Entering tonight’s game, the Dallas Stars found themselves staring down the very definition of mediocre. They had a 17-17-8 record, amassing 42 points in 42 games. That’s just an 82 point pace, not nearly good enough if the team hopes to make the playoffs even with the parity of mediocrity the majority of Western Conference teams seem to be experiencing this season.
Detroit’s season hasn’t gone any better. They had only collected 40 points heading into tonight’s contest, and are in a weird place in the standings (for them) – looking up at a lot of teams ahead of them, not even close to a playoff spot.
They hadn’t scored a power play goal in forever, and the Stars couldn’t seem to keep from giving those up to the opposition. It was the perfect thing for what ails the Wings, if they could take advantage of their opportunities.
And while they were able to make the Stars pay on the man advantage (for the sixth game in a row they allowed a power play goal against), the offense that Dallas is capable of showed up with a flurry in the second period to send them to a comfortable 5-2 win.
Well, it started off strong…the Stars came out with an eagerness to find the offensive zone, and they did for the first five minutes of the period when they managed to put up a few changes and limit the Red Wings to zero shots on goal. They were rewarded for their effort when the mass of humanity in front of Mrazek parted and Jordie Benn’s shot from distance glanced Lauri Korpikoski and gave the Stars a 1-0 lead.
Unfortunately, the Stars decided to test the hockey gods by committing penalties. Four of them, to be exact, one of which lead to a nearly two minute 5-on-3 kill situation for the Stars. The same squad that has been so leaky on when down a man made it feel like an inevitability when the Red Wings finally punched through for a power play goal on the 5-on-3.
The penalties committed included a hooking by Cody Eakin, a hi-sticking by Brett Ritchie, a too many men on the ice bench minor and then Radek Faksa with another hi-sticking to make that Nyquist goal a reality. That too many men penalty probably got Lindy Ruff a little hot at his team, as that’s incredibly avoidable.
A complete mental breakdown behind their own net would lead to a turnover and eventual game leading goal by Henrik Zetterberg. Considering how awful the penalty kill has been of late, and the number of chances the Stars gave the Red Wings to do damage on the man advantage, being down by one after the first period felt a little bit like an accomplishment.
Now it was Detroit’s turn to commit some penalties and spend some time on the penalty kill. Alas, the Stars did not score on their first opportunity as the Stars power play also continues to struggle to find the back of the net.
The Stars did, however, come out with another good start to the period. At nearly the exact same timing in the frame as the first, with about three minutes gone, Faksa would thread one to a Brett Ritchie redirection past Mrazek to even the game up.
Much of the remainder of the period was played evenly with each team trading chances. Until the Stars suckerpunched the Red Wings in the mouth, in a manner of speaking. They would find the back of the net not once but twice in the span of less than two minutes thanks to goals from – wait for it – the defense. John Klingberg potted his sixth of the season on a mad scramble around Mrazek’s net in which he managed to collect and push the puck into the net. Not long after, Stephen Johns would capitalize on a Red Wings turnover and find the tiny space between Mrazek’s arm and the post.
All of a sudden the Stars had a two goal lead. What happened the last time they had that kind of lead? Oh right, there were a ridiculous number of goals scored in the third period before the Stars would eventually come away with a 6-4 win in Los Angeles.
Luckily, it seemed that, at least for tonight, the "No Lead Is Safe" Dallas Stars decided that a two goal lead was "Just Fine Thank You Very Much" and played a safe brand of hockey for the third period. While maybe not the most enjoyable from a fan perspective (because goals are way more exciting for most people), it was refreshing to see the Stars able to come out and shut down the opposition.
They still allowed a few quality chances, including a late-period power play opportunity for the Red Wings followed by an extensive 6-on-5 with Mrazek’s net empty. Niemi was good when he needed to be and the rest of the team did their best to limit the secondary chances in the offensive zone.
It’s the kind of period that instills another layer of confidence that they can come out and shut down a team, and hopefully (maybe, can you this time?) the Stars will be able to use this period as a stepping stone towards a solid run of hockey that vaults them back into the playoff picture.
*Radek Faksa has that high toss that never quite goes far enough for an icing down cold. Such a savvy move to allow his team to get a change in. While it seems like something minor to pick up, hockey is a game of details and that’s one that keeps Faksa as one of the more underrated forwards with how he plays.
*Johnny Oduya’s body sacrifice to stop a semi breakaway in his own zone may have been my favorite play of the game. It’s fun to watch defense when it works out so well for the Stars.
*Hilarious moment late in the second period when the puck got caught in a Red Wing jersey and he did that same kind of dance we all do when we’re looking for something we lost in our shirt/jacket/pants. But on ice, which made it funnier.
*Has John Klingberg found his game now? His play has been very much reminiscent of his first two years recently. I like it.
*What a banner year Patrick Eaves is having, as he scores an empty net goal to give him 15 on the season and tying Tyler Seguin for the team lead. He’s on pace to more than top his career high 20 goals.
*Absolutely class act, this Dallas Stars organization. In the second intermission, the Stars played a video about the Behymer family, a local youth hockey player whose father (and coach) was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. The Stars helped pay for his son to continue playing ice hockey at the StarCenter in McKinney in the face of mounting medical bills. The family recently got the news that his cancer is in remission, and we wish him all the best in his recovery!