Just two nights ago the Dallas Stars eked their way into the top three in the Central with a 2-1 win over the St. Louis Blues. Tonight, they kicked off their California road trip, hoping to pick up an important six points in the next three games. Unfortunately, the Sharks were also interested in winning a game.
San Jose has been having mixed results over the last several games, but are sitting pretty in the second spot in the Pacific. They’re probably not going to catch the Golden Knights, but they’re only two points out of not making the playoffs at all, so every point definitely counts.
And unfortunately, the stars just did not align for the Stars tonight. Twenty-seven seconds into this hockey game, Joe Pavelski drew first blood in a wild scramble in front of the net. After a really great penalty kill for the Stars against what is statistically a really great power play for the Sharks, Melker Karlsson caught a really weird bounce off the back boards and slipped the puck in behind Ben Bishop.
That’s when Stars coach Ken Hitchcock decided to try the old line blender and moved Antoine Roussel to the top line with Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov and Jamie Benn down to the second line. Which seemed to work for a little bit, as the Roussel-Seguin-Radulov lines had some of the best sustained pressure of the first period.
And Radulov did eventually score . . . into his own net. Mikkel Boedker was trying a cross slot pass which Radulov tried really hard to interrupt and he did, by deflecting it into his own goal.
Boedker shoots from the circle towards Tierney and Radulov's stick is there to deflect it past Bishop. 3-0 Sharks. pic.twitter.com/9D99cEw1ap— Dylan Nadwodny (@dnadders) February 19, 2018
What happened next was “technical difficulties.” The screen went black and when the game came back, it was 4-0. What I’ve learned later was that Boedker scored his second of the first period off some nice passing work from Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Chris Tierney. This was first tallied as a power play goal and was later changed to an even strength goal, so the Stars penalty kill remained 2 for 2 through the second period. Not much of a silver lining but beggars can’t be choosers.
And that chased Ben Bishop out of the net. Kari Lehtonen played the final two minutes of the first period. Bishop finished the night with a save percentage of .200.
In the second, Lehtonen also proved to be leaky, allowing Justin Braun a long shot from the top of the zone through traffic to get past him. That would be all the Sharks could do in the second, but since the Stars still couldn’t get their offense rolling, that one goal was plenty to win the period, and the Sharks were still up 5-0 through two periods.
That was five goals on eight shots, by the way, but the Stars were shotless in the second through ten minutes, so it was actually worse than it sounds. The closest the Stars came to a goal through forty was Jamie Benn’s crossbar strike as the buzzer sounded to end the second.
This game was not destined to end in total despair though. Gemel Smith came through with the shut out buster at 5:35 into the third period. And then Tyler Pitlick broke through the Sharks defense with Roussel and Klingberg for a goal about three minutes later.
That assist has John Klingberg up to 54 points in 59 games. He was already leading the league, but now he’s leading the league by more.
And that was the game. The Stars clawed up from a 5-0 deficit to lose at a slightly more respectable 5-2. The road trip continues in Anaheim on Wednesday night.