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Stars Use Aggressive Third Period to Top Wild 5-3

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It was another win for the Dallas Stars in the preseason ramp up to the home opener next week.

Minnesota Wild v Dallas Stars Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

The Dallas Stars had two less-than-optimal aspects of the opening 20 minutes when they faced off versus the Minnesota Wild in the friendly confines of the American Airlines Center tonight.

First, the power play chance the Stars had in the game was terrible (not really a better way to describe it). They looked shades of last season, with two drop passes back by Klingberg instead of taking the zone with speed. It was discombobulated and had no flow. Secondly, there were a few times where the team allowed point-blank chances in tight in quick succession.

Luckily, Anton Khudobin was more than up to the challenge in those instances. The only time he allowed a goal in the period was when Dillon Heatherington appeared to lose an edge and tried to turn it into a shot block on the ice, causing a little bit of chaos and a broken play in front of Khudobin. That goal against tied the game up at one, a score that would hold up at the end of the period.

Offensively, Dallas got on the board thanks to some defensive pairing passing by John Klingberg and Esa Lindell that then found Roope Hintz coming down the right wing side. He took to the puck in with speed and beat Devan Dubnyk to open the scoring tonight.

After jumping out to a 12-3 advantage in shots on goal about mid-way through the period, Dallas allowed Minnesota to creep back into the game offensively. The shots on goal ended up 14-11 by the end of the opening frame, reflecting the more event game that was played in the full 20 minutes.

Dallas came out with all cylinders firing in the second period, in part due to a late period penalty and nearly a full two minute power play to open the middle frame. They managed to draw 1:25 of a 5-on-3 when the Wild put the puck over the glass for a delay of game call. As the two-man advantage expired, Lindell had a shot from the blueline redirect off a Wild player and over Dubnyk’s shoulder.

About a minute and a half later, Jamie Benn would take a faceoff win and make a cut move across the Dubnyk’s crease for a solo effort goal. Had it been the regular season, that goal call would likely have been overturned due to goaltender interference, as Benn was tangled up with the Wild netminder enough to not allow him free movement to make the save. However, with it being preseason, the referees don’t have the gift of the replay, so the call on the ice stood.

All of a sudden it was 3-1 in favor of Dallas.

The penalty kill would allow a goal to Joel Eriksson Ek about two-thirds of the way through the period. It came after the Stars penalty killers got a little scrambly in their end (that’s technical analysis for you there.)

Again, the Stars had an overwhelming shot advantage in the second period, with a 13-4 advantage roughly half way through. Unfortunately, the second period was much like the first: Minnesota was able to eventually spend more time in their own zone and make the shot totals look like a more even period than it probably honestly was.

What does the team need to do to carry the aggressive play from the start of the period through the end, play for the full 20 minutes?

“Not get comfortable,” head coach Jim Montgomery said post game. “We just got comfortable. I think we got away from what we were doing, we got too cute, started turning over too many pucks, not making good puck management decisions at the bluelines. People trying to toe drag or force one against three and we should actually just regroup. We were having so much success building speed from the top of our circles but we quit doing that, and we started to get individual because we thought it was going to be easy. In both periods, the exact same thing happened and you’re right on.”

Another power play goal was surrendered by the Stars to tie the game up 3-3 in the third period. A faceoff to Khudobin’s right led to several Stars and Wild players tied up trying to lodge the puck out and gain possession. Kyle Rau did – from a sitting position. Enough to fire a shot right at an unsuspecting Khudobin and it found its way into the net via the five hole.

It was an unfortunate bounce for Khudobin, who had absolutely been Dallas’ best penalty killer to that point. He made several tough saves on some chances right around his crease as Dallas was out of position or had gotten beat on their defensive coverage assignments.

Hot starts out of intermissions is a trend that’s emerging from this group coached by Jim Montgomery. Dallas again came out with some offensive fire in the third period, something that has happened in several preseason games so far.

They weren’t rewarded until Jamie Benn connected on the best goal of the game. Roope Hintz dropped a blind pass back to Alexander Radulov who found Benn streaking down the left wing side. He shot the puck as hard as he could and run it around the back of the net for the go-ahead goal. Blake Comeau would add the exclamation point to the game with a nice solo effort, as he shot the puck high in Dubnyk’s shoulder and it bounced over.

Dallas now is 3-0-1 in the preseason, having not lost in regulation yet. Preseason continues on Wednesday when the team travels to Colorado.

PLAYER OBSERVATIONS

*In the first period, Valeri Nichushkin batted the puck out of the air in the offensive zone. Jason Spezza could have probably reached a little further to make the puck playable, but did not because he was aware that a handpass call could have been blown the play dead. It was a subtle veteran play.

*Jason Dickinson made a strong play along the boards, held the puck and played it around the forechecker. He couldn’t settle the puck enough for a shot, but was able to flick it over to an uncovered Michael Mersch in the slot. Dubnyk had to play it high off his shoulder and looked a little surprised by the shot. Though it did not lead to a goal, it was a nice example of Dickinson’s playmaking ability.

*Dillon Heatherington had a rough outing tonight. He was partly responsible for one of the goals against and then took the penalty in the third period that saw the Wild tie the game up.

*Hintz took full advantage of his opportunity playing with Radulov and Benn tonight and turned in one of the best performances he’s had yet this preseason. He’s going to make it very hard on the coaching staff to not put him on the opening night roster. His setup on that Benn goal was a work of art.

*Even with allowing two power play goals against tonight, Khudobin was the Stars’ best penalty killer – that says a lot to the work the team needs to do in that situation before the season opens next Thursday.