So it’s really no surprise that this game was a close, low-scoring affair for the majority of playing time.
After going down 2-1 off of a pair of goals scored by the Blues within a little over a minute of each other in the third period, the Stars fought back to score three unanswered and not only salvage a point out of another major Central Division matchup, but to snatch a regulation win from the jaws of defeat.
The Stars are now 3-1-0 in their last four games versus the Central. They’re sitting three points behind the Blues for third in the division now, and have the next five games on the friendly ice of home. Maybe they can put together a run here. This was the kind of game worth building on.
The first period was a bit of a feeling out process between the two sides. Dallas, who has a pretty good record when scoring first (only losing four times in regulation so far this season in that situation), tested St. Louis a few times. The Blues did some testing of their own. What both teams found were that their goaltenders were more than up for the challenges in front of them, and neither team found a way to punch through for that elusive first goal.
The first 20 minutes weren’t without event, though.
Ben Bishop made a pass from behind his net that didn’t connect with his defenseman Greg Pateryn. The turnover left a Blues player with a gaping open net, and the five-man unit in front of Bishop did a great job shutting down the crease so that Bishop could recover and get back into position. He might owe Pateryn and Radek Faksa a special word of thanks for their effort in keeping the score pristine in that moment.
The rest of the period was filled with the Stars taking the body to the Blues and the teams playing fairly even to one another. The Blues penalty kill, which has been absolutely on fire in December, was very effective at shutting down the Stars power play.
Near the end of the period, both teams spent extended time in the offensive zone, and both Bishop and Blues goaltender Jake Allen came up with several huge saves in the dying minutes of the frame. They kept it scoreless as both teams went to the locker room for intermission.
In their game versus the Nashville Predators last Saturday, the Stars had an extended 5-on-3 penalty kill in overtime that absolutely lit up the arena. The energy was massive as the team killed the penalty off. I guess they enjoyed that playoff atmosphere, and wanted some more of it. They killed off a huge 5-on-3 early in the second, and yet again Stars faithful were pumped for it.
Mattias Janmark finally opened the scoring, when Jason Spezza hit him flying towards Allen’s net and he potted home the pass. Julius Honka got a secondary assist off of it, as the play generated from the blueline.
The Blues would put up quite a few shots on goal looking for the equalizer, but Bishop was more than stellar in keeping them off the scoresheet. Dallas took a 1-0 lead into the last 20 minutes.
This period started off very stilted, without much flow. In a very scary scene, Allen was bowled into his own net by a teammate and appeared to hit his head on the crossbar of the net. He was looked at by trainers on the ice, and then seemed fine. He lasted one shift, though, and then he went off the ice and backup Carter Hutton came in to replace him.
That goaltending change seemed to awaken the Blues.
Not long after Hutton entered the game, Vladimir Tarasenko wristed one right in past Bishop. A minute and five seconds later, Tage Thompson added another to give the Blues a 2-1 lead. The second goal was one that you might qualify as “soft”, as Bishop appeared to think that maybe the puck was floating past him on a pass and he was a little too laissez faire with his positioning. The puck went between his stick hand and his pads, and suddenly Dallas was facing yet another moment in which they had to overcome a deficit if they wanted to earn points from the contest.
But boy did they pull it off – and in entertaining fashion, to boot.
With five minutes left in the period, Jamie Benn had a great individual effort and backhanded the equalizer in right over a sprawling Hutton. Then, Blues defender Joel Edmundson committed a penalty that gave Dallas a power play opportunity about a minute later.
The Blues penalty kill may have been stellar all night long, but Alexander Radulov’s shot found the back of the twine in just 14 seconds of man advantage time. It may be the biggest power play goal of the season so far for Dallas, whose power play has struggled since the hot start to the season.
Radulov would score an empty net goal to seal the win. The best part to that is that Stars fans were privy to two goal celebrations by him (and he celebrates with unbridled enthusiasm) but the worst part is that they couldn’t quite get the puck to him again to net a hat trick when the Blues net remained empty.