The Dallas Stars began their latest road trip with a goalie duel, which may have felt like an omen. And with James Reimer and his scary Joker grin at the Florida Panthers’ end, it may have felt like a bad one.
Then again, the Stars’ dads were riding along for their annual trip, and that too may have felt like an omen, this one of the good kind. And we saw quite a bit of good Stars-bad Stars in this game. Let’s begin.
The Stars’ first power play turned into 4-on-4 less than 30 seconds in after a tripping call on Esa Lindell. It set a bit of a tone for the period and set the team on something of a “good PK-bad PK” seesaw. At least the first kill was less than 30 seconds long.
Getting back to even strength didn’t seem as if it would help at first. A John Klingberg giveaway turned into a good chance for Jonathan Marchessault, but Kari Lehtonen was keeping stuff out. He needed to, because the Stars gave out another power play after Patrik Nemeth was called for holding the stick on former Star Reilly Smith. They also gave out a hair-raising number of turnovers in their own zone and would end up being outshot 17-9 during the period.
And yet the penalty kill looked...decent. Reinvigorated, even, with Remi Elie making his NHL debut and making the most of it. In fact, that grizzled vet and novice rail grinder Radek Faksa came thisclose to a shorty, only to be denied by a Reimer stop.
It wasn’t long before Captain Jamie Benn drew first blood, and this may be the easiest goal he scores all season:
If the Stars can stop giving up shorthanded opportunities, that would be good. Lehtonen kept this game from getting away from the team early and made a few major saves.
Alas, the Stars gave up a third power play with a tripping call on Stephen Johns, and this time the PK wasn’t up to the challenge. Jonathan Huberdeau got a goal in past a screen by former Star Jaromir Jagr with 3:40 left in the period.
With about two minutes left, former Star Jason Demers nearly put the Panthers up by 1, but his shot rang off a post. This was as good as any not-a-moment-too-soon on which to end the period, and so it did.
This period was all about missed chances for both teams. The Stars made a good start in the Panthers’ zone, generating two good chances in as many minutes. They also started making a point to even the SoG score, even though they would still end the period at a 29-24 disadvantage.
Once again, Elie stood out in the ways that count, helping to create chances throughout the period on a line with Cody Eakin and Ales Hemsky.
Demers hit the sin bin after getting called for holding Curtis McKenzie, which gave the Stars a chance to show us “good power play-bad power play.” They got off a flurry of shots in the first minute and then gave up yet another quality short-handed chance – this one on a up-ice rush by – wait for it! – former Star Colton Sceviour, who might have gotten the goal if he had taken the shot himself instead of passing.
It’s probably a good thing that the Panthers weren’t able to convert on their many, many odd-man rushes. Much of that was down to Kari, who stopped yet another chance created by the Lord and Sceviour during a 2-on-1 that nearly became a 3-on-1.
Lehtonen would also save the period in its final minute by falling on an Aaron Ekblad shot to keep it out of the net. Kari stopped another Ekblad attempt in the last seconds to send both teams to the dressing room, still deadlocked.
So now that they’re even as the third starts, does that mean we see good Stars or bad Stars? They came out looking energized, which was a good thing, because the Panthers weren’t ready to give up, either.
Did at least half this period go by in a nightmare flurry of Jagr shots and Lehtonen saves? (No? Just me, then.) It’s fair to say the Big Finn looked as much like his best self as he has all year; there’s no denying that he straight-up kept his team in the game for 40 minutes, I don’t care who you are.
It became more or less official that the first team to 2 would win about midway through this frame, and once Razor stated this out loud, it became more or less official that it would be the Panthers. Leave it to Klingberg, who seemed to spend so many wrong moments giving away the puck, to stand up straight and yell, “I SAY THEE NAAAAAAY!”:
Eakin won the final face-off in the Dallas end, with Florida’s empty net yawning in the distance and an extra attacker on the ice. There was no EN goal, and that didn’t matter.
This was only the Stars’ eighth road win of the 2016-17 season to date. They lost the special-teams battle and often looked as green as their jerseys. Yet Kari stopped 41 of 42 shots and for once this season had something to show for a stand-on-his-head road performance. That performance made some smaller miracles possible.
It’s either too early or too late to call this a turnaround, but at least it’s fun to watch.
Next stop, Washington, D.C. Enjoy the trip, StarsDads.