When looking at the schedule for March, most Dallas Stars fans likely had the game tonight versus the Tampa Bay Lightning penciled in as a loss.
After all, they’re the best team in the league in many respects – great goaltending, scoring depth and ability, a lethal power play. (And a lower-third-of-the-league penalty kill, surprisingly – hey, no team is perfect after all.)
Taking into consideration the Stars’ utter lack of success when trailing after two this season – they were a horrific 1-18-1 heading into tonight’s game in that situation – finding a way to come out of a game in which they trailed heading into the third period is a big positive. They found their offense tonight versus a fairly stout defensive team, and outside of one bad stretch in the second period, they dominated play for the most part.
As head coach Ken Hitchcock noted in his postgame comments, there are games in which the goaltending bails out the team and games where the team needs to bail out the goaltender. That’s part of an 82-game season, and tonight wasn’t any different in that regard. Ben Bishop was a big reason the Stars beat the Calgary Flames two nights ago, and tonight he needed a little help from his friends to salvage a point.
There was a lot to like about Dallas in the first period, if you exclude the first two minutes of the game. After allowing yet another goal in the first 1:30 of the game, Dallas did a very good job skating the puck and winning the battles against Tampa Bay. Dallas looked every bit a rested team playing against a team that played last night and then traveled for this game afterwards.
Tyler Seguin would find the back of the net to even the game thanks to a power play that saw some excellent puck movement. It is now their second consecutive game with a power play goal. That’s a bit of a positive to take away from this game, even if the Lightning penalty kill is nothing to write home about.
You would have though the Stars were going to pick up right where they left off as the opening minutes of the middle frame ticked away. A second Seguin goal tonight would give the Stars a 2-1 lead – a lead that would be all-too-briefly lived. Less than a minute later, Anthony Cirelli would score his first career NHL goal to tie the game up.
After that, defensive miscues and some sketchy goaltending completed a second period melt down by the Stars.
Ben Bishop had the puck in his pads, looking for a whistle to stop play. The Stars in front of him must have thought it was coming, too, because they allowed Alex Killorn to execute a clinical drive-by to bang home the puck right between Bishop’s wickets. They’d complete their three-goal scoring streak in the second period when Steven Stamkos got a pass behind literally the entire five-man unit the Stars had out there and beating his old goaltender on a breakaway.
Whatever good feeling from the first period Stars fans had, thinking that maybe they’d escape with at least a point against one of the top teams in the league tonight, quickly soured.
I don’t know that I breathed too much in the third period. After Brett Ritchie came out and scored one about two minutes into the period, the Stars spent extended time in the offensive zone. They had cycle time like we haven’t seen in a long while. If the Stars can find that kind of intensity down the stretch again, maybe this team isn’t destined to be on the outside looking in again.
They clawed back to make it competitive against the best in the league. But instead of taking away a moral victory tonight, the Stars decided points would be better.
Mattias Janmark scored to tie the game with three seconds left in the game. It immediately was reviewed, as the clock on the videoboard had stopped at some point during the waning seconds of the period, so it had to be checked that it was, indeed, scored during regulation. As soon as it was determined that yes, it was scored before the official time clock had flipped to 0.0, the goal was immediately sent to Toronto’s situation room for review for goaltender interference.
The goal counted, and the Stars pulled a point out of the game.
Honestly, Dallas had the better of the prime scoring chances in the extra minutes in this one. However, playing three-aside with the talent both teams have, there’s bound to be some prime chances against. Jamie Benn got stuck having to try to skate back to break up one of those rushes, and at the end of his shift, just didn’t have any juice left. Bishop let in the winner with less than 45 seconds left in the overtime frame.