This game was played in an alternate universe where the Stars are on the receiving end of the Good Things.
It started with Dallas getting the first penalty called on them. Instead of drawing a power play they went on the penalty kill, a facet of the game that has actually been something of a strength for Dallas this season. Maybe the successful kill was part of establishing some confidence for the Stars in the game plan for tonight.
Whatever it was, whether the desperation of not wanting to go into the break on a five-game losing streak, having a part of their game go well early on, or something else, Dallas had a pretty good first period. They even managed to – gasp! – score in the first period. Followed by not allowing the opposition to score.
The first goal of the night was scored by Brett Ritchie on a power play that mixed up the personnel in an effort to score for the first time in five games. Not only was Ritchie on the first unit, they had him playing the half-wall spot Seguin usually has and had Seguin floating within the Jets’ penalty killing box formation for added havoc. It seemed to work as Dallas got a number of interesting looks at the net. Eventually, the one that snuck past Connor Hellebuyck was a redirected point shot from John Klingberg that Ritchie touched on the way to the net. Jamie Benn, with his very large frame in front of Hellebuyck, helped create a screen and the redirected shot found sunlight.
Look up any point in the second period and you were likely to see some kind of special teams at work. The Stars had four power play chances in the second period and the Jets had two of their own. Dallas kept skating and it allowed them to draw a lot of chances, not unlike the game Tuesday night versus the Tampa Bay Lightning. At one point, Dallas had 11 shots on goal on the man advantage while Winnipeg had just seven total in the game.
Unfortunately, the Stars didn’t make much happen in the way of scoring on those opportunities in the second frame. But what they lacked in man-advantage scoring they made up for at even strength. They even continued the what’s-down-is-up theme from the first period by being the first team to score in the second just 22 seconds in. How often have you seen the opposition score within the first minute of a period? It’s kind of nice to see it the other way around, isn’t it?
There was one trend that was especially concerning outside of the not scoring on the power play part, and that was all of the odd-man shorthanded rushes against they allowed. Denis Gurianov had the best defensive play by a forward tonight when he skated to catch up to a Jet coming in shorthanded and made a play on the puck to prevent a shot against.
The Stars’ penalty kill came up big when called upon again. After one kill, Radek Faksa came into the offensive zone with speed and scored to put Dallas up 3-0. It’s safe to say that the success of the penalty killing gave the team something to build off of during the game.
Ben Bishop came up with a few big stops when called upon, though his workload was considerably light through two periods. But that trend did not continue in the third period. I’m not sure if Winnipeg finally showed up or if the usual Stars came back out to play to start the last 20 minutes, but it went from a very good outing to very interesting, very fast.
After killing off a penalty that captain Jamie Benn had taken at the end of the second period, the Stars allowed the Jets to come in and score just a minute later. With momentum in their corner, and offensive onslaught that saw them jump out to a 13-5 shots on goal advantage, the Jets scored a second time to make it a one-goal game.
All of a sudden, it went from a sound beating of one of the top teams in the West to a game up for grabs.
The first goal against was a rare moment when Miro Heiskanen was beat by his man. Brenden Lemieux snuck one under Bishop’s pads as he cut to the front of the net after shaking Heiskanen. On the second goal, John Klingberg gets the puck stripped from his stick as he’s just to the right of Bishop’s cage. The turnover causes some defensive coverage assignments to go awry, and Kyle Connor, left all alone in the faceoff dot, sniped one right past Bishop.
What ensued for the next 14 or so minutes was tightly played hockey – with some more penalties mixed in to make it interesting.
Mattias Janmark deserves as much recognition for the insurance goal scored by Tyler Seguin to seal the win for Dallas with just two minutes left. Janmark’s speed led to the penalty called on Patrik Laine and put the team in the position to score again. Seguin’s redirect on a Klingberg point shot sealed the game away, even after Faksa committed a delay of game penalty gave the Jets one last power play chance with a minute left.
It was a good way to go out before the 11 day break from hockey. The Stars won’t return to action until Wednesday, January 30th when the Buffalo Sabres come to town.