The Dallas Stars played hockey tonight, but they also declared that no fan is safe.
Do you want to watch a game with your favorite players playing hockey? Okay, great, but just a heads up: you might end up wildly celebrating a victory around a television that you can't turn off because you buried the remote in the crown moulding after Carl Hagelin scored his first goal of the season to put Anaheim up 3-0. The Stars may still be running that marketing campaign with that same remote control refurbishing company from last year. Maybe get one of those Nintendo Wii wrist straps just to be safe.
You were furious after that first period. Over the weekend the Florida game happened, ruining everything as much as a game that takes your record to 6-2 is capable of ruining anything. Sure, you knew that hockey games played against teams from Florida are no more admissible in a court of law than a marked up dollar bill handed to a judge on the final day of a protracted trial. They are silly and ludicrous, and that was your consolation in the hours leading up to the Anaheim game today. Bad things had happened, but there was reason to believe that they were isolated bad things. Let's play ourselves a new hockey game, you said. Why did you have to say that?
The Stars got an early power play, but they couldn't score. (That's going to happen at least two-thirds of the time this year, so you'd better get used to it.) The Ducks got a later power play, and they did score. The Stars have had one of the best power plays in the league so far this year, while the Ducks' power play has been more of a protracted zone entry drill for Anaheim thus far.
But good for Anaheim, they read the scouting reports in the Stars' YouTube comments and discovered the surest way to score a gut punch goal on Dallas: shoot it at Jordie Benn. So it was that a puck was shot at the Elder Brother, and so it was that the puck careened into the net. It wasn't even funny this time. I bet that moment was when you also knew that Jordie Benn would end up with the best shot differential stats of his team tonight, right? The YouTube comments must be fed.
Shortly thereafter, Shawn Horcoff scored a goal. Shawn Horcoff scoring a goal against your team is a sign that you have done something wrong. Any player scoring against your team is such a sign, but Horcoff goals of the last few years are an especially apparent failure by your team to do things correctly. Shawn Horcoff usually does not beat goalies from very far away these days, is what I am saying. Here is what I mean:
One time, Horcoff's goal beat Chicago in Chicago. It signaled the end of the game. There was no goalie in net.
Another time, Shawn Horcoff scored a goal that tied a game. There was also no goalie in the net this time, mostly.
And here was goal #2 tonight. You can't help but notice the lack of a goalie in the ideal location, which is the net:
Shawn Horcoff was a nice guy who played for the Stars. That is great. He ought not to be allowed to score on the Stars ever again. Nice guys finish last, Shawn! Also, your team really is in last place now. In the conference, I mean.
That second goal also carries with it a special sort of poetic economy of movement. The gravy-like retraction of the puck towards the Dallas net after Johnny Oduya has it taken away; the inevitability of Jamie Oleksiak's Using His Size With Snarl on Jakob Silfverberg; the sliding form of Oduya, who can only remove one option from Andrew Cogliano; and the despondent Sharp, also sliding, helplessly, past a wide-eyed Shawn Horcoff who knows Just What To Do With This. It's a neat little sequence, really. I will never watch it again.
The Ducks' final goal was another little treat for the YouTube faithful as Alex Goligoski fans on a reversal after Antti Niemi plays the puck behind the net. You wonder in dark times like that whether the universe is offering some sort of fable-like commentary about a player named Goose trying his best against a team of Ducks. Goligoski did not have his best game tonight, but maybe that's just a coincidence.
Lindy Ruff may have said some things after the first period ended 3-0 to Anaheim. He probably also said a couple things after the second period ended 3-3. He surely said some things on the bench after the horn sounded to end the game 4-3 to Dallas. Regardless of what was said in any of those intermissions, here is what we do know: the Stars went into the locker room after dropping a pretty big stinker in front of fans who paid money to watch it. The Stars dug into their locker room, pulled out a giant boombox, and did their best Lloyd Dobler impression for the fans sitting above them for the rest of the night.
John Cusack wasn't perfect or anything (unless you mean his whole body of work, of course) as Jason Spezza reminded us at the 10:00 mark of the 2nd. But the great thing about making up with someone you have had a falling out with is that your friends can help you. In this case, Antti Niemi helped out a lot. He has done a good job of that this year.
Patrick Sharp's power play goal was a bit like Janmark's first goal way back in game one. It was shot along the ice, but the great pass preceding it meant the goalie was moving, and that means openings. Sharp got the goal he so deserved before the second period got tense again, but if the Ducks' first tally seemed to loosen the proverbial ketchup bottle for Anaheim, the shorthanded goal for Eakin seemed to do the same for Dallas.
You had been thinking "maybe a shorty?" ever since Benn had tried to poke the puck past Fowler way back in the first period, but you then cursed yourself for daring to hope after the Ducks scored as a result of the failed clear. This time, the shorthanded goal actually happened, and you could taste the comeback now. It tasted a bit like barbecue sauce on account of the sweet saucy backhand pass Benn whipped to Eakin before that goal. Please go watch that pass and realize that Jamie Benn is better at hockey than most humans.
Last year was similarly volatile when it came to watching the Stars. They never did things the easy way, and ultimately they did not do enough things the hard way either. So far, they have done many things better. Goaltending is still the biggest difference, but special teams are really keeping them in games right now.
That first period was wrong. Dallas couldn't figure themselves out, and even when passes were connecting, nothing was automatic after that. Ryan Kesler appeared to adopt that same hesitance right before Eakin's eventual shorthanded goal. You should have shot the puck, Ryan.
John Klingberg waved his stick adamantly at Tyler Seguin, one time. The Ducks' color commentator (I forget his name) called it "brutal." It was that, wasn't it? Andrew Cogliano had no clue where Klingberg had gotten to, and Kevin Bieksa did his best Bieksa Face at Cogliano after that goal. It wasn't vindication--the Stars were far from innocent in the shortcomings that had given them a deficit to eliminate--but it was a sort of clarification. Yes, we are the Stars, and we shall score goals. You should have scored more goals, Anaheim.
Vernon Fiddler did his thing late, and Antoine Roussel's rebound marker being the game winner must have made four unanswered goals feel even worse for Anaheim than they could have thought possible. It's tough to watch your team more or less get someone fired, but that may have been what happened tonight. This Anaheim team is in dire straits these days, as evidenced by their inability to hold a three-goal lead for a single period.
If you would like to feel okay about being gleeful about this sad team's situation, then just think back to 2013-14. I was in a Red Robin watching Trevor Daley's amazing goal in game six, and then I had to leave before the game ended. I turned on my phone when I got home, and I just remember staring at the box score for a good ten seconds, blankly. That stare was probably a lot like Bruce Boudreau's thousand-yard look tonight. He's not the worst thing about this Ducks team, not at all. In fact, he seems to be a really good coach. Perhaps that's the truest benefit Dallas can enjoy if Gabby gets the axe and Randy Carlyle takes over: the Ducks will, impossibly, have gotten even worse. That is a sound investment.
We have 73 more games of this nonsense.