It was always going to be a tough row to hoe in the first two contests of the season for the Stars, but falling to both Stanley Cup finalists by one goal in two games that seemed winnable is a bitter pill to swallow.
The personnel was a bit different than last year, too, as Rhett Gardner and Nick Caamano made their NHL debuts, and neither of them looked out of place, with Gardner in particular making strong plays that coaches look for from 4th-line players.
Jim Montgomery said in the postgame press conference that he didn’t like the Stars’ start, he loved their second period, and he didn’t like how the team sagged after the disallowed goal. That’s a pretty succinct summary of this game, and perhaps even the Stars’ series against St. Louis last year, too.
But enough with succinct—let’s get to the details.
As for the game, the Stars started in a hole, with Ben Bishop missing on the first shot he faced. In fairness, David Perron was the late guy on a 4-on-2 rush, and he hit his spot past Bishop’s glove. Stars fans won’t be in the mood to be understanding, but that was a quality scoring chance, and sometimes those go in.
Since Dallas spent a lot of the last game on the penalty kill, they continued in the same fashion early, but with a much better outcome. A Taylor Fedun penalty led to a Mattias Janmark shorthanded goal on a partial breakaway, thanks to Jaden Schwartz putting it over the line himself after the shot trickled in behind Binnington. It’s not exactly how you draw it up, but then, the Blues would get a pretty fortunate goal of their own later on, too. (Spoiler alert.)
The story right now is probably going to be the lack of goals from the Stars’ top forwards, and a great example of that was a Benn and Seguin 2-on-1 in the first where Seguin’s saucer pass didn’t settle for Benn. It’s a bad break, but with all the bad blood between Dallas and the Blues, you have a feeling Jamie Benn will be seeing that bouncing puck in his nightmares on the way to Detroit.
The first period was pretty fast-paced, with of shots on goal at both ends. St. Louis’s crisp passing could have made it worse, but the Stars also could have had another goal or two of their own. All in all, Bishop steadied his game after the opening goal, and the Stars entered the second period fairly happy with where the game was trending.
Dallas came out of the first intermission looking like a completely different team than the one that started the game, and they got rewarded for the change as St. Louis began to look a step slow.
Roope Hintz got the puck to the net on a delayed penalty call on Oskar Sundqvist (drawn by Rhett Gardner), but the puck jumped just as he tried to backhand it in, which was not the first or last time pucks would be jumping on the St. Louis ice.
Joe Pavelski had a great chance on the power play with a great tip on a point shot, but the puck went down into Binnington’s pad and just missed the five-hole. Pavelski had another shot on a feed from Radulov from below the goal line, but the puck sailed wide, too.
Denis Gurianov got some time on the top line, and he fed Jamie Benn right in front of the net, but Benn just couldn’t quite capitalize on the pass. There were positive signs for Gurianov, which is what you want to see given the opportunity he’s getting.
Hintz got another breakaway from the blue line in a couple of minutes after the power play expired, but his shot was ripped just wide and high.
The Stars had to do their own penalty killing again after an Andrej Sekera trip to the box, but Ben Bishop was able to stop a Ryan O’Reilly tip off his skate in tight, and the Stars made it through with the score still tied, but not for long.
From there, Dallas really turned it on, with the top line doing everything but score while Jordan Binnington was swimming in the crease without sight of the puck. But the Blues escaped unscathed on a couple of chances right up until Miro Heiskanen and Denis Gurianov went up ice on a 2-on-1. After the initial bids didn’t go, Heiskanen calmly collected the puck and ripped it in and out of the top of the net with his skates astride the end line. It was a lead well-deserved for Dallas.
For Miro Heiskanen, impossible is nothing.#DALvsSTL | #GoStars pic.twitter.com/epfIgzgNpK— Jeff Odom (@jeffodom) October 6, 2019
When all was said and done, Dallas outshot St. Louis 10-3 in the middle frame.
Hintz drew a holding penalty on Jay Bouwmeester to start the third, although the replay suggested that it was more of just an odd sort of body position caused by a Hintz spin move. Either way, it was a chance for Dallas to continue building on the momentum they’d ridden in the second, and they would appear to do so when Esa Lindell beat Binnington five-hole after a fortunate bounce out to him from the corner.
Unfortunately for Dallas, the NHL continues its history of fixing problems that hardly exist with solutions that are worse than the problems ever would have been in the first place. Justin Dowling’s skate was just a sliver offside on the entry, Craig Berube chose to risk another power play for Dallas by challenging, and of course that meant the goal never existed, so it remained 2-1. But not for long.
Brayden Schenn would tie the game moments later on a point shot that bounced up and off Bishop and ended up rolling down his back, eventually crossing the line amid a diving frenzy of players, including Ryan O’Reilly.
Things went from stupid to worse with just under 10 minutes to go, as a point shot from Carl Gunnarsson deflected off Sammy Blais and Taylor Fedun to wobble through a helpless Ben Bishop. And just like that, the Stars were looking at their second loss in as many games to start the year. It felt a bit unfair to go from what looked like a 3-1 lead to a 3-2 deficit in half a period, but hockey doesn’t care about your feelings, in case you haven’t figured that out by now.
The Stars did get three great chances in the 58th minute of the game, with John Klingerg, Miro Heiskanen, and Justin Dowling (after a slick deke) all getting great pucks on net, but Binnington found or was found by all three shots.
With Ben Bishop on the bench, Dallas threw everything they had at the Blues, and it was almost sufficient. (Gee, that sounds familiar.) Tyler Seguin nearly tied it twice in the final minute, with pucks from Klingberg and Pavelski both finding him in front of the net, but without result. As the horn sounded, Alex Pietrangelo cleared out Jamie Benn’s stick and checked him into the empty net before giving him an extra shot with the end of his stick. The guess is that Benn was not completely innocent as far as provocation goes, but it’s good to know that these two teams haven’t exactly forgotten what happened last spring.
Pietrangelo clears out Benn's stick, then sends him to the ice as the horn sounds...before spearing him. I'm guessing Benn might have an idea why Pietrangelo was upset, though. pic.twitter.com/bcImxbwaGO— Robert Tiffin (@RobertTiffin) October 6, 2019
Dallas now heads to Detroit for tomorrow’s game, still looking for their first points of the season. It is early, but you can be sure the Stars have no desire to begin the year with anything resembling a losing streak.