Jamie Benn scored twice and Kari Lehtonen turned away 41 saves as the Dallas Stars skated out of Boston with a well-deserved 5-3 triumph over the Bruins.
It was one of the stranger Stars games of the season, with both teams combining for three shorthanded goals but none on the powerplay, Erik Cole scoring one of the weirdest empty net goals that you'll ever see, and Tyler Seguin returning to Boston but playing a fairly quiet, uneventful game.
It wasn't exactly textbook, but the Stars will take it, and now have a nice bit of momentum on their side after beating two strong Eastern Conference teams on the road in the Bruins and the New York Rangers.
Things didn't begin well for the Stars, with Antoine Roussel taking an ill-advised retaliatory cross-checking penalty against Bruins defender Adam McQuaid. McQuaid went down in a heap, and Roussel was subsequently given a five-minute major and a game misconduct.
It would be Dallas that surprisingly benefited from the major penalty, however, when Vern Fiddler cut off a D-to-D pass at the blueline and raced in alone on a shorthanded breakaway, beating Bruins backup netminder Niklas Svedberg high stick side.
The Bruins would answer a few minutes later. The Stars became discombobulated in the midst of a change and lost their defensive assignments, leading to a tic-tac-toe play that was deposited home by David Krejci.
Then "Jamie Benn Beastmode" activated. The Stars captain would score twice, the first on a strong rush down the left wing with a wrist shot over Svedberg's shoulder and the second on a juicy rebound after the puck hit Patrick Eaves in front of the net, giving the team a nice 3-1 lead after one.
Any good feelings after the first were quickly evaporated. Fiddler's shorthanded goal wouldn't be the only one on the night, as Patrice Bergeron netted one of his own only 26 seconds in the second period off a Stars turnover. The Bruins would keep coming, once again with their ferocious forecheck, forcing a defensive zone breakdown and a backdoor goal by sneaking defenseman Dougie Hamilton.
The Stars would regain their lead on, you guessed it, another shorthanded goal, this one more beautiful than the first. Trevor Daley picked up the puck behind his own net and embarked upon a great solo journey up the ice, cutting through most of the Bruins' powerplay unit, firing a shot through traffic and jamming home his own rebound for one of the best Stars goals of the entire year.
The Bruins, not surprisingly, came out aggressively in the third period to try and tie the game, but Dallas stood their ground. The team didn't allow much in the way of quality chances, and Lehtonen was sharp and attentive whenever he needed to be. The Stars would put the game to rest in the final minutes when Cole's clearing shot off the boards rolled into Bruins territory and took a strange roll that wound up in the Boston net. It wasn't pretty, but it was nice to finally see a lucky bounce go the Stars' way for a change.
Thoughts And Observations:
- Despite allowing three goals, Lehtonen played one of his best games of the season tonight. He was seeing pucks through traffic and fighting hard against the Bruins forwards that routinely made their way into his crease. It was exactly the type of fire that Lehtonen will need to keep lit as the playoff race looms ever closer.
- Boy, does Vern Fiddler love playing the Boston Bruins or what?
- The pairing of Trevor Daley and Jyrki Jokipakka had a very good night. Daley continues to be an offensive force for Dallas, and Jokipakka played a safe, clean, reliable game to support him. Daley's skillset would be best suited if he had a big, mean, stay-at-home type to play with, but it's nice to see the rookie Jokipakka stepping up.
- Alex Goligoski led the Stars in ice time with 28:24. It's game like tonight where you really see his true value: he would have never been able to push around the big Bruins forwards, but he instead consistently helped his team defensively by skating the puck out of trouble and keeping the play moving up ice. His assists on Benn's first goal was a nice heads up play as well
- Brett Ritchie and Patrick Eaves swapped places on the top and fourth lines, and it seemed to be the right call. Eaves was back to flying with Benn and Seguin and Ritchie was able to play at more of a comfortable speed working the cycle alongside Fiddler and Shawn Horcoff. The trio generated an impressive number of chances for a 4th line, including a spinning backhand by Ritchie that narrowly missed an open cage.
- Jason Demers missed some time after taking a stick in the face but put in some yeoman's work in the third period defending the lead, and was rewarded by grabbing an assist on the Cole empty net goal.
- The Stars walked intohostile Boston and beat the Bruins...and didn't need the much-maligned former Bruins Seguin, who was sick, in the spotlight to do so. Nice to see the team rally together and take the pressure off of their young superstar.