While the Dallas Stars may not be getting the bounces off the ice in the injury department, for one night they got some bounces on-ice.
Passes connected a little more often than they seemingly had been in the last stretch of games. Special teams finally pulled through, scoring a power play and not allowing any shorthanded goals against.
Goaltending was solid for all but 10 seconds (more on that fun foray into excitement land when you read about the second period happenings below). Shots were forced from the outside perimeter and they didn’t allow too much interior chances. Generally, the Winnipeg Jets found themselves with a lot of one-and-done in the offensive zone.
The game wasn’t without its flaws, certainly. The penalty kill again allowed a goal in the dying minutes of the game, though it’s hard to fault what is essentially a 6-on-4 power play with the Jets’ net empty for the extra attacker.
For one night, the Stars managed to simplify their game and find the back of the net to take two critical points in a divisional matchup. It may not have been the prettiest, but luckily they don’t ask “how” at the end of the season.
This could have quite possibly been one of the best periods of hockey Dallas has put together in the last handful of games. While there was still the occasional forced stretch pass that wasn’t really there and a few shorthanded breakaway chances against, for the most part the smart plays were the ones that Dallas tried to make.
Niemi was big when he needed to be. He kept the sheet clean on several big chances by Winnipeg. But, the scoring chances were lower than some of their recent games. Many of the 8 shots the Jets put up on net were of the perimeter variety.
Dallas did a good job getting guys to the front of the net in the offensive zone. It paid off when Brett Ritchie would score from the slot area off of a Curtis McKenzie pass on a 2-on-1 opportunity. Another thing that went against recent trends for the Stars in the first period: they won 67% of faceoffs. It’s good to start more with the puck than without it, and the Stars seemed to gain confidence with the puck as the period moved on.
The second period started with the Jets having a clean sheet of ice for nearly a full power play, as Antoine Roussel got nailed with an interference penalty call at the end of the first frame. Continuing the trend of “things that were better tonight than in games past”, the Stars managed ot kill the penalty and not allow a power play goal against.
The Stars’ did manage to tally in this frame, and that goal wasn’t without its drama. The play was challenged for goaltender interference leading up to the goal. While there was a little bump between a Star and a Jet, it happened long enough in advance of the play for it not to be relevant to whether Andrew Hutchison could make the save. Unfortunately for him – and fortunately for Dallas – he was busy trying to claw out from under that same Jet as he laid on top of him clutching at the stick of the Star. And voila – good goal, Dallas.
However, not to be outdone by all the good vibes being generated by the solid game played in the 39:45 played to that point, Niemi got a little bit overconfident with his puck handling abilities. He got tangled up behind his own net and then Joel Armia scored the easiest goal of his career with a net that was minus an entire goaltender. There wasn’t even a piece of goaltender there.
After such a deflating ending to the second period, it would have been easy for the Stars to let the fact that it was now a one goal game get in their heads. Instead, Dallas found a way to continue playing their game. Shots from the perimeter. Not much sustained pressure in the offensive zone for the Jets.
Tyler Seguin would put in a sharp angle shot for the eventual game winner. The Stars couldn’t go without a bit of shenanigans, as the Captain went after Blake Wheeler after John Klingberg had been checked in the offensive zone. The eventual penalty kill from Benn’s dropping the gloves with Wheeler post-pasting him into the crossbar would turn into a 6-on-4 power play for the Jets, as they pulled the goaltender for the extra attacker.
A scramble in front of the net in the dying minutes made this one look closer than the game actually was, as the Jets scored a late power play tally. But the Stars were able to stave off the last minute effort and walk away with the win tonight.
A few other thoughts…
*We all knew the Stars would win tonight after so many had written this one off as a loss, right?
*Patrick Eaves scored his 100th NHL goal in the contest tonight. Nice milestone hit for the Stars forward.
*Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin each had a few breakaway chances. While neither converted on those particular chances, it seems that they’re warming up on offense. Which can only be a good thing as the Stars hope to pick up points while waiting on some of their top offensive contributors to heal up.
*It’s only a bird’s eye view of one game, but the pairing of Patrik Nemeth and John Klingberg sure appeared steady on the ice. Also of significant note: on the power play, Klingberg made a pinch into the offensive zone and Jamie Benn rotated back to cover the blueline in his stead. That’s the type of communication and play you want to see between the defense and the forwards. It gives the blueliners confidence that they can make the riskier (calculated, rightly timed) move if the forward unit will cover any potential gaps in coverage.
*How does a smooth skater like Klingberg wind up so often beat on the power play by the opposing team going the other way on him? Is he playing too aggressively into the zone? He also had several times where he got beat at even strength on a player breaking towards the Stars net, so maybe the book is out on him that it’s one of the weaker parts of his game.
*Jamie Benn does not get enough attention for his penalty killing skills.
*Many worried that the large size and physical playing style of the Jets would be problematic for the Stars roster. They seemed to hold their own quite often in scrums along the boards and neutral zone clashes. A good example: Radek Faksa strong-armed a Jet and puck-jacked him in the neutral zone.