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From Disaster to Delicious: Stars win 4-2 on the Road in Detroit

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Spezza Spezza in the new Little Caesars arena.

NHL: Dallas Stars at Detroit Red Wings Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports

Goodbye to the old Joe Louis Arena and hello to Little Caesars: the Dallas Stars were in Detroit tonight to play Trevor Daley’s new team in their new arena.

The Stars were on the second night of a back-to-back, coming off an overtime victory yesterday afternoon in Boston, where Tyler Seguin scored the game winning goal in overtime. The Detroit Red Wings were coming off short back-to-back road trip in Pittsburgh and Chicago, with two wildly different results.

Earlier this season in Dallas, the Stars beat the Red Wings 2-4, and were hoping to rekindle that magic against the Red Wings again tonight.

It did not look like they would in the first minute of play. Forty-four seconds into the game, John Klingberg lost the puck in the neutral zone. Tyler Bertuzzi carries the puck to the net, gets a shot off, gets the rebound, carries the rebound behind the net, and (this is where it all went wrong for the Stars) Ben Bishop follows him behind the net. Bertuzzi passes it out front to Trevor Daley, who comes in and gets the shot off with Bishop still not even in the net. It wasn’t a good look.

But, hope was not lost. Almost two minutes later, Esa Lindell shot a long wrister from the point that Radek Faksa redirected in front for his 11th goal of the season.

And then, during a power play for the Stars when Luke Witkowski elbowed Martin Hanzal, Dominic Turgeon knocks the puck over the glass trying to clear the zone, and the Stars went on a 66 second 5-on-3. And then true magic happened. Not only did the Stars have a good puck movement during a 5-on-3 opportunity, Jason Spezza got his first goal since December 9.

It is, perhaps, not the prettiest of goals, but it is the happiest of goals.

The Stars chased the puck a bit in the second period, and then Alexander Radulov took an obvious hooking penalty that landed him in the penalty box. Thankfully, the Stars killed that penalty.

Then, a little over halfway through the period, Bertuzzi again catches the Stars unaware. While the Stars are figuring themselves out on a line change, he passes the puck all way up the ice to Andreas Athanasiou, who had literally no one between him and Bishop and only Greg Pateryn on his heels.

Stephen Johns lands a clean hit that Witkowski rang the bell for. While he should have gotten an instigator penalty (and the automatic minor/10 minute misconduct that goes along with it), the refs decided instead to give him a roughing minor in addition to the five minute fighting major.

It still ended up as a power play for the Stars, so I won’t complain too much about what they called it. And on this power play, Jason Spezza made magic again, this time with a truly excellent pass from Radulov.

Second goal of the night for Jason Spezza, who is coming off a healthy scratch last night in Boston. The worry here is that the narrative will be what the narrative will be, that benching works and Hitchcock was right to do it, instead of the fact that scoring droughts happen and Spezza has consistently been placed with some less than stellar linemates this season. As Robert Tiffin pointed out in the Afterwords yesterday, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to pair Spezza with Hanzal and then scratch Spezza for not playing better.

The narrative is up to you.

But back to the game.

A little under halfway through the period, the Red Wings had zero shots on goal. And then a little over halfway through the period, Remi Elie carries the puck through the neutral zone, gets the shot off, and Martin Hanzal comes behind and clears up the rebound.

This picture was taken right after the goal:

Some textbook goal coverage.

With four minutes left in the game, the Red Wings pulled their goalie. Even with six attackers, they only managed another four shots on goal. The Stars managed as many shots at the empty net, but weren’t able to cash in on anything.

Although, it is pretty obvious that the shot count is not quite the entire story. Looking at the shot pressure as recorded by Micah Blake McCurdy:

From hockeyviz.com

For shot pressure, Micah counts all shots, including blocks, redirects, and missed shots. So while it wasn’t close, by any means, it certainly wasn’t the picture painted by the shot count.

But that’s the game, Stars gave up an early goal but managed to keep the Red Wings to only one more goal and they win two back-to-back games on the road. Thursday they’re in Columbus to face the Blue Jackets.