Coming off of a mini road trip, and having lost four in a row, the Dallas Stars desperately needed to collect points today. Unfortunately, the Stars in recent years have not had a ton of success in afternoon games, quite often dropping the matinee contests to the opponent.
But the offensive of the Stars came to play today. While it wasn’t a complete game by any means, two points is two points and Dallas went out and got them.
I’d like to take the time to give Carolina a lot of credit here before we get into the hows of the game today. While they allowed five goals against (one of which was scored on themselves, to be honest), the Hurricanes did a great job of clogging up the neutral zone for much of the game. Dallas was able to get several odd-man rushes early in the game, but those chances lessened as the game wore on.
Also, their penalty killing is clinical – as is to be expected from one of the top penalty killing teams in the league – and made me turn green with envy at the way in which they were able to limit the chances against for most of those man advantages afforded to the Stars. I miss the days of good penalty killing.
Dallas came out with offensive pressure early on, generating several odd-man rushes into the offensive zone. With pressure on the Carolina players, the Stars were able to capitalize on several turnovers in their own zone and turn the puck up ice. Esa Lindell was rewarded on such a play just 51 seconds into the game, when he forced a turnover just inside the blueline and skated it through to the offensive zone. While he had a pass option available, he decided to call his own number and snapped the puck right by Cam Ward.
Patrick Eaves, who was the best player on the ice for Dallas today, was the beneficiary of a beautiful setup pass by Jamie Benn as he streaked towards the net to give the Stars a two goal lead. Just 22 seconds later, Curtis McKenzie shot the puck off of a Carolina defender and scored the game’s second unassisted goal.
Carolina was more dominant as the game wore on, and they were successful in shutting down much of the Stars chances after the offensive blitz early on. They won more of the puck battles and started to pressure Dallas puck carriers into committing turnovers themselves.
Fortunately, Kari Lehtonen was more than up to the task of cleaning up the loose pucks that made their way towards his net.
Compared to the first period, the middle frame was actually kind of boring. Turnovers on both sides and some heavy defense by Carolina to clog up the neutral zone led to a lot of back and forth without much in the way of real chances for much of the start of the period.
The Hurricanes would finally punch through when Sebastain Aho beat Lehtonen. Dallas restored their lead when Eaves scored on the power play. The goal, his 21st of the season, gives Eaves a new career-high in goal scoring. While it’s a great accomplishment for Eaves, Stars fans have to start wondering if they’re watching Eaves make his trade value so high that the organization has no choice but to move him out at the trade deadline in order to capitalize on his career season and the package they could receive in return.
Because we can’t have a total positive game, the Stars penalty kill continued to leak goals against. At least in this game, it was limited to just one. However, the Stars had a fairly clean game, so they only had to kill three penalties in total, which means they failed at successful penalty killing for 1/3rd of the time.
On the penalty kill, Lehtonen thought he had stopped a shot from distance. He didn’t actually have the puck in his body, and it fell out in front of him. The Stars, anticipating a whistle given Lehtonen’s body language signaling he had the puck, were nowhere to be found. Justin Faulk was more than happy to pick it up and score an easy one, giving the Stars penalty kill yet another goal against.
Not to be outdone, Ward allowed a similar goal later in the period. He thought he had the post covered, and Adam Cracknell managed to find a small space to bump the puck in off his back from behind the net. Carolina challenged the goal for goaltender interference, which was odd considering Cracknell was standing beside the net when the puck crossed over and didn’t make much (if any) contact with a player in red to begin with. Of course, the goal stood after review and the Stars’ luck in terms of goal reviews continued – one area they can consider as a positive for the season.
Dallas was able to shut down any momentum Carolina had after cutting the lead to two early on in the third period with that goal. There weren’t many quality chances against by the visitors after either, allowing Dallas to seal the win with a final score of 5-2.