Sunday afternoon games are a struggle for me, as they often occur during prime napping hours. And having that time taken away by a three hour hockey game can really hamper the quality naps for one of the two days a week I get to take them. It's a good thing this Stars team is entertaining to watch. And wins don't hurt either.
The Dallas Stars pretty much dominated the first 19 minutes of the first period. Outshooting the Detroit Red Wings 15-8, the Stars potted two goals and owned the possession game. Patrick Sharp scored the first goal on the power play off of a slick John Klingberg pass. The second goal saw Valeri Nichushkin finally get his first goal of the season, after being so close in the preceding games recently.
The last minute of the period was pretty helter-skelter, though. Detroit cut the lead in half on a power play goal that was a deft deflection in front. They followed that shift up with a flurry of activity directly in front of Kari Lehtonen. Lehtonen locked it down, and enabled the Stars to maintain their lead heading into the second period.
The middle frame was characterized adeptly by Daryl "Razor" Reaugh when he called it "hot potato hockey". Neither team seemed to have the puck long enough for any semblance of sustained attack time. Both teams traded turnovers and pick pockets. The score remained the same as both the Stars and Red Wings put up a measly three shots apiece.
When Lehtonen was tested he made strong plays, particularly on a breakaway where he came out of the crease and challenged the shooter with a well-timed poke check of the puck. One of the changes I've noticed in Lehtonen's recent stretch of starts has been his better poise when things get scrambly in front of the net. While last year Lehtonen would tend to move his body more when the puck was rattling around in his wheel house, this season the netminder has kept his body low, sealing the bottom of the net and tracking it more with his head and eyes rather than his body. We'll need more games to see if this is a trend or just something Lehtonen was feeling today, but that kind of play helped him make the stops the team needed to keep the Wings off of the board.
Much of the same kind of play started the third period before it went completely sideways.
The weirdness began when Jason Spezza was driving the net and made incidental contact with Wings goaltender Jimmy Howard with his shin guard. Howard was in the prone position while play continued, with the refs apparently not thinking much of a guy on the ground enough to blow the play dead (which it absolutely should have been). Howard left the game and did not return, presumably to undergo concussion protocols as he did not look with it after taking the glancing contact.
Ales Hemsky continued the crazy portion of the game when he came in on Jonathan Ericsson. hitting him on what appeared to be an easy boarding call with possible head contact (though it appeared to be a shoulder clip in real time to me). Ericsson picked himself up off of the ice and, while Riley Sheahan had hold of Hemsky, sucker punched him, paused, then sucker punched him again.
Ericsson got the only penalty on the play, as seen here pic.twitter.com/rm9zwfvbTr— Stephanie (@myregularface) November 8, 2015
While the hit was definitely something I can see being reviewed by the league, the sucker punches of a player that didn't even have the ability to protect himself seemed just as egregious. Somehow the Stars came out of that with a power play when only a roughing penalty was assessed to the Wings.
A fair bit of chippiness ensued out of that, with Jamie Benn appearing to take a borderline knee-on-knee hit:
Patrick Sharp and Jason Spezza collided with one another in neutral ice at full speed that left Sharp looking rattled.
another angle of the Sharp/Spezza collision pic.twitter.com/7XaA0BNsof— Stephanie (@myregularface) November 8, 2015
Physical play ramped up on both sides, as the Stars and Red Wings players were both incensed from missed calls and non-calls alike. The Stars hung on and Tyler Seguin put the game away with an empty net goal with a little more than a minute left in the period. Vernon Fiddler committed a delay of the game penalty with 50 seconds left, and the Wings pulled their goaltender to give them a two-man advantage. Cody Eakin capped off the crazy train with a short handed empty net goal for a 4-1 win.