Any game that is tied heading into the third period is winnable. After all, it’s basically like nothing has happened before that last 20 minutes, and the last frame’s efforts are the only thing that matters.
In continuing with the Stars recent playing trend, that was bad news bears. It felt more like a matter not of “what will happen” but, rather, the foregone conclusion of a loss was expected, and it was more about how they’d find a way to lose this one tonight.
Bet you didn’t see them winning it less than a minute into overtime off of an incredible pass from Kari Lehtonen to John Klingberg, who hit a streaking Tyler Seguin, who looked shoot the whole time before sliding it across the ice to Alexander Radulov to tap in the winner after Petr Mrazek had committed to Seguin’s shot.
Some thoughts from tonight’s game come in a bit of a different style. It’s game 77, after all – fresh streak calls for fresh perspective.
· Power play had power (at least once anyway). Brett Ritchie did a great job being Alexander Radulov’s backboard for the bank-shot goal to open the scoring tonight. Good things happen when you go to the front of the net.
· Crisp passes. For the most part tonight, the Stars were able to connect on some good passing, something that has been missing lately.
· Tyler Seguin was all of us when he gave a piece of his mind to the ref. The refs let a lot of things go on both sides tonight, and Seguin did not appreciate what he felt was a high hit by Shayne Gostisbehere – one that appeared to clip him above shoulder height.
· Jason Dickinson was trusted with some penalty killing time. He made several excellent choices when shorthanded, and helped kill off the only penalty Dallas took in the first period, a weird tripping call on the Stars’ goaltender. Head coach Ken Hitchcock played several of the younger guys in situations he has not in the past, including Julius Honka on the power play, with varying degrees of efficiency tonight. Of course, it’s just one game, so sample sizes and all the regular caveats apply, but if Dallas wants to figure out their plan for the offseason, understanding what capabilities they have on the roster in games is one of the many facets they’ll need to evaluate heading into the offseason.
· Speaking of goaltenders…Kari Lehtonen had several good early third period saves. He was able to keep the score even through the first half of the final frame, and was a huge part to the win tonight. Seguin called his performance “phenomenal”.
The crowd got into it. They did their fair share of “Let’s Go Stars” chants to motivate the Stars to find that winning goal in the final frame, and they really got vocal when Mattias Janmark and Wayne Simmonds mixed it up at the end of the second period. When Alexander Radulov scored in overtime to win it, the press box shook from the incredible noise Stars faithful made. It was almost a cathartic feeling – for everyone in the building, not just the guys on ice.
· Ghosts of Kari past. That second goal he allowed in the opening minutes of the middle frame were reminiscent of every kind of criticism Stars fans have had of his performance these last few years: soft goals against, goals in momentum-killing points in the game, and not getting the stellar goaltending performance when the team really needs it. Whether you find that fair or not is certainly up for debate, but those are criticisms built over the past several seasons with his game specifically that some couldn’t help but feel again after watching that one go up and over his shoulder.
· Where have all the goal-scorers gone and where are all the wins? (Sung to the tune of “Holding Out For A Hero”) The Stars’ top line was relatively quiet tonight, but Radek Faksa and his line led the way to get them in a position to win.
· Laissez-faire puck movement. There were times in the game where the puck was not taken care of – it was left in the middle of no-man’s-land unattended for a Flyer to step up and take, it was overskated several times, or left for players that were nowhere to be found behind the puck carrier.
· Pond hockey rules. I guess it truly is getting to that time of year for the refs to get ready for their playoff calls, because I no longer know what interference is. Both Dallas and Philadelphia had instances where they obstructed the skating ability or shooting ability of the opponent and yet that particular infraction (among others, if we’re being honest) went completely uncalled.
· I might be in the minority on this opinion, but it felt like the Flyers played the last three minutes of the game trying not to lose. After all, they are in the midst of a tough battle for a Wild Card playoff berth in the East, and a point would be huge for them tonight (especially with the teams they didn’t need to win winning their games). They seemed content to sit back and let Dallas skate all over the ice with the puck and had limited looks offensively, while Dallas looked like it was attempting to win the thing in regulation.