We knew tonight’s game versus the New York Rangers could have ended in a 2-1 score. After all, these teams played each other very tightly in December in New York.
With both teams desperate for two points, the Stars managed to come back from a one-goal deficit to squeak out the win in yet another close contest against the Eastern Conference team. They won both games in the two game series this season and only gave away one point to the Rangers. (Now if they could only figure a way to do that to Western Conference foes, too.)
The Stars won the special teams battle, scoring a power play goal and keeping the Rangers from getting one in their myriad of chances. At even strength, the Stars played them very well and easily could have won this one by a much wider margin if the Rangers didn’t have an elite goaltender minding their net.
Much like they did in the first intermission versus the Minnesota Wild on Saturday night, the Stars dominated the Rangers in puck possession. They spent more time in the offensive zone than in the defensive end, and racked up a 21-9 shot on goal advantage. Henrik Lundqvist was under water, and he being the elite goaltender that he is, kept the Rangers from digging a hole to climb out of.
Instead, the scoreboard wouldn’t reflect the Stars’ dominance at the end of 20 minutes.
With a little more than two minutes left in the period, a neutral zone turnover by the Stars led to a shot on goal that just dribbled right pad Ben Bishop’s leg pad and into the net. It was just the Rangers’ sixth shot on goal of the period.
It was one of those periods that has to be frustrating for the players as much as it is for the fans. They threw everything at the Rangers, and they bent but didn’t break. Everyone had to start wondering if the Stars would ever punch through, or if this was going to be one of those games in which a better fate was deserved but not in the cards.
Dallas didn’t let up their puck dominance in the second frame, winning as many of the second and third chances on puck battles much like the first. However, the frame felt a little more even between the two teams as the Rangers seemed to get their feet under them.
On a delayed call against the Rangers on a penalty drawn by Tyler Seguin, the Stars pulled Ben Bishop for an extra attacker. They’d spend extended time in the offensive zone getting looks on Lundqvist. After a quick defensive snap of the puck off the Rangers stick in a passing lane (not technically possession enough to whistle the play dead), Seguin would find extra space from the circle and put one on the board for the Stars.
You could almost feel the collective held breath of the American Airlines Center exhale after that goal was scored. Lundqvist was not infallible after all.
I have to give the Rangers coaching staff a lot of props, as the Rangers’ penalty kill had been very good against the Stars power play units through two periods. They were aggressive and seemed to know what the tendencies of the first unit were, such as looking for the cross-ice pass to Seguin at the circle or the point shot attempt with a redirect in front of the net.
However, the fourth time was the charm as the Stars got a timely goal from their second power play unit early in the third period to give them their first lead of the game. Honka’s shot from the right wing point on the blueline was redirected by Martin Hanzal, who was standing right in front of Lundqvist as a screen.
The remainder of the period contained much of the same as the first two, with the Stars seeming to dominate the puck possession side of things and spend a lot of time in the offensive zone looking to extend that lead.
*Is there some kind of unwritten rule that Jamie Benn is not allowed to score on Lundqvist? He had over eight shots on goal against the Rangers goaltender, but a lot of them seemed to go just over the top of the net.
* Bishop was big when he needed to be, even if he didn’t see the same volume of shots as his counterpart at the other end of the ice. Nice performance from the Stars netminder after taking a puck to the head/face area on the bench versus the Arizona Coyotes last Thursday night.
*I thought the bottom six looked very tenacious on the puck tonight, with both lines seeing extended cycles in the offensive zone.
*Great work on the PK, as the Stars kept a clean slate on that side of the special teams balance sheet.