It wasn’t going to be pretty. That’s the one thing you could bet on regarding the Stars’ first regulation win of the season. But right now, this team needs every bit of positivity it can find, and a 4-1 victory on the second half of a back-to-back is going to feel pretty good on the flight back home for this team, I can promise you that.
Corey Perry had the goal that really put this game in something like a comfort zone, and it’s hard not to see that as a potential turning point. Miro Heiskanen and Roope Hintz scored, but they’ve been good all season. Ben Bishop had a very good game, which is the bare minimum of what the Stars knew they would need during this prolonged struggle. But getting Perry’s three-point night alongside Denis Gurianov’s solid effort feels, if only a little, like something the team can build on.
Jim Montgomery said he thinks Denis Gurianov "looks like someone that has gone through that door and is ready to be a full-time NHL player." #GoStars— Josh Clark (@Josh_Clark02) October 20, 2019
“I thought we earned that. I know we gave up a lot of shots, but according to our statistics, we only gave up three chances in the third,” said Jim Montgomery in the postgame scrum. And you know, I think that’s fair enough. All things considered, this team battled back after a first-shot goal that could have crushed their spirits right from the get-go. “I thought we passed up shots,” said Montgomery regarding the team’s shot generation. “I didn’t think we put enough pucks behind the net, that was something that we thought. But again, three in four nights, you’re back to back...we missed the net on some good looks, but you wanna get more shots, obviously.”
No one’s saying everything is better—believe me, no one would dare say that on a night where the Stars got outshot this badly—but you could see the effects of this start wearing on everyone in the organization after last night’s loss in Pittsburgh, so this feels, if nothing else, like a bit of a respite while we wait for the next Fear Factor envelope to arrive.
Sure, 2-7-1 is still an ugly start to the season, but the very best thing the Stars could hope to get from this game was two points, and they got them. You take that, right now. If this road trip had ended with another loss, there’s no telling what that plane ride back would have looked like.
For that matter, we still don’t know what might happen to this team. But for one night, at least, they can breathe. We can all breathe, and smile. Thank goodness.
(Besides, this was Philly. We can always enjoy beating this team.)
For the third time this season, Ben Bishop gave up the first goal of the game on the first shot by the opponent. However, it’s tough to blame him after the Stars just couldn’t cover their assignments on what should have been a simple 3-on-3 rush.
The bad got worse right off the ensuing faceoff, when Alex Radulov was called for high-sticking when his stick-lift on Oskar Lindblom led to Lindblom hitting himself in the helmet with his own stick. Nevertheless, replay is reserved for things like skates an inch off the ice 30 seconds before goals, so the Flyers got two minutes to score two goals before the Stars had started to sweat. And considering that the Stars were averaging fewer than two goals a game coming into tonight, that would have been a heavy blow.
But the Stars’ PK came through it, and Roope Hintz leveled up right after that, because he is Roope Hintz:
That play doesn’t happen without Jamie Benn’s great vision, and Corey Perry also got an assist on the play. It also doesn’t happen without Former First-Round Pick Matt Niskanen getting undressed by Roope Hintz, so yeah.
But once again, the Stars followed a goal with a penalty, when Tyler Seguin got nailed for a trip in the offensive zone right afterwards. Once again, it could have sapped the wind from Dallas’s sails, but they made it through the power play with a penalty kill even better than the first one.
From there, Denis Gurianov decided to make a major impact on the game. First, he drew a tripping penalty on a nice play with his ++ speed. Then he went ahead and set up the go-ahead goal. But again, the Stars didn’t make it easy on themselves.
What I mean by that is, the Flyers got a shorthanded breakaway handed to Scott Laughton after a bad Tyler Seguin giveaway at the blue line—power play zone entries seem like an issue, someone might want to look into that, not sure anyone’s noticed yet—but the shot went wide. Then the Stars finally got their second power play goal of the *season* after Perry found Gurianov, who quickly whipped the puck to Lindell for the tip-in.
We then got treated to another penalty off the ensuing faceoffs, but this one ended up being matching majors when Jamie Oleksiak fought Chris Stewart, who is (back) in the NHL, basically just to do that.
It was a thing that happened, but Oleksiak looked like he got the worse end of the stick, on the whole.
Things almost got even better when Jamie Benn rang the far-side post off the rush after a nice Miro Heiskanen stretch pass/dump, but let’s be honest, two goals in the first period was already a monstrous deluge of offense, so Dallas took their lead into the locker room without any insurance.
End of first period: Stars 2, Flyers 1.
Shots on goal: 12 to 11, Philadelphia.
The Flyers had whatever the opposite of a miracle is happen at the Stars’ net, when the puck made it to the crease and slid under Bishop after a frantic scramble, but after a couple of tense moments, the Stars escaped unscathed.
Jamie Benn continued his run of good play without reward—I will die on this hill, by the way—when Hintz out-muscled Justin Braun behind the net and sent a feed to a streaking Benn in the slot. But the puck was ripped off the post once again by the captain. Still, one couldn’t help but think that tonight was a bad night to be a newly acquired Flyers veteran defenseman.
Bishop had to make another huge save on Lindblom from the low slot when an Esa Lindell clear didn’t make it out of the zone, but the goaltender cleaned things up.
Justin Dowling took a high-sticking penalty, continuing the Stars’ disturbing trend over the last year or two of being on the short end of the penalty differential. Bishop still had to make one big save on James van Riemsdyk, but the Stars had some key blocks, and Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin got a bit of a rush chance at the tail end of the kill, to boot.
The Stars managed only one shot on goal through 17 minutes of play in the middle frame, but Tyler Seguin evened out his ledger by drawing a high-sticking call on—who else?—Matt Niskanen. Then things turned after a really questionable icing call that Roope Hintz appeared to have beaten out, when Alex Radulov took an unnecessary tripping minor to put things at 4v4 for 70 seconds.
The Stars nearly capitalized on the rush as the penalty expired, but Radulov just missed hitting Janmark on the counterattack for what could have been a 3-1 lead. But the Stars would take their 2-1 lead and their one second-period shot to the locker room.
End of second period: 2-1, Stars. Shots on goal: 20-12, Flyers.
The Stars’ 13th shot would come, however, and it would prove to be important.
Corey Perry wasn’t really expected by many to play in both games of the back-to-back set, coming back from injury and all. But after Roope Hintz dumped and chased and recover the puck all by himself, it went to Perry, who dipped into some open ice in the slot and put a perfect backhand over Carter Hart. It was the type of goal I remember seeing Perry score against the Stars more than once in Anaheim. And with that, it turned into a three-point night for him.
As the third period wore on, there was pressure by Philly, but nothing really Grade A. Still, Ben BIshop had to be good-to-very good, facing shot after shot as the Flyers racked up 18 shots on goal in the period, and 39 when the regulation horn sounded.
Alain Vigneault pulled Carter Hart with about 3:30 remaining, but it took the Stars nearly two minutes to put a puck into the cage. Mattias Janmark sent one shot wide early on, but it was Miro Heiskanen who would seal the Stars’ first regulation win of the season, knocking a puck out of mid-air before exchanging with Seguin and finishing things off.
Miro Heiskanen slapped that puck out of mid-air for its insolence, and slapped it good, before that empty-net goal pic.twitter.com/1SJY0Wa7Rn— Robert Tiffin (@RobertTiffin) October 20, 2019
It was fitting. It was also the Stars’ second shot on goal of the third period. But you can bet the Stars, for one night at least, will not care a whit about the shots on goal. They needed a win, and they got it. Thank goodness.
Final score: 4-1, Stars. Shots on goal: 39-16, Philly.