For 59 minutes it looked like the Dallas Stars were going to get the win that they badly needed.
Stuck in the mud early on this season due to a rash of injuries, the Stars were playing a smart, gutsy road game against the Columbus Blue Jackets that was showing signs of a potential reversal in fortune for the unlucky team.
Suddenly, 1:02 changed all of that.
Sam Gagner scored a game-tying goal through traffic with just 16 seconds left in the third period, and then Seth Jones’ seeing-eye wrist shot found twine 46 seconds into overtime to seal a 3-2 Columbus victory.
And just like that, the Stars are back to the drawing board.
Jason Spezza and Tyler Seguin scored for Dallas, while Antti Niemi was astute in net, making 25 saves, some of them dangerous.
The Stars controlled the flow for most of the game, finishing with a 38-28 advantage in shots, so there was certainly progress that was made. Regardless, though, that second point that slipped through their fingers has to hurt considering how frustratingly things have gone for the team so far this year.
Dallas took control of the game early on, eagerly deploying head coach Lindy Ruff’s makeshift crash-the-net strategy. They jumped out to a big shot advantage in the early minutes and then extended it all the way to 18-9 before the end of the first period, but would be held off the score sheet until later on.
Foligno, the Columbus captain, would open the scoring in the contest at 3:50 of the second frame, receiving the puck deep in Dallas territory before roofing a perfectly placed shot into the top corner past Niemi for the 1-0 lead.
Spezza answered back for Dallas on a fantastic individual effort, hauling buttocks up the full length of the ice and then pasting a shot past Bobrovsky, breaking the netminder’s lengthy shutout streak against them. It was also, more importantly, the Stars’ first goal in general in over five periods of hockey, a much-needed bucking of an uncharacteristic trend for the club.
Dallas wouldn’t have to wait nearly as long for their next goal thanks to Seguin’s tally early in the third. John Klingberg’s pinch kept the puck in his team’s possession down deep, and Seguin snapped a quick shot from a bad angle that squeaked through Bobrovsky. It was the exact type of lucky, greasy goal that the Stars haven’t seen in a long time.
It would be all for naught, however, as the Stars got their signals crossed when defending a Blue Jackets zone entry in the dying seconds, leaving Gagner far too much time and space to pick his spot and fire it through the crowd of bodies. Overtime ended just as abruptly as it began, with Columbus winning the puck off the opening faceoff, getting it back not long after off of a botched Stars possession, and capping the game on their second try.
The Stars will now look to take all the possible positives out of this game before they face off against a much stronger St. Louis Blues squad on Thursday night.
Thoughts and Observations:
- Boy, how refreshing is it to have Jason Spezza back in the lineup? With all due respect to Adam Cracknell, Curtis McKenzie, Gemel Smith and the other forwards that have been filling in with the depleted lineup, this Stars team looks dramatically different when Spezza is playing. You just can’t replace that level of ability.
- Jamie Benn still isn’t 100% healthy, but he showed signs of progress tonight. There were some moments where he showcased his signature explosiveness, so that’s encouraging, and he picked up an assist on the Seguin goal. This team will only go as far as he does, so he can’t get back to his old ways nearly soon enough
- The more closely you watch Esa Lindell, the more you appreciate him. He’s been playing safely and conservatively up at the NHL level and he’s shown himself to be quite reliable because of that. He has nerves of steel under pressure and constantly seems to be making the right little plays along the boards to keep things moving in the right direction.
- This loss stings, a lot, but the Stars need to find a way to not let it get to them. There was a lot to like about their game tonight, and that’s going to be the most important thing to remember moving forward. Take the lump, learn the lessons, and move on to the next one. That’s what the best teams do, and that’s what the Stars need to do now if they want to fix this current skid and reach that level again this season.