Admit it. The Dallas Stars really had you going there for a second.
An ugly, scramble-filled 6-3 loss in Columbus to the worst team in the National Hockey League Tuesday night followed with a measured start against the Nashville Predators on New Years Eve that included no offense for the nearly the game's first 30+ minutes had the Stars looking like their first slump was arriving with the dead of winter.
Then they won the game in convincing fashion 5-1 and sent the Predators away with a re-gifted lump of coal. Because it was the capper on 2015, and 2015 belonged to these resilient Dallas Stars.
Two goals from Tyler Seguin and another sparkling performance by Antti Niemi gives the Stars points number 58 and 59 to nestle their 39-game total just under 60 as the calendar turns anew and the halfway point approaches Sunday in Brooklyn.
Not bad. Not too bad at all.
The game's early periods may have been scoreless but they were not without encouragement. The Stars held an early territorial advantage but exchanged equal blows with the Predators, who favored a more measured approach this evening than the home team sometimes prefers.
After the frenetic debacle in Columbus Tuesday, staying calm and collected was just what the Stars needed- And when Mike Ribeiro finally hooked up with Smith for the first Nashville goal, Dallas did not panic. Dallas did what they've done this year- Turn to the best player in hockey.
Minutes later Jamie Benn would descend upon the Predator blue-line after a turnover, shove his would-be pursuer aside, freak Pekka Rinne out as his open teammates flocked to his aid, and then flick a sinister wrister short side to tie the game.
Jamie Benn to the rescue.
Jason Spezza would then lend a hand on the next two, streaking in to the zone and finding Mattias Janmark for the eventual game winner, and then receiving a gift of a turnover down low and finding Patrick Eaves out front early in the third period for a 3-1 lead.
And as well as they played a measured game against the Preds in the first, they were also happy to oblige a more wide-open style as the Predators defense started to pinch in desperation, resulting in two Tyler Seguin tallies in transition to delight the AAC with a big 5-1 lead and some certainty.
The first Seguin goal (or what was the call on the ice originally?) had to go to video review that seemed destined for an inconclusive disposition, but an angle from the corner showed the puck, in Rinne's glove, clearly in the net and over the line. The officials got it right- First in reviewing it at all, and second in calling it a good goal. As much as we as a group bash them, let us acknowledge a job well done.
So they survive five divisional opponents in six games with flying colors to end a trying month of schedule, though it's clear that they're in for a battle with those Predators, and home ice could swing the competition as dramatically as it does with St. Louis.
St. Louis lost tonight, btw.
Val Nichushkin did not play in the third period and was not seen on the bench, so do keep an eye out here for updates on that situation. With Ales Hemsky already on IR the Stars could be in for some adversity after all- It may just be in the form of injury.
2015 is done. We'll see if they can carry it over and continue to march toward a hopeful post-season with the same incredible pace.
Be safe tonight. Be smart. Happy New Year.