Remember when it seemed like every Dallas Stars scoring forward not named Tyler Seguin or Jamie Benn went down in a heap? The thought then was that the Stars needed to aim to get through that stretch with a 0.500 record so that they could re-rack once they had their full compliment again.
And while that goal looked very sketchy for a little while, it seems to be in reach once again as the Stars pulled out a 3-2 win over the Edmonton Oilers in Edmonton on the second night of a back-to-back.
The first period was a little bit of a wild affair, as is tradition in the Stars-Oilers “what weird things will happen tonight?” world we live in. The Stars opened the scoring just 28 seconds in when hot-hand Lauri Korpikoski (and yes, you just read that right) took a pass from Jamie Benn to make it 1-0.
But the lead wouldn’t last for long. Patrick Maroon scored his sixth goal of the season (and yes, you read that right as well) three minutes later to pull the Oilers even with assists from Jordan Eberle and Connor McDavid.
The Stars used their power play to get their lead back just a bit after that with the ever-so-fun game of “bounce the puck off Patrick Eaves in front.” It was Eaves’ fourth of the season from Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn, who have clicked more on the power play since being split up at even strength.
Dallas couldn’t hold the lead through intermission though as Tyler Pitlick stormed in on Kari Lehtonen late in the frame for an unassisted goal to tie the game at 2.
The Oilers owned most of the play in the second period, at least from a shots and possession perspective, but the Stars got their lead back after Seguin found a wide-open Antoine Roussel, and Roussel patiently found a spot for his backhand just under the crossbar. This time, the Stars did maintain the lead into intermission thanks to Lehtonen’s big glove save.
Dallas went into a bit of a protective shell in the third, particularly as the period wore on, and had a few scares of prolonged pressure from the Oilers. That all came to a head when the Oilers pulled their goalie with two minutes left. Lehtonen was forced to make a big save on McDavid at the top of the crease, his 38th save on the 40th shot of the night. Lehtonen would make 40 total, two more in the final 1:20, and the Stars would find themselves back at .500 with reinforcements on the way, perhaps as soon as Sunday.
A few extra thoughts:
- This was a game where the Oilers owned the shots and possession but, critically, not the dangerous scoring chances (which were 17-14 Dallas despite a 72-38 overall shot attempt advantage to Edmonton). Still, you have to give Lehtonen huge credit, especially on the late period saves to keep the Stars 3-2 lead intact. It’s always a tough assignment on a back-to-back with travel and yes, his rebound control wasn’t always great, but he did what he had to.
- Antoine Roussel was all over this game. He was a part of all three goals, though not on the scoresheet, and a hound in the Stars forechecking game (which was at its best in the middle and late second period). Yes, he’s getting these extra minutes because of injury attrition, but he’s filling in quite nicely for the short term and will continue to be an asset on the lower lines once the Stars get bodies back.
- Jamie Oleksiak played his second game in a row and was... okay. He had some decent moments and some foolish ones (not the least of which was an avoidable interference penalty in the third) and finished with negative possession numbers just like every other Stars player on defense except Jordie Benn (he was a minus-4 in shot attempt differential while, for context, Stephen Johns as a minus-14) and every other Stars player in general outside of the Roussel-Seguin-Eaves line. Is that enough to earn another game? Only Lindy Ruff knows.
- The Stars often like the Western Canada swing. For whatever reason, playoffs curse or otherwise, they tend to play well in these buildings (none more so than Jamie Benn in Vancouver, close to his home town). This may be the best time possible for this swing to come. Now we see if they can build from it as forwards work their way back into the lineup.