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Penalty Kill Leads Way in Dallas Stars’ 4-2 Win Over Anaheim Ducks

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The Stars got flattened early, but the PK kept them in it until some new faces rode to Antti Niemi’s rescue.

NHL: Anaheim Ducks at Dallas Stars Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Lauri Korpikoski, Adam Cracknell, and Stephen Johns. Just what the fans turned out for, right?

Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn may be back from injury and headlining the Dallas Stars as they embark upon the 2016-2017 campaign, but it was the team’s new faces that took center-stage Thursday night at the American Airlines Center.

The trio notched their firsts of the season along with an Antoine Roussel tally to give the Stars a 4-2 win over the hated Corey Perry and the Anaheim Ducks- With the Stars’ penalty kill doing the heavy lifting to preserve the two points.

The Stars went up 1-0 in the first period on a Stephen Johns goal generated from a sensational stretch pass through the neutral zone by the rookie d-man himself to Jamie Benn. The captain found Eaves and the bearded guy found Johns sneaking in from the point.

Sounds like a great start- but it was sandwiched between a penalty 32 seconds in to the game and an abysmal stretch of possession that saw the Stars get out-shot 17-1 in the first period. One of said shots came in the form of an Andrew Cogliano breakaway goal (two shots, actually), and a double-minor to Jordie Benn for high-sticking completed the solid 20 minute comedy-of-errors.

The second period arrived with a seemingly different group of humans wrapped in the same swaddling sweaters the first group were wearing. The 34-9 shot attempt gap of the first period started narrowing quickly as Dallas found their legs and their ability to move the puck in transition with facility.

Patrik Nemeth switched with Jordie Benn to join John Klingberg on the top pairing, and Brett Ritchie was swapped out on the third line for Adam Cracknell- These moves would pay dividends as the Stars began pushing the play in the right direction. The parade to the penalty box ceasing made a difference as well. Dallas out-attempted the Ducks 26-11 in the frame, limiting Carlyle's bunch to just four shots on goal.

Lauri Korpokoski took a nice feed from Devin Shore (who impressed, impressed, impressed) tonight and put it past Gibson to give the Stars a 2-1 lead heading into the third, where the Stars would continue to push, bringin the total shot differential within five after such a bad start.

Goals by Antoine Roussel and newcomer Adam Cracknell put the Stars up 4-2 after Andrew Cogliano (again) tied the game in the period's first minute.

Shrewd moves by Lindy Ruff, discipline as the game moved on, and sticking to their system eventually found the Stars enough opportunities to do what they do- Out-score you even on a bad night. The highlight of the night for me, however, was the performance of the bottom six, and the penalty kill. Carlyle probably got what he wanted with Getzlaf and Kessler cancelling out the Stars' top two groups, but the Stars' depth shone through and the new faces, at least for tonight, proved they can play this style.

  • Antti Niemi was good. Really good. He was also a little bit of a rebound machine, but mostly he was good. This dance and wondering about the mental state of which guy is on the bench begins anew- How long it continues into the spring is the subject of much debate.
  • Jason Spezza averaged six seconds of penalty kill time last season per game. He played 4:11 shorthanded tonight, which will give him an average of three seconds this season if he plays 82 games and not another second on the kill. The injuries and departures are hitting the team in a variety of ways, and these wonders will continue as Lindy feels out his roster.
  • You know what the attendance was? I didn't even wonder leading up to, nor here in the press box. When they announced that it was a sellout that seemed fairly axiomatic for this team on opening night. That it's not much of a subject of conversation is nice.
  • How do you pronounce Adam Cracknell’s last name?
  • The Stars took their first opportunity to honor the DPD and Dart officers killed in July in Dallas with a ceremonial puck drop including family members of the fallen. It was a very heavy moment and the crowd was very generous with the applause. Tough to turn around and play some hockey after that.