Just 24 hours after Dallas Stars CEO Jim Lites publicly aimed a profanity-laced tirade at the team’s top players, the team had to find a way to move beyond what happened and take care of business as the Detroit Red Wings came to town.
After all, home is where the Stars have actually been quite successful overall this season, collecting points more often than not playing on the friendly confines of American Airlines Center ice. With a home-heavy portion of the schedule upcoming after a road-heavy first half, setting the tone was important for the Stars as they play their next six on home ice, starting with tonight’s game.
The tone was set as the Stars took a commanding 5-1 win over a team that they should have beat. The Detroit Red Wings are not a good hockey club right now, and teams that make the playoffs find a way to take points off the Red Wings of the league. There’s not many of them – the standings are still very tight, and in the tough Central Division, they’ll only stay that way. Two points earned is two more points to help move Dallas up the standings.
Neither the players, the coaches, or the front office are happy with where the team is right now and the play they’ve had to get there. Head coach Jim Montgomery said in the post-game media scrum that his team needs to play good hockey more consistently to consider tonight’s win and Thursday’s win over the Nashville Predators as building into something.
That starts with finding a consistent effort within the game, something the Stars struggled with yet again tonight.
The first roughly 15ish minutes of the first period were honestly boring, outside of one offensive zone cycle shift by the Stars. The Red Wings and Stars had a lot of one-and-done chances against the other, and Ben Bishop made some saves when needed, even though maybe only three of them were of a quality variety. Like it seems to be with the Stars this season, a lot of the shots he did see were from distance because the five-man unit in front of him is good at closing off that high danger area (for the most part). They limited Detroit to only three quality scoring chances the whole period.
Luckily, the team finally started to find the offensive zone consistently near the end of the period, racking up a 17-7 shots on goal by the end of the period. Unfortunately, none of those found their way past Jonathan Bernier, and for seemingly the umpteenth time this season the period ended scoreless for both teams.
The offense came alive in the second period thanks to a strong game from Alexander Radulov. After Blake Comeau took a really nice pass from Radek Faksa and tipped one in five minutes into the period, Radulov managed to tally twice to put the game out of reach of the Red wings with nearly half the game left to be played.
Mattias Janmark setup Radulov’s first goal when he took a stretch pass from Esa Lindell in the neutral zone and found Radulov streaking towards the net. The second goal he scored tonight was honestly more of the kind that Montgomery mentioned needing more of in days past – the third effort by Radulov to the right of Bernier on a loose puck battle made that one a possibility. The second Radulov goal capped off one of the best power plays the Stars have had in recent memory. There was crisp passing and a lot of puck movement that drew penalty killers out of position.
Detroit was again limited in their shots on goal, with Dallas outshooting them 16-8 in the second frame and 33-15 in the game by that point. Basically the game was never even really all that close once Dallas started to play hockey at the 15 minute mark of the first frame.
Tonight was definitely not Bernier’s night. The lead was further extended when Tyler Pitlick got a drop pass from Faksa and wristed one right over Bernier. The goal was just 31 seconds into the period, and pretty much sealed away the win for the Stars. Roughly two minutes later, Jason Spezza would pick off a Red Wings pass just inside their own blueline and fire a wrist shot right over Bernier.
Unfortunately, a full 60 minute effort was not in the cards, as the Stars decided to have a penalty box parade for the majority of the third period after increasing that lead to five goals. No back-to-back shutouts for the team would be realized tonight, and sadly, it was due to an own-goal from Esa Lindell. He was trying to redirect the puck away form the net as Dylan Larkin stood right in Bishop’s kitchen, and sadly put it right past his own goaltender.
That is not the way you want to break the shutout for your goaltender, that’s for sure.
The undisciplined play continued as Dallas got called for several obstruction calls – hooking was the call du jour. Dallas appeared to surrender a second power play goal against, but video coach Kelly Forbes continued his stellar history of challenges, and the Stars won on a goaltender interference on the goal.
Montgomery was definitely not impressed with the way the team played late in the game, even if they were up by so many goals and the game was out of reach for Detroit anyway. “I’m not happy with it,” he said post-game. “I think it took away the momentum in the third period. When you’re playing with a five-nothing or 5-1 lead, you know that, you know, the penalties might come against you. It’s just human nature. You can’t give refs the opportunity by taking your stick off the ice, you have to defend with your stick on the ice and you have to skate to the defensive side. You know, we had three stick penalties and one elbow.”
The real sad part to the end of the game, however, was that since it was not a close contest, it was not a given that Radulov could get his hat trick via an empty net goal. He was out on the ice a lot in the last couple of minutes and the team kept sending it his way in an effort to get that for him, but nothing came of it.
Though to be honest, “settling” for a two-goal game from Radulov is far from settling. The man is a gift and a joy to watch after he scores when he celebrates, and we can only imagine what that hat trick celebration would have looked like tonight.
Especially after the last 24 hours the team has had.
More Lites-Centric Notes
There were a few other things that came out during tonight’s game as a result of CEO Jim Lites’ comments ripping into Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin yesterday, including a statement from team owner Tom Gaglardi and reports of a response from the NHLPA. We’ll have more on that tomorrow as they warrant their own story and analysis of what it all means.