Are the Dallas Stars for real yet? People keep asking. The Stars – still the best team in the league as far as the standings go – took on the worst one last night, and the 5-1 final score conceals a start-and-stop affair that left coach Lindy Ruff a little exasperated.
"I'm pretty frustrated with the way we played," Ruff said. "We had a total lack of mental focus. I know we won 5-1, but we'll lose games if we play like that."
The Stars allowed 17 shots on goal in the first period of a 3-0 loss to St. Louis Saturday, and vowed to have a better start. Instead, they were scrambling all over the ice and were credited with 10 first-period giveaways by NHL stat keepers.
The best news of the night: a splendid return to form by Kari Lehtonen, who kept the Stars in the game with 16 saves in the first period alone:
Lehtonen was the hero. Part of the two-goalie tandem, Lehtonen was allowed to sit and watch Antti Niemi play back-to-back games Friday and Saturday, so he was fired up to get back in net. After getting several days to wipe away the memories of a four-goal meltdown against Carolina last Tuesday, Lehtonen was on his game, stopping key scoring chances from Nick Foligno, Scott Hartnell and Cam Atkinson.
"He was fabulous," Ruff said. "It was a great bounce-back game for him. He looked so comfortable. He made the saves, he handled the puck very well. He was dominant tonight for us."
But for the record, Ruff has the same questions as you about why the team makes a minder stand on his head against struggling squads:
"I thought we looked pretty sharp in the morning. We did not look sharp (in the game)," he said. "We had guys overstay shifts, little things that are on my shoulders. I'm frustrated, because for me we had a total lack of mental focus."
Read the whole thing at Heika's place. [SportsDayDFW]
Meanwhile, what's a sloppy win worth? Two points, which coincidentally matches the number of goals Tyler Seguin netted. Watch him score his second before Jeff K has finished announcing the first.
Later, Razor would use actual kitchen appliances to explain the Line Blender (MUST WATCH).
Last night on the chain gang:
- The Nashville Predators lost to the Calgary Flames 2-1 in overtime. [NHL]
- The Minnesota Wild roughed up the Vancouver Canucks 6-2. [Vancouver Sun]
- The St. Louis Blues rallied past the Winnipeg Jets 4-3, and the #RoarBacon meme lives to fight another day. [St. Louis Game Time]
- And Patrick Kane's scoring streak ended at 26 games as the Colorado Avalanche blanked the Chicago Blackhawks 3-0. [FOX Sports]
There's no Big D NYE this year, but the Texas Stars will have Austin covered. The Cedar Park squad takes on the San Diego Gulls in their first-ever New Year's Eve game Dec. 31 – complete with champagne toast at midnight.
Speaking of the T-Stars, they've recalled Cole Ully and Gemel Smith from Idaho. [Texas Stars]
And Stars management got to check in on their other feeder team when the Steelheads visited Texas and defeated the Allen Americans 3-2 in OT. Director of Hockey Operations Scott White gives some updates. [Idaho Steelheads]
Finally: When you're hot, you're hot. Watch defender Juha Leimu of SM-Liiga's Lahti Penguins score three goals in less than 45 seconds (and enjoy the play-by-play of the very excited announcer). [The Hockey News]