What looked like it was going to be a listless lost was turned into a respectable point in the standings as the Dallas Stars used the last 10 minutes of the third period to get the mercy point before falling 3-2 in overtime to the New Jersey Devils in Newark.
The first period started off with the Stars almost immediately on the penalty kill, as Antoine Roussel was sent off for interference in the offensive zone. And while the Stars killed that and seemed to get off to their usual up-tempo start, they got bogged down rather quickly in the Devils clogging up the neutral zone, dumping in a fair number of pucks they often try to skate in.
Because of that, it was the Devils who seemed to gain momentum as the period rolled on, though a late power play gave the Stars a little life to take into the locker room.
But the Devils grabbed the momentum back to start the second after the Stars couldn't get a puck out along the boards and Kyle Palmieri got free of Jason Demers to wrap a puck around and into the net behind Antti Niemi.
The Stars seemed to respond well to the goal, helped by the ensuing power play, but again it was the Devils who took advantage, this time after Bobby Farnham got loose in the low circle. Radek Faksa was the closest defender and, after John Klingberg and Alex Goligoski got a little tangled in coverage, ending up on the same guy, should have stepped up for the coverage but didn't.
Dallas started the third period with some lineup changes, as Cody Eakin rotated onto the top line in place of Patrick Sharp. The move made sense given the context of the game - up until that point, the Stars third line was the only one with energy, so trying to boost production by moving those players around made sense.
The energy didn't pay off until about nine minutes left in the third, when Klingberg made an all-star worthy spin pass off the boards and found a wide-open Patrick Sharp at the fair post for the dunk.
That really seemed to spark the Stars, and while the Devils had a handful of quality chances, Dallas tied the game with just over five minutes remaining as a Colton Sceviour point shot worked its way through traffic and into the top corner.
The Stars would have to be content with one point, though, as Jamie Benn was called for hooking on an off-the-puck play in neutral, and the Devils scored when John Moore sent a point shot in that may have been tipped in front. If it wasn't, you'd sure like Niemi to make that stop.
- The Devils didn't allow the Stars much in transition, forcing them to take the long way into the zone and create once they were set up. And they were the team that created more in that scenario, taking advantage of some miscommunication in the Stars end.
- The pairing of Johnny Oduya and Jason Demers had a rough night by the eye test (and so did John Klingberg, particularly in his own end). Their transition passes especially were just a hair off.
- And to be fair, the same could be said for most of the Stars attempts at passing plays. The reads weren't bad, but the execution wasn't quite there. A lot of credit has to go to the Devils for that - they were more than happy to just blow up what the Stars wanted to create and react off of that. Was it overtrying, fatigue or ice that looked like someone might have taken a set of tire chains to it? It's hard to say, but they certainly weren't on their game.
- Patrick Eaves blocks more shots with unpadded parts of his body than any player in the NHL. Tonight's offering was a friendly-fire shot to the back of the calf after he was spun around during a screening attempt. He was fine after hobbling off, but the man should invest in some bubble-wrap padding.
- With his goal, the other Patrick extended his point-steak to eight games while Klingberg had his third consecutive game with an assist.
- It took the team 50 freaking minutes, but they were finally able to adjust to the Devils disruptive defense and start getting chances in the offensive zone. You'd like to see it happen a little faster if you're greedy like me, but to see it happen at all (and happen repeatedly this season) is a wonderful sign.
- That penalty in overtime was pretty bad after some of the mugging that the refs let happen in front of the net tonight. The contact was initiated by Travis Zajac, who stepped in front of Benn and threw a stiff arm out to slow his progress. Benn retaliated after being slowed up with a hook to the hip. Benn fell, Zajac kept going, and Benn was called for the penalty. I get the optics of only calling the retaliation (my dad, a soccer ref, used to say the first infraction just brings the refs eyes over to catch the second one), but with the physical nature of this game and Zajac not impeded, it's a really irresponsible call to make in overtime against the flow of your other non calls.
- And what really gets me is that Benn continues to get zero respect from the officials overall (and if you know me, I will defend officials to the bitter end - I don't think this is conscious at all but more a product of who and how the league promotes its best players), but you think Sidney Crosby, Evgeni Malkin, Alex Ovechkin, Patrick Kane or even Ryan Getzlaf would have received that penalty while not drawing any despite being spun about the waist every time he touched the puck tonight, I'm not sure what to tell you.
- 60 points on January 2nd. I'll take it. Time to re-rack for the Devils better brothers tomorrow.