Where was this team all season long?
These games are the ones that can be so frustrating in an already frustrating season. The offense was there, the defense was there, the goaltending was there – it all came together tonight in a dominant win over one of the best teams in the Western Conference.
It gives you a glimpse of what this team might have been had they gotten more luck and health at the start of the season. Or what could have been had the defense been able to work together like this all season, keeping the opposition to just 21 shots on goal (a lot of which was from the perimeter).
But we can look at this in a different way. We can see this as a beacon of hope: that the team doesn’t need a complete blow up to be successful but rather some tweaking. They still have some talent here to get them to the end game next season.
So in a frustrating season, that’s how I’m going to choose to see this game. I’m going to enjoy the absolute dominant offensive evening and take pleasant surprise in the ability of this defense to limit some shots. I’m going to enjoy the sweet gift of victory, and realize that there aren’t many games left in this season before there are no more until the fall.
Because even as hair-pullingly frustrating this season may have been, hockey is better than no hockey. (The offseason is going to be so long this year…)
The first period seemed like it was going to be a bit of a snooze fest to start. Luckily, the boring style of play was more on the San Jose Sharks side of the equation than the Dallas Stars. Dallas had several quality chances, including one really close chance by Tyler Seguin, before cashing in first.
Adam Cracknell was the benefit of heads-up plays by Jason Spezza and Curtis McKenzie as he went to the front of the net and caused enough havoc to dislodge Aaron Dell from his game.
San Jose wouldn’t put up much in the way of offensive threats, but Dallas wasn’t exactly banging the door down either. The period would end with Dallas up 1-0 in scoring and just 11 combined shots on goal (7-4 advantage Dallas).
While the first period was a little nap-worthy, the middle frame was the very opposite. This was the period where Dallas decided all the goals belonged to them. They would manage to put three more behind Dell to build a 4-0 lead.
Brett Ritchie, after a few looks in which he was unable to get a good shot on net because of hesitation in his release, snapped a quick one right over Dell’s shoulders for the second Stars goal of the game just two minutes into the period.
Three minutes later, off a set play on the faceoff, the Sharks would leave Jamie Benn completely uncovered on Dell’s doorstep, and Benn made it look too easy as he scored goal number three. Goal four was another great shift by the Spezza-Cracknell-Eakin trio with Cracknell once again rewarded for his play at the front of the net.
The Sharks called timeout after the fourth goal allowed by Dell. One would imagine that they would likely have pulled him and put Martin Jones in if they weren’t playing in Nashville tomorrow night.
The period wasn’t without its blemishes, though, because that’s not the season Dallas is having this year. John Klingberg would take a delay of game penalty when he shot the puck out of play in his own zone. The penalty kill unit of the Stars lasted an entire six seconds before Joe Thornton solved them and Kari Lehtonen to get the Sharks on the board.
The goal ended nearly 88 straight minutes of shutout time against the Sharks by Lehtonen dating back to Monday night’s game.
Let the good times roll, they said. It’ll be fun, they said.
For tonight, they were right.
Dallas kept their offensive momentum going in the third period, jamming home two additional goals. The first was Cracknell cutting off Dell’s center-ice shot, potting the goal right past the Sharks goaltender for a shorthanded goal, giving him the hat trick (the first of his career). I struggle to think of a more memorable exclamation point than having your third goal come shorthanded, honestly.
On the ensuing shift, after all the hats were collected from the ice, Spezza took the puck down into the offensive zone and had the patience to hang onto it as Klingberg was coasting in behind him on the opposite wing. A quick cross-ice pass and the game was well out of hand as the Stars made the score 6-1.
They’d get a few additional odd-man rushes through the rest of the period but did not cash in again. The Sharks, on the other hand, didn’t really sustain much offensive pressure with the game so far out of hand, coming close to scoring only a handful of times.
Not so good moment in the third period for San Jose forward Chris Tierney, who got half-checked into the boards near his own bench. Unfortunately, it was right at the door, and the door happened to be open, so he more or less took the boards into the ribs instead of sliding along them. He had to crawl into the bench to get off the ice, likely because he had the wind knocked out of him, but was on the ice for his next shift.