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Game 33 Afterwords: Jason Spezza Punches Stars’ Way Out of Paper Bag of Shame

Dallas gave itself another chance to win two games in a row. This is a point of actual suspense, this year.

Nashville Predators v Dallas Stars Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

There are two NHL teams who have allowed 100 or more goals this season, and you probably wouldn’t have guessed that they were the two teams we watched play a tight, one-goal contest (until Jordie Benn’s ENG) today. Perhaps the better way to say it would be that these two teams have allowed lots of goals, as neither has been doing so recently. The Flyers just finished a 10-game unbeaten streak, and the Stars have only allowed (on average) two goals per game for the last quarter of the season.

Interestingly enough, the Stars’ possession numbers have also been trending upwards in the last eight games. If you haven’t read the comments from the Recap thread, you can get a good bit of statistical nuggets for ponderin’ purposes.

Things aren’t all fixed, but they might be starting to get a little better. That is a start, and we trust that eventually, one of these wins will be followed up with another. It could definitely be this one, maybe!

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Jamie Benn fed Oduya with a nice nutmeg pass three minutes into the game, but Oduya missed the net. The Stars have done that, a lot. Dallas came into the contest with the second-most missed nets in the NHL, and Oduya’s missed chance was a tough pill to swallow on a gift early on.

The game itself had a very crucial tone for Dallas, who were really giving it their all in terms of “try” and all the visceral sorts of effort we can see on screen, but in the end, it was a soft shot and a rebound that put Philadelphia up. John Klingberg failed to tie up Taylor Leier, and as Craig Ludwig pointed out with a nice little breakdown before the second period began, the Stars’ defenseman just seemed to slow down too early and allow himself to be beaten to the net, and that was that.

Jamie Benn was being teased as a fourth-liner in Ruff’s pregame line rushes, but Benn started the contest beside Radek Faksa, and he was back up with Seguin and Eaves to start the second. As much as we might wonder if Benn could (ahem) benefit from some rest, it seems doubtful he’ll get some, for now.

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Jason Spezza attended the game Sunday afternoon, in case you did not know. Spezza looked like a man on a mission even before the fight, and wow, then he actually had a fight. It was his first fight since 2009 against Dion Phaneuf (not to mention his first career bout with Patrick Sharp). No, Brandon Manning for Jason Spezza is far from an even trade, but we all know that Jason Spezza was trying to do something bigger than win a fight with one person there. Some of you might be inclined to say that Spezza could have a better impact with two or three shifts in those five minutes than he could in the box, but I’m not going to have that discussion now. Besides, guess what happened?

Yes, indeed. Almost poetically, the Stars would in fact finally get on the scoreboard with Jason Spezza in the penalty box. Antoine Roussel fired a wrister that Steve Mason couldn’t control, and Radek Faksa made no mistake on the rebound, which has been rather abnormal (the lack of a mistake) for Stars forwards with the puck in the slot lately.

Some called that a turning point. Goals tend to be that. Whether Spezza’s fight was more correlation or causation, I have little interest in determining. But for those of you who care about a player’s demeanor, Spezza was mad enough to fight someone, and he did. The Stars won.

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After a possibly unwarranted but nonetheless fruitless power play (though it was ripe with shorthanded chances for Philly, of course), Brett Ritchie got three chances on Mason’s doorstep in a row. Mason stopped the first two, and Jakub Voracek got away with a pretty obvious hook on his third scoring chance, which went wide.

Stephen Johns had another loose game with the puck, and Dan Hamhuis had his own bad giveaway on an intercepted breakout pass that Johns covered up for him with a block. still,

Johnny Oduya got hurt, but would return in the third period after seeming to twist his leg. Jiri Hudler played only one shift in the third period and did not return. I don’t know what either of those things mean, but the Stars are a better team when those two players are healthy. (At least, in theory. I’m sure a healthy Hudler would be good, but theory is all we have in that department, to date.)

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Adam Cracknell has a big body, and he enjoys shooting the puck. Both of those things combined for a Stars lead early in the third, when John Klingberg threaded a shot to the net, and Cracknell stuffed the rebound by kicking it to his stickblade before Mason could find the puck. Tyler Seguin was the catalyst for the whole play, however, as his shift with the “secthirfourst” line ended up getting him a secondary assist after a feed out to Klingberg to start it all.

Antti Niemi was good again, but Provorov hit the crossbar halfway through the third, and man, those have been going in against Dallas all season long. Provorov hit two posts on the day, and Niemi listened to another puck rattle the outside of the cage with the Flyers’ net empty in the waning minutes.

Jordie Benn sealed the game with a calm, controlled chip shot. That was his second goal of the season, but it was monumental in terms of emotional resonance.

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Last week, the Stars played a good game against Philadelphia only to take a bunch of penalties and lose on the penalty kill. Saturday, the Stars took but one penalty (in the eyes of the officials, who, well, never mind; they get paid to show up, and they did that). The home/road splits might mean something for the goalies or the line matchups, but they really shouldn’t have such a drastic impact on the penalty kill. It’d be great if Dallas could play better at any rink. But for now, just winning games at home would feel great. It would also be great. Feelings matter, especially when they are created by objectively positive results. Well, positive for Dallas fans. That’s not really objective, I guess.