“You have been weighed. You have been measured. And you have absolutely been found wanting.”
The characters at the end of the movie standing over the fallen jerk knight telling him that might as well be the Winnipeg Jets of late standing over the fallen Dallas Stars. After losing eight of the last nine games played versus this opponent, Dallas was out to rewrite the script with a new director behind the bench in Jim Montgomery.
Rewrite it they did. In a game that offered a chance to measure themselves against the class of the Central Division, Dallas recorded a quality win over the Jets as the top line of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, and Alexander Radulov connected for five goals tonight, including two power play tallies.
If both teams had come out in this one and had a bit of a feeling out process, it would have been understandable. After all, Dallas has been beaten resoundingly in many of their recent tilts with Winnipeg. Winnipeg, meanwhile, hadn’t seen the new-style Dallas team yet, as the two teams didn’t faceoff against one another in the preseason.
Dallas was more than prepared to show their puck-possession style off against a formidable foe.
On the scoresheet, Alexander Radulov and Tyler Seguin scored a pair for the Stars in the first period. The goals came after Dallas had jumped out to a 13-4 lead in shots on goal at one point about halfway through the period. Radulov scored at even strength and Seguin scored off of the best power play shift we’ve probably witnessed from the Stars this season (including the preseason in this, because it’s just two games into the regular season, so…sample sizes and all that.)
A waived off goal was likely the spark that turned the tide of the power play. Winnipeg’s puck carrier bumped into Ben Bishop before the puck went into the net. The referee immediately waived it off for goaltender interference. Considering the definition of that penalty seems to move goal posts every time you blink, Dallas will take that turn of fortune and move right along. It honestly seemed borderline, and on another night that goal probably stands.
The real fireworks in the first period came near the very end when Dustin Byfuglien came into a scrum in the corner and then crosschecked Connor Carrick right into the boards. Brett Ritchie would let Winnipeg know of Dallas’ dislike of the maneuver when he dropped the gloves with Adam Lowry on the ensuing faceoff with just seconds left in the period. In my estimation, the tilt was fairly even as both Lowry and Ritchie got some good licks in on one another.
Unfortunately, the emotions at the end of the period didn’t give Dallas the same fire coming out of the gate as they had to start the game. Winnipeg would score just over two minutes into the second frame when Kyle Connor wristed one right through Bishop.
Not to worry though, as captain Jamie Benn restored the two-goal lead off of the best power play sequence we’ve seen from Dallas yet.
In the preseason, Montgomery indicated he wasn’t really concerned about the power play, and that was an example of why. The top unit of Benn, Seguin, Radulov, Jason Spezza and John Klingberg made crisp passes and really spread the Jets out on the ice leading up to the goal. Even Spezza netted a quality chance on the same power play because the Jets were so concerned about the puck movement around the edges that he was literally left all alone in the slot – the primest of scoring areas. If not for Connor Hellebuyck playing big in net, that would have been a sure goal.
The rest of the third period was relatively quiet as both teams tried to generate offense and both defenses did nice jobs of preventing any more scoring.
Winnipeg’s defense wore down in the third period. Dallas did not have many shots on goal thanks to scoring effects and the Jets’ need for offense to try to tie the game up. But what they did get was prime, grade-A quality and they made it count.
Dallas tacked on a second power play goal thanks to Benn, and Seguin shot one right over a sprawling Hellebuyck. Winnipeg had their chances and pushed the pace, ending up closer in shots on goal than the scoresheet reflected. However, Dallas did a good job of keeping a lot of the shots to the perimeter. When they faltered, Bishop was stellar.
For tonight, at least, it was the Jets on the ground and the Stars telling them they had been found wanting.
*Carrick is not giving the coaching staff any reason to pull him out of the lineup as he recorded another assist tonight on Radulov’s goal. He now has three on the season and is one of the top point leaders on the Stars squad. (Aren’t small sample sizes fun?)
*All of the special teams play tonight led to limited ice time for the fourth line. One thing of note: John Klingberg led blueliners in shorthanded time tonight (3:24). Dallas did not allow a single power play goal.
*The top line was on fire, and there are going to be nights like that. Two games into the season worries about the depth scoring ability might still linger. But as Montgomery reminded us tonight, it’s just two games and you don’t want to get too excited.