Jamie Oleksiak took the monkey off his back during his goal celebration in the second period and flung it into the lower bowl (NFL officials everywhere were offended, btw). As it turned out it was the third smallest such monkey (name of my band in high school) to be discarded on the evening.
Jamie Benn getting on the score sheet was one. The overtime win was obviously the other.
The 3-on-3 session arrived with the Stars looking to avoid their sixth straight OT loss, and a 10th straight overall, which according to the broadcast would have tied a league record held by the Florida Panthers.
Lindy Ruff avoided that fate, though perhaps not the way he had intended. His trio of Klingberg, Seguin and Benn missing a third and the other two having had... challenging... evenings, led him to lead with the unlikely triumvirate of Julius Honka, Patrick Sharp and Cody Eakin instead to change things up. The law firm of Seguin, Benn and Benn responded, however, as the younger hermano finally found his spot short-side through what had been a solid brick will in Darcy Kuemper.
And so the adventurous four-game homestand, with all of its newly healthy bodies, tardy bodies, embarrassed bodies, etc, was salvaged at a 2-1-1 mark, and the Stars break a tie with the Wild in the standings to hold on to hope at righting this wayward ship.
The Wild played along with Dallas’ game a bit tonight as the shot totals piled up in Ruffian way, but the danger was absent. The odd-man rushes were absent. The shots came from the outside. The Stars built a 10-4 lead in SOG only to see a petulant Antoine Roussel chicken wing find a Wild chin after a whistle, and in the offensive zone no less, and then changed the momentum of the game entirely- Forcing Antti Niemi to deliver some stellar stuff.
The penalty kill held firm on its first two tries and the momentum swung back Dallas’ way, culminating in the Big-Rig driving the slot and shoveling home that aforementioned garbage in front to give the Stars a 1-0 lead they enjoyed for 10 minutes before more penalty trouble (Jordie Benn this time) led to a Minnesota equalizer.
The store gets a little jucier from there as the evening’s main attraction enters the scene- Julius Honka’s assist on the Ritchie goal was fantastic, but it was a continuation of what the rookie had been building all night. He was solid. He was noticeable in the way a d-man wants to be.
He was, oh by the way, +19 in the Corsi department in all situations, which led the team. In his NHL debut. There’s perhaps no faster route to explaining his performance to Stars fans that to say, quite honestly, he was what John Klingberg looked like early on. He was solid through and through, and showed a lot of poise.
John Klingberg got to watch all this in what one can only presume was a suit and tie- He was scratched due to missing a team meeting this morning. The idea of having Honka play like that, and Klingberg play... well, like that, in the same game- Is formidable. The Stars could canvass about 80% of their ice time with one such player on the ice or the other. That’s the ceiling.
Can Honka continue that level of savvy? Can Klingberg return to form? We’ll find out. The potential is there, and that’s exciting.
Antti Niemi was good. Patrick Sharp was good. Radek Faksa was good. Jason Spezza was getting his looks. I thought Jordie Benn was pretty good. I thought Dan Hamhuis benefited from Honka greatly.
On the flip side- This team’s heart and soul is Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, and I think they’d tell you they’re not where they want to be right now. The advanced stats say they were alright. The eyeball test said something else. They came through in overtime- Stars fans will hope that vaults them to a return in form moving forward.
It wasn’t pretty- There was a lot of mucking around in that Wild style, but the Stars found a way. Without Johnny Oduya, without Klingberg. With Oleksiak and Lindell and Johns and Nemeth in the lineup, they found a way- The defensive effort was tighter. The transition game was, in the early going, much better.
We’ll see what Lindy Ruff says as a type but it looks like a good building block. The Wild are a tough draw with Suter out there 50% of the time and Kuemper playing like he did. These division wins are important, even with that third point thrown in.
Next up- It gets much tougher. The Predators wait at home after a huge 3-1 win over the Lightning this evening. Then it’s back to the AAC for turkey leftovers with Willie Desjardins and his little Swedish guy friends.