The Dallas Stars had the perfect opponent for tonight. After a middling start to the season, Dallas was looking for something a little extra to end their slide and get back to .500 on the season.
Enter the St. Louis Blues.
After being demolished on home ice versus the Blues in the second round of the playoffs, the Stars had a little extra motivation on a Thursday night in Dallas to get a win. Not only did they do that, they managed their biggest win of the season so far, thumping the Blues for 6 goals against while allowing just 2 to find the back of their own net.
The Blues appeared to be bending the game to their style early on, managing a quite boring first period in which neither team looked offensively inclined. As the game wore on, however, Dallas managed to take their style of play to the Blues more often than not.
The offensive outburst sure helped, but that shouldn’t overshadow these few truths about tonight’s game:
*The Stars found a way to have better controlled entrances into the offensive zone and controlled exits out of their own end.
*The blueline looked like a cohesive unit for the first time.
*There were many plays where the forwards came back to support the defenseman in their own zone, a trend that needs to continue if the Stars hope to improve defensively as a team.
While there were still blemishes tonight – no game is perfect – this win came at a time when Dallas desperately needed the points. Sticking it to the team that eliminated them from the playoffs was just icing on the cake.
Both the Stars and Blues had a bit of a feeling out period in the first, with both teams playing cautious hockey in their own zones. Neither team wanted to go down early to the other, and that was fairly obvious as the period progressed.
The Blues imposed their usual style of grind-it-out hockey, and the Stars were surprisingly good along the boards in the scrums for the pucks. While neither team was particularly clean through the neutral zone, with turnovers on both sides present, the Stars had better controlled exits out of their own zone and into the offensive zone than in many of the games so far this season.
Unfortunately, neither team found the back of the net, with the period ending in a scoreless tie. The one power play the Stars received in the period did something great – it didn’t allow a shorthanded chance against! Progress!
The start of the second period picked up right where much of the third had left off. Neither team seemingly wanted to score the offense tonight. Then the tide started turning, and the Stars started filtering more chances to the front of the net. Patrick Eaves was eventually rewarded for that strategy, as he rushed the front of the net and redirected a Tyler Seguin shot to bust the shutout.
Not to be outdone, the Blues eventually decided to join the goal scoring party with one of their own by Paul Stastny. The Stars finally had one of the responses you like to see to getting scored on, as less than 30 seconds later Jamie Benn would take in his own rebound and find a trailing John Klingberg for his first snipe of the season.
To add even more excitement to the middle frame, Antoine Roussel and Curtis McKenzie got their five minute breaks in the penalty box for fighting in separate incidents. So basically, they took the first period and flipped it on its head. Plenty of action after a snooze-worthy opening 20 minutes.
Dallas never looked back after the second period. Not only did they add to their lead, they did it in several unique ways.
It was Stephen Johns on a delayed penalty call with the Stars getting an extra attacker and Antti Niemi on the bench. Not only did the Blues commit one penalty prior to the goal, they had actually committed two. The Stars not only found Johns for a nice goal from the faceoff circle to Allen’s right, they even ended up with a power play after scoring. They did not score on that man advantage, however.
The period also featured a pair of challenged goals for goaltender interference. Jason Spezza’s tally was challenged because he happened to be tangled up in Allen’s vicinity prior to putting the net in. After review, the goal was upheld. It’s one of those breaks the Stars haven’t quite been finding this season but got tonight. Maybe the tide is turning?
St. Louis scored one on Niemi that was also challenged for goaltender interference, with a Blues player impeding Niemi’s range of motion (apparently? Maybe?) that led the goal to be overturned. It felt like a weaker goaltender interference than Spezza’s goal in real time, so the Blues not surprisingly would score a “real” second goal on Niemi later in the period. Seemed like that was going to happen as soon as their goal was overturned.
The flood gates were open for the Stars after that, though. Klingberg would score a second goal tonight on a high flip out of the zone that just floated down the ice to where Allen’s cage was empty after the Blues netminder had been pulled with under four minutes for an extra attacker.
Jordie Benn would cap off the goal scoring for Dallas. That made four out of six goals scored by blueliners tonight for Dallas – Klingberg (2), JoBenn (1), Johns (1).
*Jamie Benn, who hands-down had his best game of the season so far tonight, managed to incur a four-minute minor for highsticking. With offsetting penalties by the Blues, that would up a non-issue (luckily) for the Stars tonight. The penalty kill hasn’t exactly been lighting it on fire this season so far.
*If Gemel Smith weren’t unlucky, he’d have no luck at all. He missed a wide open, yawning, inviting net as he drilled to the net and Allen was caught down and out of position. So of course he would bank it right off the inside of the goal post and miss it.
*Colton Parayako, who the Stars have had a tough time shutting down in recent history, was effectively shut down tonight.