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Recap: Stars Outlast Coyotes 3-2 On the Road

Back-to-back wins, yay!

NHL: Dallas Stars at Minnesota Wild
Jason Spezza did Jason Spezza stuff. It was cool.
Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

What can you say about the game that delivered the Dallas Stars’ first back-to-back victory of the month? It started quietly enough, but it escalated – not quickly, but insistently, and in some wild (and wildly entertaining) ways.

Let’s take a look.

First period

It was a slow start for both teams, with a big clanger by the Big Rig, Jamie Oleksiak, as the most exciting moment of the first six minutes. An innocuous shot by Alex Goligoski nearly turned into the first goal of the game during minute seven, but a long stretch and flick of the wrist by John Klingberg kept the puck out of Kari Lehtonen’s net.

Both teams seemed to shake off that three-day winter’s nap in the last 10 minutes, picking up speed and trading chances back and forth – but the period still ended with no score and only seven SoGs for the Stars and five for the Yotes.

Second period

Nine seconds into the frame, Johnny Oduya gave Arizona the first power-play opportunity after being called for hooking on Martin Hanzal. We got a heart-stopping reminder of The Jamie Benn Power Play as the captain grabbed the puck for a breakaway opportunity foiled by a Mike Smith save.

The Stars would not be denied their shortbread cookie, however, because Jason Spezza did as perfectly a Spezza thing as you could ask for: He recognized that a forward was defending him, pulled in the puck and danced Radim Vrbata to tuck one in seconds before the Oduya penalty ended.

Unfortunately, Anthony Duclair got that goal back seconds later after taking several whacks at a loose puck and possibly pushing Kari’s left pad back into the crease. (The insta-review resulted in a call of, simply, “good goal,” so there you have it.) Duclair went looking for more, and Lehtonen was called upon to make a flurry of saves in quick succession until Dan Hamhuis came to the rescue and finally got the puck out of the zone.

Oduya and Jordie Benn kept the K.I.S.S. rule in mind to provide some stalwart defense as both teams struggled, again, to break the stalemate.

Then the special teams came out to play once more when Peter Holland got caught holding Tyler Seguin. Segs said “thank you” with a beautiful puck on the Coyotes’ net, tapped in by cosmic twin Jamie Benn to give the Stars the lead back.

We now interrupt this garden-variety game for A GOALIE FIGHT. Yes, Radek Faksa got a little too close to Smith’s crease, and Smith literally took a poke at StarFox, and the really fun part is that Radek just laughed, which may have redeemed this entire sad and sorry December all by itself, as long as someone makes a .GIF out of it:

Smith subsequently shook a few fists with Curtis McKenzie as well, which may be (as Razor and Luddy speculated) as much a reflection of his frustration with his team’s season so far as anything else.

A few fighting majors and roughing calls later (one of which was served by Holland for Smith), the last 90 seconds of the period played out in much more sedate fashion.

Third period

All of a sudden it’s chippy in here! First the Stars, then the Coyotes went on the power play in the first six minutes, but not much happened due to the efforts of Smith and Lehtonen – especially two huge saves by Kari and a full-body-sacrifice block by Lauri Korpikoski.

The rest of the period was pretty much a goalie duel as well, with both Smith and Lehts making some dogged saves as the Stars fought for the insurance goal and the Yotes fought to get even. Smith even made a save with his face, and you don’t see that every day.

Faksa came oh-so-close to getting that third goal with a hard shot into Smith’s empty net, but Luke Schenn somehow robbed him (and I think I still need extra proof of how that happened, because it seemed to defy the laws of physics).

Klinger won empty-net roulette in game’s dying minutes, but his freaky carom into the dead center of Arizona’s house wasn’t even the freakiest thing that happened in the final seconds. It all ended with a freak closed-fist-on-the-puck call on Lindell that resulted in a freak penalty shot by Vrbata with just under seven seconds left, which resulted in the Coyotes’ second and final goal of a game that had a little something of everything.

General notes:

  • Radek Faksa is shaping up to be the Coyotes’ new mega-nemesis, and here he was just being himself. He blocked shots, he drove possession, he was that grinning hotshot you love to love but would hate to face. StarFox indeed.
  • Esa Lindell is turning into that Big Finnish Defender you hoped he was. That last-second brain fart aside, he’s growing steadier and more confident even as his responsibilities are becoming greater.
  • Meanwhile, it’s possible that John Klingberg is the biggest beneficiary of Easy E’s increasingly calm and controlled presence on the top line. From that first beautiful save in the crease to that final EN goal, he looked more like himself than he has all year.
  • Jamie Benn. Tyler Seguin. Jason Spezza. Yes. This is what we talk about when we talk about the best players being the best players.
  • If you’re still talking smack about Kari Lehtonen, you may need to examine why you’re so angry. He stopped 35 of 37 shots, including seven of seven on the PP, and the two he allowed weren’t exactly meringues dipped in whipped cream.

If you’ve skipped all the way to the end: Stars won. They scored. They saved. They did good at hockey.

Two in a row. The beginnings of a streak. #Believe