At the end of the season, a mark of 3-5-0 after eight games would not necessarily feel as momentous, as games that should have been won would have been won and games that should have been lost get stolen over the course of the full 82.
But a 4-4-0 mark feels a little better, like not being behind the eight ball quite as much.
The Dallas Stars beat a desperate team in a desperate situation. They didn’t want to drop to 3-5-0 to start the season and fall further behind their division mates by a wider margin. Now that they’re back to .500 hockey, they can start to dig out of the small hole they have created for themselves with an early season three-game losing streak. Two points and they’re a Wild Card team. It feels much more manageable and attainable with the win tonight.
A loss and that feeling would be very different.
The Los Angeles Kings fall to 2-6-1 with the loss tonight. They find themselves at the bottom of the Western Conference. Riding a five game losing streak, their hole is much bigger to dig out of. Dallas should beat Los Angeles in this situation. It’s what good teams do – beat teams lower than them in the standings.
It’s amazing what happens when you get a little depth scoring, some great goaltending saves, and a little dash of luck.
It may have looked even on paper in terms of shots on goal, but the Stars were much more deadly with their chances. Owen Newkirk tweeted after the first was over that the quality scoring chances were tabulated at 5-0.
Outside of a handful of shifts and one power play, the Stars spent more time in the offensive zone than the Kings seemed to. They were rewarded for it when a strong shift by the Jason Dickinson – Jason Spezza – Blake Comeau line executed some crisp puck movement. It all really started when he took the puck from Esa Lindell, who was wound up for a slapshot from the point. It caused some confusion amongst the Kings players with the quick directional change, and Dickinson took Spezza’s pass behind the net, hitting a wide open Comeau in the slot for his first as a Star.
Ladies and gentlemen, we spotted the unicorn that is depth scoring!
The only other big thing of note that happened in the first period was a penalty kill by Dallas. They did a pretty good job of limiting looks at Ben Bishop.
Things were a little more loose defensively on the ice as the Stars and Kings combined for four goals in the middle frame. Spezza continued his strong start to the season with a goal off of a juicy rebound from Jonathan Quick’s pads. Roughly half-way through the period, the Stars would have a multi-goal lead for the first time since the end of the match versus the Anaheim Ducks four games ago.
Then the defensive breakdowns crept into the game – on both sides.
Comeau nearly had a second goal on the night on a breakaway as he ended up behind the play and the Stars played heads-up enough to thread a pass to him for the chance. Quick came up with absolute robbery with an aggressive challenge near the top of his circle to prevent the goal. Almost immediately after that, Anze Kopitar would end up behind Lindell and John Klingberg on a breakaway of his own. Bishop appeared to make the save, but couldn’t squeeze together enough to stop the velocity of the puck. It trickled in and the Kings had finally hit the score board.
Just 22 seconds later, Dallas would answer when Klingberg scored his fifth goal of the season on a seeing-eye shot that appeared to deflect ever so slightly off a stick in front and get past Quick. It was exactly the kind of response you want to see the team have after getting scored on. It’s a complete halt to any kind of momentum that the Kings could have gained by cutting the lead in half.
Near the end of the period, Dallas would end up with another defensive gaffe that hit the back of the net. Tyler Toffoli was left uncovered and wristed one past Bishop from the slot.
After that, the chippiness that had been simmering under the surface came out leading to several penalties. First it was a Dallas power play, then Spezza’s tripping penalty took them off the job. A hi-stick by Ilya Kovalchuk on Comeau finally settled all the penalties with a 4-on-3 power play for Dallas. Because a fun back-and-forth affair is never free of drama, Klingberg appeared to get a second goal as the clock on the period expired. It was reviewed and the clock did, indeed, expire prior to the puck passing over the goal line. The near-buzzer beater was a no-go by merely a second or two.
The Kings made a bit of a push to start the third period after the shortened power play Dallas had after the penalty chaos at the end of the previous frame, as you would expect from the team down a goal. Dallas was able to bend with the pressure, and eventually they got some more zone time themselves.
As lethal as the power play is for Dallas these days, it was only a matter of time before they made that work for them. Tyler Pitlick scored his first goal of the season after a Seguin shot from the right circle rebounded and Jamie Benn was in front to try to clean up the trash. His screen allowed Pitlick to get to the puck and pot it home over the sprawling Quick who was busy trying to cover the puck so it didn’t end up on the stick of the Stars’ captain.
Bishop would come up big for the remainder of the period as the Kings pressured trying to get a goal. Eventually the score effects led to the Kings outshooting the Stars by the end of the game. The Kings appeared to pull within one with the goalie pulled, but their goal was eventually disallowed because it went in off Jeff Carter’s glove.
The third period was yet another example of Dallas getting “result-oriented”, as head coach Jim Montgomery said in the post-game. That’s still a mentality that needs to be moved past. But they’ll take the snap of their losing streak any day of the week and build on it for the next game.
*While he didn’t record a goal himself, I thought Dickinson had another strong game tonight. That Dickinson-Spezza-Comeau trio may be finding some chemistry together.
*Kind of a funny moment looking over and seeing Bishop hanging from the top of the crossbar like a weird scarecrow dressed like a goaltender. The puck had hit the glass high behind him and he didn’t know where it was going to come down. I imagine the move was an effort to ensure that the top of the net was covered so it couldn’t fall down and bounce in off his back side.
*Klingberg moved into a tie for the lead league in goals scored by defensemen with John Carlson (Washington Capitals) with his fifth goal of the year tonight. He’s a bit off the lead in terms of overall points, though – Morgan Reilly (Toronto Maple Leafs) has 14 and Klingberg has 8 total.
*Three different chances at the wide open net and not a one went in?