When the Stars began this road trip back on Sunday evening, there was some hope they’d continue the ride they’ve been on in February and win at least one of the three games they came to California to play. Tonight’s game was the second half of a back-to-back, but there was reason to believe they could pull out a win after two demoralizing losses on the road. In 8 back-to-back instances this year, the Stars have won 6 of the second halves. Apparently, they like playing tired. They’re perverse like that.
And thankfully, they were feeling it tonight.
On the other hand, the Los Angeles Kings have kept their opponent to one goal or fewer 18 times this season. A feat that is pretty impressive on the face of it, but then you take a peek at their record and in the last six games their opponents have scored 20 goals. And seven of those were from the Carolina Hurricanes. This trend continued tonight, with two goals for the Stars.
But first, let’s talk about the lines deployed in this game. The Stars have one of the most productive lines in the NHL in Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, and Alexander Radulov. And yet, despite being held entirely scoreless by the Anaheim Ducks last night, Jamie Benn’s return to center continues with Devin Shore and Radulov as his wingers. Making changes on the fly during a rout is understandable, sticking with what didn’t work the night before is perhaps less so.
Still, that’s what the Stars were left with, and that may be why the Stars had precisely two shots on goal in the first period. Those shots came early, and neither of them was on the two minutes of man advantage given to them by Jake Muzzin’s slashing penalty on Gemel Smith.
It’s also because the Kings defense was good at keeping the Stars to the perimeters, but the Stars did an awful lot of puck dumping for their zone entries, and that’s a hard way to control any play in the offensive end.
The good news is that, unlike the last fifteen games, the Stars didn’t let the opposing team score in the first period either, despite the Kings superior number of shots on goal and two power plays. Part of that was a low event period in general, and part of it was Kari Lehtonen coming up with big saves when necessary.
Whatever the reason for it, the game remained scoreless through the first.
The lines went in the blender again to start the second. Benn, Seguin, and Radulov were still not reunited, but the team did have a much better second period. As good as Lehtonen had to be in the first, that was Jonathan Quick in the second, who stoned both Radek Faksa and Mattias Janmark point blank in the first half of the second.
The Stars went from 2 shots on goal to 11 by the halfway mark, while keeping the Kings to only one shot. They also, thank goodness, managed to not take any more penalties.
The best defense is a good offense, and that’s what the Stars employed here, until the dying minutes of the frame. For most of the period, the Stars at least held nominal control of the play. But in those last few minutes, chaos reigned, the Kings tried really, really hard to score, almost scored a few times, and the Stars just scrambled, trying really, really hard to stop them. Thankfully, some big saves from Lehtonen and Dan Hamhuis kept the score 0-0 through the end of the period.
In the third, the Stars finally broke the seal on the Kings net. After a lot more of the effort we saw in the second, the Stars won a faceoff in the Kings zone. Seguin got the puck out to Greg Pateryn, who returned the favor with a slap shot that Tyler Seguin tipped into the goal for his 30th of the season. This marks the 4th time in 5 seasons with the Stars that Seguin has hit the 30 goal mark. He’s currently six behind Alexander Ovechkin, the league leader.
For the added insurance, Radulov scored into the empty netter from 120 feet away while falling against the boards.
And that’s the road trip! The Stars will be back home in the AAC on Saturday night for a game against the Winnipeg Jets.