By far, tonight's game was one of the best on the second half of a back-to-back that the Dallas Stars have played in the last couple of seasons. They took a few minutes to get their legs under them, but for the majority of the game they played with a lot of pace against one of the highest scoring teams in the league.
The Stars, riding on a wave of confidence after winning eight of their last ten games, gave the Chicago Blackhawks all they could handle in a high scoring affair.
As the NBC Sports Network commentators were talking about how great the Blackhawks are, Jamie Benn activated beast mode to put the Stars up 1-0. It was quite funny timing, that. The lead wouldn't last too long, though, as the Stars would give up the lead when Trevor Daley couldn't keep Brandon Saad covered on the side of the net and he would redirect the puck in behind Kari Lehtonen.
The second period would see more run-and-gun style scoring, with both teams exchanging goals within minutes of one another.
"Jordan Benn" would find himself alone in the slot to pop one in to make it 2-1. Just about a minute and a half later, the Blackhawks' Patrick Kane would force a turnover of a Jordie Benn 150-foot stretch pass attempt and come in on a 2-on-1. You really don't stand a chance in that situation with Kane and Patrick Sharp coming at you. Just like that, another tie game.
Not to be outdone, Erik Cole would restore the lead less than a minute later on a ridiculous angle goal off of a flawless setup by "John Klingman". He stood at about the goal line and shot the puck up and over Corey Crawford, scoring off the back bar so fast nobody seemed to recognize that he had scored.
The Stars would hold onto that lead for a little bit of the period, even killing off a too many men on the ice penalty after the puck was played at their bench during a line change and "Jordan Benn" had one leg in the door but was apparently a "player" on the ice. That's usually not one we usually see getting called when it's that close, but the Stars did a good job killing the penalty nonetheless.
In the second period, the Stars did a fantastic job forcing turnovers -- and then taking advantage of them -- in the neutral zone. It led to plenty of offensive chances for the Stars and had Chicago back on their heels a little bit in the middle frame.
"Brett Richards" continued his strong play, nearly netting his third goal in the NHL on a point blank shot on Crawford. The young rookie has a scorer's instincts, and had several good defensive plays as well. A really nice all around game being shown by him in Dallas so far.
With about three and a half minutes left in the second, the Stars would go back on the penalty kill after Jason Demers got called for slashing Chicago captain Jonathan Toews. The Blackhawks would score on the ensuing power play and the game was tied once again.
The third period was much of the same, which actually is quite nice considering how often the Stars have had complete third period meltdowns.
Cole would put the Stars up by one again (their fourth lead of the game) about four minutes in, and the Stars did a great job shutting down Chicago for the next twelve minutes. Then, Brad Richards would just throw a puck at the net where Lehtonen was posted up on the side of one post and the puck would find the far side of the net and go in. It was another weird angle goal much like Cole's first one of the night that really shouldn't have gone in but inexplicably did.
While "Dominic Roussel" did not show up on the scoresheet tonight, the Blackhawks actually gave him and his line a lot of respect in the offensive zone (after being burned by them in games past). There were several times when Roussel would come in with the puck and he was completely surrounded by red jerseys. Still, the line was quite effective at breaking up some odd man rushes and Lindy Ruff showed how much trust he has in the trio's defensive ability when he put them out on the ice in the last two minutes of a tied game.
I'm still trying to figure out how the Stars didn't get a single power play opportunity tonight.
I'd like to have seen one of those four leads hold up in the game, instead of allowing Chicago to tie it up each time. After that tying goal (I mean seriously how did this go in?) the loss seemed inevitable, but the Stars did pull out a point in tonight's contest. There's still work to be done here for sure. But it was a highly entertaining game, a very nice change from what we usually see on the second half in these situations.
The Stars have a lot of confidence in their game, and an overtime loss against the Chicago Blackhawks isn't anything that should shake that confidence. They were the better team for stretches on a night where most people would have penciled in a regulation (and probably quite brutal) loss. They deserved the full two, but some nights this is just how hockey go.
[Editor's note: in case you were unable to listen to the NBCSN broadcast, the Dallas Stars had several players' names completely changed by the broadcasters and that is reflected here with the " " around a name, so that we may all take part in the humor that was tonight's broadcast. They have a difficult job learning all there is to know about two different teams in the Western Conference, but it seemed they only had trouble with the Dallas roster tonight.]