The Stars painted a carbon copy of far too many other games in which they tallied 40+ shots, falling to Columbus 6-3 Tuesday night. Curtis McElhinney shut down some grade-A chances for Dallas, and the Stars' power play couldn't take advantage of their opportunities.
Jason Spezza and Patrick Sharp in particular could have had a pair of goals apiece, but alas, the Stars' record against the dregs of the NHL remains unblemished in its paltry ineptitude.
Hey, if you were gonna lose a game this week, this is probably the one you'd choose, right?
You'd think the team who had just shut out Chicago and St. Louis would have a game plan for stifling the Blue Jackets, but Columbus came out like a team whose coach , and the Stars were overloaded for an early goal against. Boone Jenner, who overcame two spectacular saves by Kari, would eventually pot a third chance relatively unmolested on the doorstep. Kari was a bit shaken up after the goal, and who wouldn't be after Columbus blitzed you thirty seconds into a game?
The Stars answered with eight straight shots and could have grabbed the game right back, but Curtis McElhinney foiled a few glorious chances, including two from the stick of Jason Spezza. It looked like the Stars might be in for another night of "that goalie beat us?!" until the scalding-hot-now-I-guess? Colton Sceviour tallied a backhand rebound after leading Roussel and Eakin in on an odd-man rush.
Kevin Connauton would not put up with going down against his former club, however, as the Jackets continued overloading the Stars in the Dallas zone. K-Naut's one-timer from the low point beat Kari, and it was 2-1 before the game was eight minutes old. It was Connauton's second career goal against Dallas since he was claimed off waivers.
It was a fast pace for most of the period. Both teams were trading chances--Sharp hit a post shortly after the second CBJ goal--and while you'd think that would benefit the league's best offense, you clearly weren't around here for the Toronto games, were you?
Dallas got the first power play after Fedor Tyutin was sent off for holding, but an inability to win a faceoff combined with good lane-clogging by Columbus kept them off the board. Jordie Benn would then hand the Jackets an opportunity after backhanding a puck over the glass, but his brother would get the best opportunity of the next two minutes. Unfortunately, the Jackets' goalie held his pad out enough to top the captain on his shorthanded bid. The Stars would kill off the penalty, but before long, they got a bit sloppy in their own zone again, and Matt Calvert got away from Klingberg and Spezza's coverage for a pretty one-timer down low that Kari never had a chance on.
The period would end with Dallas holding a 17-14 edge in SOG, but the tone was pretty morose after surrendering three goals in 20 minutes to effectively the worst team in the league.
Whether Ruff wanted to send a message to Kari or the rest of the team, Antti Niemi was put in to start the second period. Of course that meant that the Jackets would get far fewer quality chances, and the first half of the period in general was much cagier than the game had been so far. Tortorella surely threatened to maroon on a desert island the next player to give the puck away, and the Stars were similarly ponderous in the early portion of the frame.
Not for nothing do the Stars have the best forward duo in the league, though. Jamie Benn fed Tyler Seguin on a 3v2, and Jack Johnson kindly allowed Seguin to rip a shot from the slot without immediate pressure. Curtis McElhinney did not stop the shot, which is how that sequence ought to go about 99 times out of 100.
A 3-2 score before the halfway mark lent the game a whole new feel, and Niemi kept it that way with a save on Saad (not the first good chance for the new Columbusite) at the 10-minute mark.
Klingberg and the Spezza line nearly tied things up with eight minutes to play, but Klingberg got stoned by McElhinney on a beautiful chance from the slot, and Hemsky's feed from Klingberg right after that was similarly stuffed.
After Hemsky was hobbled for the game (and possibly longer) blocking a slapshot from the point, Scott Hartnell decided to see if Tortorella was really serious about not liking it when his veterans took bad penalties. Thankfully for Hartnell, the Stars' power play decided to stay in stealth mode, and the man-advantage's woes culminated in trapping Goligoski and Klingberg on the ice for roughly half an hour after its expiration, allowing Brandon Saad to eventually stuff a puck past a sprawled Niemi during a scramble at the net. It was a tough way to end the period after Dallas had largely outplayed the Jackets, but you know what they say about almost outplaying a team named after outerwear. At least, I hope you do, because I sure don't.
Patrick Sharp did what he's done this season off the hop, taking a beautiful backhand saucer pass from Spezza and going off the post and in. Sharp's presence beside Spezza was the result of line Ruffling necessitated by Hemsky's injury, and when has Ruffling ever been a bad thing? Never, of course, just like we've all always said.
Tyler Seguin was uncharacteristically locked up in hockey jail for the second game in a row right after that, but clearly it was a ploy to get Jamie Benn another chance shorthanded. Cody Eakin created said chance by forcing a turnover from Jack Johnson, but Benn again was unable to seal the deal.
Antoine Roussel would draw a penalty to negate the remainder of the kill, and Lindy Ruff would call a timeout halfway through the fruitless advantage. Good puck movement on the ensuing portion would not equate to any shots on goal, however, as the Stars continued trying to come back the hard way.
Speaking of doing things the hard way, Antti Niemi came out to play a too-far stretch pass and more or less hit the tape on Scott Hartnell's stick blade. Why Niemi chose to play the puck by the only Jacket in his field of vision is anyone's guess, but Hartnell did not miss the wide open net, making it 5-3 Columbus with what felt like a dagger of a goal.
McElhinney then countered with what felt like a dagger of a glove save (he had a few of those) on Patrick Sharp, who got a breakaway from the blue line in. I don't ever count out this year's Stars team, but if you were looking to bail on the game, that was certainly the point you would choose.
That was also the point at which Dallas officially abandoned all pretense of defense, though you couldn't really blame them, given the inhuman effort it had taken to convert their chances up to that point. When Curtis McElhinney is stopping Jason Spezza and Patrick Sharp on breakaways, things are bleak indeed.
Lindy Ruff felt similarly, as he chose to pull Niemi with 5:20 remaining and manpower at 4v4. That, of course, resulted in McElhinney making two ridiculous saves (one a glove grab from his belly) before Jason Spezza and Jamie Benn equaled his efforts in front of their empty net on the other end. It was nice to see those two succeed at keeping pucks out of the net on a night when they couldn't put anything in it.
The Stars threw everything they could at McElhinney, but the Jackets kept the lanes clogged, and an eventual empty-netter made this game's score about equally as ugly as the watching experience.