Glimpses of the Dallas Stars' past came back to haunt them on Friday night.
Former backup goalie Richard Bachman made 29 saves for the shutout, while one-time forward Derek Roy scored a goal as the Oilers defeated the Stars 4-0.
From start to finish tonight, the Stars seemed off their game. Like far too many other times this season, the Stars were the better team on the ice, but were unable to convert their opportunities at key junctures. Shots went everywhere - wide, high, into the blocks of defenders or into Bachman himself - except where they needed to go the most: inside the net.
Despite the numbers saying that he allowed four goals on 28 shots, Kari Lehtonen was by far and away the best Stars player tonight, turning aside numerous quality scoring chances caused by defensive breakdown after defensive breakdown in front of him.
It didn't take long at all to tell that the Stars were flat. A mere 33 seconds into the game Oilers center Ryan Nugent-Hopkins fired a hopeful pass from behind the Stars net to Jordan Eberle, who buried a quick shot home before Lehtonen could set himself. Both Patrick Eaves and Patrik Nemeth were in prime position to neutralize the pass to Eberle but failed to do so.
Dallas should, by all means, have tied the game not long afterwards, but the ref blew the whistle seconds too early while Shawn Horcoff dug a loose puck out of a scramble in the crease and lifted it home.
Throughout the first two periods both teams turned the puck over with sloppy, reckless abandon, leading to a myriad of chances at both ends. Unfortunately for the Stars, their finishing ability was missing in action tonight. Tyler Seguin had a breakaway backhander that missed the net in tight. Brett Ritchie jammed a 2-on-1 chance just off the outside of the Oilers' post. Curtis McKenzie flubbed a breakaway by mishandling the puck.
There were nearly some fireworks in the second period when Edmonton forward Taylor Hall hit Jamie Benn at a borderline low height. Benn, incensed, grabbed Hall by the scruff of his jersey for a good 15 second and hurled some icy glares and verbal jabs at the Oilers superstar, but no actual physical jabs were thrown as Hall wanted nothing to do with the Stars captain.
The effort was certainly there early in the third period, as Dallas kept pressing, but their fortunes would not reverse. Ales Hemsky had a glorious breakaway get turned aside by Bachman. A beautiful cross-ice feed from John Klingberg to a wide-open Seguin on the left side went off his skate. Seguin skated hard down the right wing with plenty of time to shoot but fired the puck high.
It would all be for naught, however, as the Oilers would extend their lead all the way up to 4-0 before the game was through.
After the Stars got hemmed in their own zone with some sloppy passing another feed from below the Stars' goal line went to the slot, bounced off Alex Goligoski's skate and went straight to Roy, who hammered home the loose puck in the blink of an eye. Benoit Pouliot would make it 3-0 three minutes later on a one-timer at the right side of the Stars' net. And, finally, rookie Andrew Miller scored his first career NHL goal in just his fifth game on a beauty of a penalty shot.
With the loss, Dallas' faint playoff hopes are now even fainter. They'll need to recover immediately if they want to keep their slim hopes alive when they head to Vancouver to play the Canucks tomorrow night.