Are you not entertained?
It seems the Dallas Stars just needed to play a pair of desperate California teams to find their depth scoring and get some of their swagger back after struggling through a three-game losing streak. There were goals galore tonight, including several firsts of the season – and even a career first goal.
But more than the scoring showing up was the Stars’ mentality in the third period with a big lead over the Anaheim Ducks.
Head coach Jim Montgomery has remarked several times on how the team gets “result-oriented” when trying to lock down leads. Instead of continuing to play their style, they’ve gotten a little too passive and tried to protect the lead with minimal effort. It’s something Montgomery has said has to change, citing he’d rather see a “boot-to-throat” kind of mentality instead.
After all, that’s what good teams do.
Tonight, the Stars built that big lead in the second period and did not back off of it in the last 20 minutes of the game. “It was the first time I thought was a 60-minute complete game,” head coach Jim Montgomery said after the 5-2 win. “Tonight’s game, I thought if you look at the picture of what Stars hockey should look like, that’s tonight. We possessed the puck, we moved fast, we were physical, we defended well. I mean, there was maybe only two or three times I can remember – and [Ryan] Getzlaf made us pay – that we didn’t have pressure on the puck.”
Montgomery saw a lot to be pleased with about tonight’s game, stating that the Stars are trending in the right direction now. “Sooner or later, we’re going to get to that level of play you saw tonight. Which is going to be fun for our city and fun for our fans.”
The game started a lot like Tuesday night’s game versus the Los Angeles Kings with the Stars doing a lot of the puck possession early in the period. It paid off when Jason Dickinson would create space in the offensive zone for an unassisted goal, his first of the season.
Unfortunately, that didn’t last too long, as Ryan Getzlaf had an unassisted snipe of his own on Stars netminder Ben Bishop. It came from a gassed third line caught in their own zone and a Radek Faksa passing/clearing attempt up ice that ended up being a turnover. Good players will capitalize on slip-ups like that, and Getzlaf’s shot is still very good. It was also his first of the season.
That was a theme in tonight’s game.
Roman Polak scored his first of the season (and is now half-way to his last season goal total) off a beautiful keep-in at the blueline by Dickinson. He then passed the puck off to Polak who skated right down the side and backhand shelfed it right over Gibson.
Overall, the Stars pretty much dominated play in terms of zone time, zone entries, and shots on goal in the opening frame. The only time Anaheim had much sustained zone time was in one of the ebbs of the flow of the game near the end of the first period. Bishop was big when he needed to be to make sure the team could get back into gear.
The second period was B-A-N-A-N-A-S, not unlike the last time these two teams met one another.
When Getzlaf scored his second goal of the season (and night) to tie it up, Esa Lindell took major exception to getting bumped into his goaltender by Nick Ritchie, so the two started to trade crosschecks after the whistle. That led to an all-out line melee where even Bishop reached in to get a punch or two on a Duck.
What came out of it was Radek Faksa’s fighting finesse absolutely out-matching Marcus Petersson and some offsetting penalties to Lindell and N. Ritchie.
Dallas got back to their game after the penalty mess following that tying goal by seeing Miro Heiskanen score his first ever NHL goal. You can see our breakdown of that goal here. It’s worth a watch – and a read to understand that this goal was the result of a fantastic shift by the rookie that started at the other end of the ice.
Not to be left out, Mattias Janmark also scored his first goal of the season off a nice heads-up stretch pass through the neutral zone by Julius Honka. He skated towards Gibson with speed and his hard shot rang in and around the net.
Much like in the last meeting between these two teams, Dallas outshot and outplayed Anaheim by a wide margin in the middle frame and had a bevy of goals as a result. Good things happen when they impose their will upon the game.
With the three goal lead heading into the last frame, the Stars didn’t have to do much more than lock the game down for 20 minutes. They were able to do so, but they also didn’t look passive doing it. Yes, they ended up outshot in the last period, but it wasn’t an extreme advantage by Anaheim. Dallas still had a few dangerous looks and constantly looked to turn the puck up-ice. They skated into the zone and looked like they were hunting for another goal to really seal the game away.
They didn’t always make the safe, easy outlet to exit the zone and reset in a defensive posture. That’s what was missing in the other games where Montgomery said the team got “result-oriented”.
With the seconds ticking off in the last minute of the game, Honka had a shot squeak through Gibson but it didn’t have enough force to get all the way to the net. He was very close to scoring his own first of the season, but he’ll have to wait until next game to try again as the Stars win 5-2.
*I’m not sure what interference was tonight. Both the Stars and the Ducks committed what seemed from my vantage to be interference worth calling penalties on. But the referees set the tone in the first period that it didn’t meet their level for calling that – whatever that level was tonight. Maybe it was a “let them play the game” kind of night tonight, but once the two sides started to get chippy, more roughings and slashes were handed out.
*Tyler Seguin cannot find a goal past this team if he had a map and a flashlight or offered it $10,000 to show itself. It’s not for lack of trying, that’s for sure. Gibson has absolutely stoned him on some point-blank chances this season. It’s now been six games since he has scored a goal. (Not unsurprisingly, the Stars lost three of those games. Coincidence? Methinks it definitely does not help.)
*One thing the Stars seemed to do well this game was the support the blueline had when the Ducks would skate into the zone. There were almost always three guys in green there to keep it from developing into a straight rush towards Bishop, forcing the puck carrier to the outside or to turn the puck over.
*The next Stars game is Sunday afternoon in Detroit. By our count, that’s over 65 hours to watch Heiskanen’s goal on repeat.