The Dallas Stars went up two games to none in their series against the Minnesota Wild with a 2-1 victory at American Airlines Center Saturday night thanks to a weird bounce, their captain, and the goaltending they needed in some tense final moments.
Lindy Ruff said he expected a different game from a desperate Wild team that failed to generate offense of any kind Thursday, and he got it, but 26 shots this time around and some pretty high-quality looks were not enough as they generated a single tally, the only one in 120 minutes of play so far this series.
The Wild were more aggressive, and funneled more pucks toward Lehtonen as promised, but their power play remained largely ineffective against a Stars kill that is rolling right now.
Wild coach John Torchetti remarked after the game that the Stars have merely "Won the first two hours of a seven hour series."
After another scoreless first period it was about four minutes into the second period when the story of this game would really start unfolding, taking the shape of the most unlikely event imaginable: NHL officials siding with one Mr. Antoine Roussel.
Marco Scandella attempted to clear the puck, but it bounced off Ales Hemsky skate and behind the wild goal to Roussel, who appeared to try to settle it with a skate of his own.
Far from settle, it rainbowed over the net and hit and alarmed Devan Dubnyk in the back of the head, at which point it appeared to roll down his back and presumably in the net- The problem was Dubnyk had dislodged the goal in his panic and the play was about as clear as mud.
The zebra conclave ensued, the league was called, voices across the world called out on social media that it obviously (was/was not) a goal, all secure in their convictions.
At the end of the day the "kicking motion" was deemed to not have been enough of a factor to take the goal away. Torchetti would remark after the game that he would have liked to have seen "the kick, the high-stick, the whistle" reviewed. Roussel never touch the puck with his stick, and there was no whistle.
The league released a statement, stating that the puck "crossed the goal line in a legal fashion prior to the net being displaced," citing rule 78.4 that says goal frame is still in its proper place while at least some portion of the flexible pegs are still inside both of the posts.
@DallasStars that Roussel is pretty good with his feet. Mind loaning him to us this summer? ⚽️⚽️⚽️— FC Dallas (@FCDallas) April 17, 2016
FC Dallas took note.
The remainder of the second period passed in much the same as the first as neither team could get anything quality and the odd-man breaks were kept to almost nothing. Dallas continued to struggle on the power play while excelling on the kill and Kari Lehtonen was good when called upon.
Jamie Benn would finally give the Stars a bit of breathing room when Cody Eakin sprang the Stars captain on a breakaway with a brilliant bank-pass off the boards. Benn did the rest, finishing with a backhander slid under Dubnyk to give the Stars a 2-0 lead.
Benn goal pic.twitter.com/dqaT0s5S2z— Stephanie (@myregularface) April 17, 2016
It wouldn't last for long, however, as Johnny Oduya went off for holding the stick and Marco Scandella finally broke through Kari Lehtonen for the Wild with a bomb from the point that the Stars netminder didn't see through Jason Demers.
Then it was time to shut things down- aided by a penalty drawn by Stephen Johns after which Jason Spezza would lead the Stars in killing 1:07 of clock before the whistle could be blown. The power play was again fruitless and Kari Lehtonen had to stand tall in the final seconds.
It was Radek Faksa out there to take the game's final draw, and he won it. The team that set the record for empty net goals this season didn't get one tonight, but the question about the Stars going into the playoffs was whether or not they could win 2-1 games. Playoff games.
So far so good.
- Tyler Seguin didn't look right. Everyone knew. He knew. Lindy Ruff knew. Seguin and Benn took the night's worst even-strength Corsi numbers at 46% and 44% and had several shifts hemmed in their own end. Seguin was moved off to the fourth line and didn't play much down the stretch. The Stars have a bit of a pickle on their hands there, as they'll need those guys to do more on the road. More on that to come on DBD, no doubt...
- The Wild clearly identified the Stars' propensity to surrender shorthanded goals and were very aggressive when down a man, nearly resulting in some high-quality chances. Something to keep an eye on going forward.
- There's no way Kari Lehtonen doesn't play in game 3, right?
- Mattias Janmark drew the short straw in Seguin's stead in the press box tonight. Val Nichushkin had been identified as a possible candidate but continues to play well- Really well, in fact, recording an 89.29% 5v5 Corsi number tonight, including 22 attempts on the opponent's net to just 3 on his own when he was on the ice. That's nice.
- Drop the puck, linesman. No one came to see you do your NBA ref look-at-me thing.