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Game 18 Afterwords: Nathan MacKinnon Vs. Kari Lehtonen

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Dallas again jumped out to a lead against the Avs, but this time they managed not to throw it away, despite their best efforts.

NHL: Colorado Avalanche at Dallas Stars Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Quick hits today due to unforeseen circumstances, but yeah. That was something, was it not?

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John Klingberg. John Klingberg had a nice takeaway in the offensive zone to create a chance for Seguin, who shot the puck off the top of the crossbar. John Klingberg also accidentally shot a puck at Kari Lehtonen (more of a backhand whack). John Klingberg did make a nice move to pull a puck through his legs on the rush and feed Jamie Benn for a great chance, but John Klingberg also got burned when Tyler Seguin lost the puck at the blue line and Klingberg’s momentum saw him get beaten up the ice by Nathan MacKinnon, who was somehow stopped by Kari Lehtonen. John Klingberg got danced by Nathan MacKinnon twice, but in John Klingberg’s defense, Nathan MacKinnon was a supernatural beast tonight who was only matched by the Kari chimera.

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Kari has games like this, and they are fun. I’m just trying to enjoy them for all they’re worth. I will say that Kari at his best is a lot more “fun” to watch than Niemi at his best. Kari is sassy, confident, and (lately) emotional. It’s good to see that top draft pick come out to play every now and then. The Stars are sitting at basically average in goaltending. Considering the crew in front of them most of the season, I think that’s pretty swell.

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Patrik Nemeth joined the Swedish Somethings group as well with a whiffed hip check that you could hear from the rafters. Otherwise, I thought Nemeth was okay. I don’t have any 6th defensemen analysis left.

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Devin Shore pulled off some nice hand-eye coordination to collect the puck from mid-air in the defensive zone after a Colorado chance off the rush, and then in the other end, Johnny Oduya wisely chose not to try shooting on Varlamov directly, and Tyson Barrie’s knee obliged.

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The Stars pretty much used the Avs and their strategies against them tonight, right? “We will score goals off you, and then we will ask our goalie to be heroic.” It worked.

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Let’s talk about special teams for a while.

Adam Cracknell drew two penalties in the first period, which is a sentence I smiled while typing. After intercepting a pass behinds the Avs’ net with some similarly impressive puck-knock-down skills, and the Stars were on the job. The first unit looked a bit out of sync, which isn’t shocking given how long it’s been since Jason Spezza was in that group, but for the first time in what seems like forever, it was not the first unit that cashed in.

Devin Shore pulled off a smooth zone entry, and then Brett Ritchie found himself wide open in the guts of the ice, and Shore fed him for the Stars’ second goal. I could get used to seeing Devin Shore on the power play.

The second power play had a little more bite, but the top unit still couldn’t quite get in sync. Thankfully, they would get one more chance at the end of the period after a textbook slashing call on Shore, and Patrick Eaves would get a brilliant feed from Seguin that he buried to make it 3-0, which is one goal more than Dallas’s early Colorado lead has traditionally been. Tonight, that third goal made the difference.

Shorthanded goal: Devin Shore watched Jason Spezza too much and got cocky with a saucer pass to Jordie Benn at the blue line that bounced on him. Jordie Benn got taken into the boards, and Dan Hamhuis lept into that battle while Nathan MacKinnon sat alone in front of the net, and was fed for the Avs’ first tally.

Nathan MacKinnon was all over this game. (Aside: Can you imagine what this would have looked like with Duchene and Landeskog in the lineup for Colorado? No wonder Ruff was livid.) Aside from his goal, he created shorthanded chances ex nihilo for Colorado, and Klingberg couldn’t figure out how to shut him down. Again, no shame in that for most people, but with the schnide Klingberg’s been on, that’s just an unfair bit of happenstance. MacKinnon looked like a man with the team on his back tonight, and he nearly carried them across the finish line.

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Congratulations to Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, who combined for the Most Ales Hemsky Play of the Game on the empty net debacle. I suppose Jamie Benn deferred to Seguin on the shot because Seguin’s been shooting more accurately, but when Seguin trying to make a move to get a clear path to the net, he got shut down. I think you’re better off just taking the first shot you have once you’re across the red line, most nights. Both of those players should be able to hit the 4x6 most of the time in that half of the ice.

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Can you imagine what Lindy Ruff must have been yelling to his players, coaches and himself during that third period? That late penalty should have sealed things, and instead Lehtonen had to make another save from the doorstep in the final second. That’s inexcusable. I can’t remember the last time the Stars looked so much like the 2006 Coyotes against the 2008 Red Wings, and I’d be just fine not havin to remember it again.

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Cody Eakin and Jason Spezza make this team enormously better. It is good to have them back.