In front of a sold-out crowd tonight, the Dallas Stars hoped to give their fans a win before hitting the road to play six away from home ice. Ryan Miller looked to play the role of villain and spoiler to that storyline.
While he’s been relegated to a backup role much like his counterpart on the other end of the ice, Kari Lehtonen, he has had Dallas’ number this year. He stopped 69 straight shots on goal straight dating back to the last matchup of these two teams on February 21st before Dallas was able to finally beat him. That goal avoided the Stars’ 7th shoutout this season, an outcome that seemed all but inevitable as more than 48 minutes of this game passed before the Stars found the tying goal.
However, it was the only goal Dallas was able to manufacture tonight. This recent stretch where Dallas has had an inability to score more than two goals in a game reminds me of the first 20 game stretch in which the Stars were adjusting to new players, a new coach, and a new system. A notable difference between then and now, though, is their recent ability to “lose better”, in that they’ve forced overtime a couple of games to pull out points instead of taking all their recent losses in regulation.
But it does beg the question: which version of the Stars are more reflective of this year’s true identity? Is it the Stars of the first 20 games, the Stars of the middle 40 games, or the Stars of this recent stretch?
After the last few Stars outings, and dealing with continuously fluid lines seemingly every game now, I thought the Stars played the Ducks rather evenly for the majority of the period. They came out with a good amount of jump and generated a few good looks at Ryan Miller in net, including a golden opportunity to tap one into a more open net by Jason Dickinson, who couldn’t get the puck to settle down enough for him to make a quick whip-around chance happen.
The Ducks turned it up towards the end of the period and were rewarded when they got a breakaway chance off of a rebound shot Dallas generated on Miller. Ryan Getzlaf skated straight at Kari Lehtonen and Greg Pateryn, the closest blueliner to the play, sprawled out on the ice a tough too early to be an effective shot blocker. The puck went into the corner of Lehtonen’s net, and the Stars went into the second period down 1-0.
Dallas outworked Anaheim in the middle frame, without question. They had the Ducks hemmed into their own zone time and time again in the period, with one stretch where Anaheim spent maybe 10 seconds in the offensive zone in a three-minute stretch midway through the period. Unfortunately, Miller put up a brick wall.
The Stars tried point shots that didn’t get through to Miller. They tried tip tries off of point shots. They created two goalmouth scrambles that pulled Miller out of position, with one resulting in him having to lie like a plank on the ice to keep the puck from going in. Nothing got by him, and the Stars – who have struggled to score lately – went into the third period down 1-0 still.
When trailing after two periods, the Stars are 1-18-2 so far this season. That didn’t exactly inspire confidence in Stars fans, then, when the Stars went into the last 20 minutes trailing by a goal. However, the Stars have found ways to force tying goals in the third period lately on home ice, and being down just one goal was not necessarily insurmountable, either.
Dallas picked up the third period much like they had ended the second, with continued pressure on Anaheim. In their first power play of the game, which came courtesy of Corey Perry closing his hand around a puck nearly half way through the period, the Stars managed to finally connect with a tipped-in Tyler Seguin shot as Devin Shore broke Miller’s shutout streak versus the team from Texas.
John Klingberg added another tally on the Stars’ second power play of the game as he sent a wrist shot towards the net that was tipped by captain Jamie Benn. Dallas managed to lock that one-goal lead down, earning just their second win of the season when trailing after two periods.
There were some blatant missed calls on both teams tonight. Anaheim was able to seemingly put their stick in the back of players and obstruct play at will. They also got away with a “too many men” violation in the third period as well.
Dallas didn’t play like angels, though, make no mistake. There were several holds/hooks/slashings that could have been called. Dallas luckily found a way to overcome some of the non-calls and made the Ducks pay when they did get sent to the penalty box, which is what you hope your special teams can do. It also helps a lot when your penalty kill is flawless like it was tonight, too.