The end of November, beginning of December was a really fun time to be a Stars fan again: five game winning streak, winning on the road against the Colorado Avalanche. Those were some good times, weren’t they? And then they hit this current skid, dropping three in a row against the two division rivals and the Vegas Golden Knights, and those time were a lot less fun.
It’s this losing streak that brought some changes to the line up for the Stars. Not only with Julius Honka drawing in for Jamie Oleksiak, but also in some line shuffling. For the first time this season, Stars coach Ken Hitchcock started the big three of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, and Alexander Radulov on three different lines. Benn took Antoine Roussel’s vacant position on a line with Radek Faksa and Tyler Pitlick, Radulov played right wing on a line with Mattias Janmark and Jason Spezza, and Seguin centered Devin Shore and Brett Ritchie.
And you know, it really worked for them. The first period, while it stayed scoreless, was skewed heavily in the Stars favor. They had the majority of shots, the majority of possession. The only reason the score wasn’t 10-0 to start was the masterful clinic that Ondrej Pavalec put on against his former Atlanta Thrasher’s teammate, Kari Lehtonen.
Radulov in particular had a chance right on the doorstep that I’m pretty sure Pavalec kept out with magic. He saved three in a row from Remi Elie and Brett Ritchie.
Hitchcock kept the shifts short and rotated players frequently, which meant a lot of energy and zip for the Stars. The Rangers were caught on their heels and chased the puck a lot. They definitely had their chances, but by and large were outgunned and outpaced by the Stars in the first.
Which continued right into the second, where, by the end of the period, the Stars were up 33-10 in shots on goal. Even more impressive, the shot attempts were 64-23 Stars.
And, sandwiched between two rather disappointing power plays for the Stars, all of those shots finally paid off. Julius Honka, recently of the press box, tallied his first goal of the season, and it was a beauty.
It didn’t hurt that the Rangers seemed to lose track of Honka’s position, chasing the puck after Benn and Faksa. Honka tallies his first point of the season and hopefully makes a good enough case to keep him on the roster for a while. The truly weird thing? This wasn’t even top ten in the scoring chances in the first two periods of this game, but this is the one that went in. But I’ll take it, that’s fine.
The third period saw more momentum swing back towards the Rangers. Not enough, surely, but enough that on the 18th shot of the game, Brady Skjei managed to get the puck past Lehtonen, who was being screened (and contacted) at the time by Rick Nash. Stars challenged the goal for interference, but Lehtonen was out of the paint and the Stars lost the challenge.
Five minutes of 3-on-3 overtime was not enough to bring resolution to this game, and truth be told neither goalie really deserved to lose it. But still, the NHL did away with ties and someone had to come out on top, so to the shootout they went, where goals from Alexander Radulov and Jason Spezza put the Stars on top.
Julius Honka had a great game, despite only getting 12 minutes of playing time. Tyler Pitlick continues to impress with his puck movement. I think the shuffled lines might be here to stay for a bit, as they were actually very effective, even if the Stars didn’t score as much as one might expect with nearly 90 shot attempts.
And they are back at it in Brooklyn on Wednesday against the New York Islanders!