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Wild Top Stars 3-1, Stars Losing Streak Extends to Three Games

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Well that wasn’t what most expected tonight.

NHL: Minnesota Wild at Dallas Stars Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

In seasons past, the Dallas Stars seemed to lack the killer mentality necessary to put games away.

After tonight’s game, new head coach Jim Montgomery saw some of that creep into the game. “We go up one-nothing and our mentality has got to be ‘step on their throats’ and our mentality is, I think…I don’t know exactly, but I think we get result-oriented and we start managing looking at the clock instead of playing through the game.”

Montgomery noted that there are a lot of Stars forwards that are not confident in terms of scoring right now. However, he also believes that they aren’t putting in the work to get to the “greasy areas” to generate goals. I’d imagine that will be a subject of practice between now and the next game.

The losing streak has everyone frustrated. But the good news is that it’s only seven games into the season. Yes, there are some similarities to how the end of last season occurred, causing fans more consternation than I think is warranted at this stage. I say that because this is a whole new coach, with a new system that the team is still adapting to. Montgomery has to have some lead time to get the team playing how he wants them to play. It’s not fair to point to all the same issues and lay them at his feet when they’re likely stemming from something different than last season.

Montgomery mentioned two things that are telling to me tonight – mentality (culture) and confidence. Those two things aren’t easily fixed overnight, and some guys will have a harder time shedding those husks and getting beyond years of yore. It may take more than seven games to get there.

Give the team a chance to play through this and the reward is likely going to be good. They’ve showed it in spurts this season, so the potential is there. There’s just some hurdles to get around before it’s consistently showing for the collective group.

First Period

There wasn’t much to write home about in the first period. It took over 10 minutes before the Stars registered a shot on goal as the Wild clogged up the neutral zone and any lanes Dallas might have found to generate offense. Dallas was equally effective in limiting Minnesota’s chances, and the first 20 minutes of this one just kind of….happened. Nothing too high, nothing too low, just a relatively boring uneventful period of hockey.

We wouldn’t blame you if you fell asleep during that stretch, either.

Second Period

While the scoring was equally uneventful in the second period (as in, there was none – on either side), it wasn’t for a lack of trying on the part of the Stars. They put up 24 shots on goal against Devan Dubnyk in the middle 20 minutes, and he was an absolute brick wall.

It wasn’t just the volume of shots he faced, either. There were several times where Dallas was able to get the puck to the net and create chaos there – lots of bodies all over the place, Dubnyk down in his crease, and the puck just wouldn’t find its way to the back of the net.

Nothing quite embodied that period like the shot where it went through Dubnyk’s five hole and rang off the post and out during one of those net-front scrambles.

Minnesota had a few high danger chances that period also, but Dallas seemed to outperform them in possession. Ben Bishop was equally as big when he needed to be, and this one looked to be headed to a 1-0 game where the losing team believes they deserved a better fate.

Third Period

This seems fine.

What’s worse - the lack of depth scoring or the scoring drying up altogether? If I had to pick, I’m going depth scoring because at least when the big guns score it makes the game fun.

Luckily, that streak only lasted another 36 seconds, as Miro Heiskanen put a phenomenal shot on goal that was just lightly redirected by Jason Spezza in front of Dubnyk, breaking that shutout streak for the Stars.

The Stars would hang onto that lead for well over half the period before they would surrender the tying goal.

The second Wild goal was a series of unfortunate events. After getting hemmed into their own zone a little bit, Ryan Suter threw the puck towards the net front. It found Esa Lindell standing protecting the side of the net Bishop was not at as he was squared up to the shooter. It bounced off of him, and Bishop’s skate seemed to push it in over the line when he realized where the puck was going.

It was bad luck, and every team will have goals like that happen to them throughout the year. It’s just something that has to be fought through, and you hope the luck evens out over the course of the season.

“I thought for two periods and four minutes we did a good job of [playing patient],” Spezza said after the game. “We carried the play and carried the chances. Let a team like that hang around and stuff like that can happen.”

Other Observations….

*This was by far Devin Shore’s best game of the season so far. He was a factor on special teams. In possibly the best penalty kill play so far this year, Shore made a diving play to clear the puck out of the zone after his PK unit had been in their zone for a bit of time, effectively ending Minnesota’s power play as the time expired when they retrieved the puck. Shore also drew a penalty as well, putting Dallas on the man advantage (even if they did not ultimately score on the power play, that’s still impacting the game in a positive manner.

*One of the most frustrating aspects of tonight’s game was the shots that were forced, going right into the shin pads of the opposition. Even when there wasn’t a need for the shot because the puck carrier wasn’t overly pressured, it seemed to be a trademark in the game.

*Spezza has been creating a lot of chances, and it was nice to see him finally have one go in. Would have made for a really pretty first NHL goal by Miro Heiskanen, though, had his shot gone in un-deflected.

*Dallas now has a three game losing streak to contend with as the Los Angeles Kings come to town on Tuesday.