The Dallas Stars capped this most disastrous month with just their third win in their last eleven games after holding on to defeat the Calgary Flames by a score of 2-1 Monday night at American Airlines Center.
The win raises their record to 3-6-1 in their last ten and sees them embark on a week-long break surrounding the All-Star game in Nashville.
They've seen the Chicago Blackhawks race past them in the standings. They've seen their once dominant offense diminished for an extended period of time. They appeared to be headed for a microcosm of the same in this contest tonight when a once dominating 19-4 shot advantage dried up thanks to a conga-line to the box-
But they hung on, and only just, pushing their total to 67 points and opening the way for what everyone hopes is a new beginning in February.
In the first period the Stars repeated their performance of 48 hours ago- They dominated a team far beneath them in the standings that was playing on the second night of a back to back with a penchant for blocking shots.
Calgary Flames. Colorado Avalanche- Same, same. Still no lead for the Stars despite a 29-7 advantage in shots attempted. They had pace again. They showed their skill again. They just couldn't cash in.
With frustration mounting and a growing sense of needing to get something out the territorial advantage, as Razor said, before it evaporated, it was the captain himself who would finally put the Stars in front. A solo rush by Val Nichushkin fed Jamie Benn cruising through the slot with. With his usual wicked wrister set aside, it was a soft set of hands that made one move and then two to slide one past a sprawled Karri Ramo and a 1-0 lead.
Less than two minutes later it was John Klingberg with what looked to most to be a shot that instead found its mark in Jason Spezza to Ramo's right and a slam dunk for a 2-0 lead.
The Stars had a dominating 2-0 lead and an even more dominating 19-4 shot advantage at that point.
And then Val Nichushkin's stick would hit Markus Grandlund's shoulder pad. And he would grab his mouth. And the Flames would enjoy three consecutive power plays that finally gave them their first offensive pressure of the game halfway into it- Not through virtue of their skill or forecheck, but rather the officiating.
The dive from Granlund would be followed by an equally as inexplicable call on Jokipakka, and then a pretty touchy call on Jason Spezza as the trio of chin-scratchers saw a wildly lopsided possession game equalize a bit- But the Stars' penalty kill held firm.
Fueled by the momentum handed to them in the second, the Flames would score early in the third as Hudler fed Colborne after a Star fell and they converted in tight to pull within one.
The Stars would get whistled for something that was a penalty late in the third when John Klingberg had to jump in front of a Flame in transition after a Goligoski point shot was blocked at the blue line on a power play, and Tyler Seguin would get high-sticked during the ensuing four-on-four without notice.
In the meantime the Flames continued to pull closer and closer in the shot total and energy department despite having played the night before, and Dallas was in full "hang on" mode against another competitor of quality far lesser than the murderous gauntlet that awaits them post All-Star break.
In the end they got it done, however, and it's substance over style as they did not look nearly as pretty as they did for 60 minutes against the hapless Avalanche, yet this time get the two points as Niemi was good when he needed to be.
That's hockey for you.
Give the penalty kill a nod, tell their shooting percentage to take some ibuprofen, elevate and ice often over the All-Star break, take the win that puts them at 67 points and head for the beach (or Nashville) for a week.