The Dallas Stars won a road game. The Dallas Stars won the second night of a back-to-back. The Dallas Stars won a goalie duel. The Dallas Stars won after giving up the first goal. The Dallas Stars have a perfect penalty kill and operated at nearly 67% efficiency on the power play. It was a pretty good night, is what I’m trying to tell you.
Kari Lehtonen started his second game of the season and faced former Marty Turco protegé Mike Smith at the other end. In the Calgary Flames, the Stars faced another team with a 5-5-0 record and a hunger to win. Buckle up – we’re going for a ride.
It was a story of missed nets almost as much as saved shots. Tanner Glass, T.J. Brodie and Sean Monahan all shot over or wide for the Flames, while Gemel Smith, Jamie Benn, Martin Hanzal and John Klingberg did the same on the Victory Green end.
The Flames were outshooting the Stars early, but the team kept the high-danger chances to a minimum, with Benn’s backchecking definitively daunting an aggressive advance by Calgary sniper Johnny Gaudreau.
Gemel Smith played like a guy who doesn’t want to be taken out of the lineup again. He brought energy and a few good chances, as well as a brief tussle. This was only his second game of the season, and his fresh legs helped energize the entire team. Kari made a handful of high-quality saves late in the period and came out of the net at one point to stifle a loose puck fired wide by Brodie and slapped on goal by Matt Stajan.
It was a fast-skating if scoreless period in which the first penalty – a Jamie Oleksiak slashing on Matthew Tkachuk – came with 2:04 left to play. Can we stop involuntarily clenching during a Stars PK now? The kilt covered everything, and Kari held up his end, and that was where we left it.
Give the Stars credit, they came into this period wanting to start something. And for several minutes it looked as if they would be first on the scoreboard. They backchecked furiously and pressed the offense relentlessly, and you probably felt the secondhand frustration yourself as their efforts went for naught.
Alas, they also missed the chance to score on their first power play, initiated six and a half minutes in by a Mark Giordano high stick on Tyler Seguin. It would be Gaudreau who broke the scoreless tie about halfway through the second period, on an odd-man rush that was set in motion by a Mike Smith handle.
You may have thought it was all over once the Flames had broken the seal, and you would have been wrong. Lehtonen made a spectacular save on a breakaway by Mikael Backlund with less than four minutes left in the period, which set the table for the Stars to level the game seconds later. Travis Hamonic handed the Stars another power play, because as it turns out you can get called down for slashing Antoine Roussel, and Esa Lindell leveled the score with a wicked snapper from the blueline off a laser-guided Jason Spezza pass.
Sean Monahan would do his best to restore the lead with less than two minutes remaining, but Kari stoned him at close range for his 20th save on 21 shots. The Stars took a 1-1 tie into the locker room.
Are the Stars shaking off the road fatigue? They actually got better as the evening wore on. But the Flames were every bit as hungry for a win, and they continued to trade chances with no change in the score.
The Victory Green gang were the first to give up a short-handed chance when Spezza caught a fairly puzzling penalty for interference on Johnny Hockey. The PK needed to keep its perfect record. It kept its perfect record. The Stars have killed 21 of 21 penalties so far this season, and because I can hardly believe I just typed that, I will type it again: The Stars have killed 21 of 21 penalties so far this season.
The last best chance the team needed came with a Stajan penalty for slashing on Jamie Benn. Alexander Radulov buried a cross-ice pass from Devin Shore to pot what would be the game-winner, and to score for the second game in a row.
All in all, this game was a cold, tart palate cleanser to wash out the sour taste of the past two. Now come two days off and Vancouver on Monday. See you then.