars' last great chance at tying the game.
Thoughts And Observations:
- Boy, how nice is it to have Patrick Eaves back? He looked fantastic on the top line, generating tons of chances, winning puck battles, and finishing with a goal and six shots. Who would have guessed that the cheap, one-year deal that he signed this summer would turn out to be such a huge bargain?
- On the flip side of that coin, I can't help but wonder how much difference Erik Cole would have made if he had played tonight.
- It's clear that Dallas' fourth line is being steadily molded into a cycle/forecheck line, and it works quite well. The top three lines play with speed, while the fourth line of Vern Fiddler, Travis Moen and others grind down opposing defenders, giving the Stars some variety in how they decide to attack. It's a work in progress, but the 4th line generated a lot of chances like that tonight.
- Kari Lehtonen really, really wants that first goal back, which is something that's been said a lot so far this year. Weak goals happen to all goalies, but the sheer number of low-percentage, bad angles shots that have gone into the Dallas net this year is beyond frustrating.
- Jason Spezza's nose was broken tonight, but it looks like he shouldn't miss any time for it, thankfully. He extended his point-scoring streak to five games tonight, and the Stars will need him playing to the best of his abilities if they want to climb into a playoff spot.
- And finally...the powerplay. Despite the one goal, it was not good enough. Period. Not enough movement, not enough urgency, not enough pucks put towards the net. Old habits, as they say, die hard.