The Dallas Stars started their latest road trip with a thud, losing to the playoffs-bound San Jose Sharks 5-1. It didn’t have to be that way, and at least in the first period it looked as if it might not end that way.
This may be a good time just to look for the bright moments in the slog to the season’s end. They do exist, and they may be more enjoyable if we take them for what they are.
Let’s review, because we might as well.
Usually when someone brings in a rookie netminder, the Stars get shut out, or so the DBD lore goes. It doesn’t help when Razor and Luddy inform us that Aaron Dell was a protégé of none other than Ed Belfour, so you might be forgiven if you buckled up early in anticipation of a loooooong evening.
Sure enough, the Sharks bit first when Logan Couture grabbed a turnover and found Patrick Marleau standing all alone in front of Kari Lehtonen with nary a Star to be seen. (Stop me if you think you’ve heard this one before.)
And then there went Ales Hemsky, trying to grab a goal back seconds later, racing in for a shot and then shooting his own rebound. Dell wasn’t having it, unfortunately, and you can see where this might be going already, yeah?
Dallas actually looked pretty mobile this period, and Dan Hamhuis got a nice wraparound chance near the period midpoint. But the Sharks clogged up the neutral zone something fierce, and neither team was getting out of the zone cleanly.
That lack of order cost the Sharks, too, as Joonas Donskoi turned over the puck in the D-zone and gave Remi Elie his first NHL goal off a nice assist from Hemsky. The Elie-Hemsky-Cody Eakin line was responsible for quite a bit of offense this period, and the Stars as a team hustled to the point where the Sharks fans in the arena actually started booing their first-in-the-Pacific team for looking so slow next to Our Gang.
It was attack attack attack after that, and the Stars created some good chances, but Joe Pavelski was the next to score, on a two-on-one and from pretty much the same spot where Marleau found net.
The Stars caught a power play with less than a minute left in the period when Brent Burns left the ice for tripping Curtis McKenzie. It lasted only seconds before Patrick Sharp went off for high-sticking Jannik Hansen (who was visibly trying to squeeze out a little blood for the double-minor, to no avail).
TL;DR the Stars outshot the Sharks 15-6 and won most of the face-offs but still left the ice down one despite All the Offense. It happens to them all the time.
The last minute or so of 4-on-4 play, plus the Sharks’ 10-second power play, ended uneventfully, and it looked as if the Stars would get down to the work of evening up the score again.
Then Joel Ward got the Sharks’ third goal, and Kari left the net for former Shark Antti Niemi. The reset seemed to help a bit as Niemi made some excellent saves and the Stars started to press for chances, killing off a slashing penalty to Stephen Johns and moving the puck decently well.
It looked as if the Stars could start making up some ground when Michael Haley got called for holding the stick of Jamie Oleksiak. But the Sharks set out to make up some offense this period, and they started with the PK.
Pavelski got his second goal of the game unassisted on what we may now call The Inevitable Short-Handed Chance. It was a deflating moment that not even the successful kill of a Tyler Seguin high-sticking penalty could lighten.
The Stars would leave the ice first in the league in SHGs allowed as well as in goaltenders pulled. This is the wrong kind of consistency to have, but everyone already knows that. Moving on.
What’s left to say? Chris Tierney got the Sharks’ fifth goal of the night just past three minutes into this period, and this marked the Sharks’ conclusive win of the high-danger chances derby.
Elie took his first NHL penalty in this period, getting called for holding after getting on the wrong side of Marc-Edouard Vlasic during a board battle. Esa Lindell had a fantastic moment during the successful kill, earning a takeaway through sheer cussedness and then sprinting into the offensive zone for a shot that went wide on Dell’s stick side.
Again, Hemsky was noticeable in the good ways. He’d finish the game with 3 shots on goal, one takeaway and the assist on Elie’s goal and emerged as one of the evening’s few bright spots. Well, and Niemi denied Pavelski the hat trick, so there was that.
Paradoxically, the Stars won the other numbers games: 55 percent on face-offs, 30-26 SoG advantage, killing all five of the Sharks’ power-play chances.
They also left both goaltenders out to dry, allowed yet another shorty and are chasing a league record for netminder substitutions.
The Stars will play the Sharks twice more in the next 12 days. Collect ’em all.
See you next time.