The Dallas Stars head into their 8th game of the season with a 1-6-1 record, causing much consternation in Stars fandom. Unfortunately, the Stars do have to keep playing games, even if they’re going to lose a lot of them.
Friday night finds them in the north, where the climate is colder and the season records are a bit better, taking on Sidney Crosby and the Pittsburgh Penguins on game 3 of a 4 game road trip east.
Perhaps the best thing to be said about the first period is that, despite trying to roll out the red (or green) carpet on early chances for Sidney Crosby and a really late one for Jake Guentzel, the period ended at a 0-0 tie.
After the aforementioned early chances from Sidney Crosby, the Stars, while never truly managing to control play, lead the Penguins in shots on goal for a few brief moments. They had a couple of missed shots late in the period, but the last Stars shot on goal came a little over nine minutes into the game, after which it was all Penguins all the time.
This, obviously, is less than ideal and will not win them any hockey games.
The Stars did have 21 hits in the first period. It’s a number that got our commentators excited on the broadcast, but all it means is that the Stars didn’t have the puck. Sure, the thought process behind it is to knock the other team off the puck, but if the Stars aren’t actually taking the puck when hitting (which they weren’t), that’s not really a consideration.
The Stars didn’t look quite as scrambly as they have in recent games, but the true hero of the first period was definitely Anton Khudobin, searching for redemption after being chased from the net in a 5-1 loss the last time the Stars visited Pittsburgh.
The Stars came out in the second period looking like a different team entirely, at least through the first half. In the first five minutes of the period, they held the Penguins to a single shot on goal and had multiple good chances on the other end before Roope Hintz’s goal.
Because, oh yeah, Roope Hintz scored. Again.
On a beautiful breakaway too. It’s early in the season but Hintz is on such a tear already that it should give some hope to malingering Stars fans.
The period started taking a turn when a hooking penalty to a recently recalled Denis Gurianov. The Penguins didn’t score on that power play, thanks solely to Khudobin standing on his head and also possibly some cellophane wrapped around the net, but the momentum swung significantly in their favor.
The Stars still had some good chances in the second part of the period, but Tyler Seguin was unable to capitalize on Miro Heiskenan’s rebound, and instead the Penguins scored their own goal late in the period.
Khudobin couldn’t swallow the puck and the rest of the Stars couldn’t clear it, so after numerous attempts, Jared McCann finally found the back of the net.
The Stars looked better this period than they have in a few games, but there’s clearly still work to be done.
A little over two minutes into the third, Chris Tanev took a delayed penalty against Heiskenan. The power play was limp, the Stars didn’t record a single shot on goal and the Penguins had plenty of chances to go up ice.
Sam Lafferty had the best chance the Penguins have seen since they scored in the second, but thankfully for the Stars, he hit the goalpost instead of the net. He was really wanting to pass the puck to Tanev for a better angle, but pressure from the Stars defense made him take the shot himself.
Kris Letang gave the Penguins their first lead of the game on a truly embarrassing (for the Stars) sequence that saw him hold the puck in front of the net patiently while both Joe Pavelski and Tyler Seguin laid down in front of him (not at the same time, in sequence) in what they assumed would be his shooting lane. Letang held out through both of those and then just walked in five hole on Khudobin.
A couple minutes later, a truly unfortunate bounce from the top of the zone ended up behind Khudobin and the Stars trailed by two goals with nine minutes still to play.
John Klingberg took a shot from the top of the zone and went over Matt Murray’s shoulder, cutting the lead to one. Almost looked like hope until Jamie Oleksiak took a penalty a moment later. While the Penguins came very close to scoring, the Stars were somehow able to hold them off.
Khudobin went off with a little over two minutes left, but the Stars were unable to capitalize on the extra man and, in fact, allowed an empty net goal for the Penguins. They lost 4-2.
It’s a story that’s already starting to be told on twitter and the broadcast, but the Stars did not look any better this game than they have in any of the others they lost this season with (perhaps) the exception of the first half of the second.
In ten minutes in the third period, when the score was tied, the Stars had two shots on goal. They still haven’t figured out how to reliably enter the zone without dumping the puck into a corner and promptly losing possession.
Having more hits than the other team isn’t a thing to get excited about and should never be a metric of success. There’s a lot wrong with the Stars this season and it’s a particularly frustrating time to be a fan.
The Stars will be in Philadelphia tomorrow for the last game of this road trip. Puck drop against the Flyers will be at 6 pm CT.