This could have easily been a kind of “trap game” for the Dallas Stars.
Coming off a big 2-1 shootout win over the Chicago Blackhawks and playing their seventh game in 13 nights, it would be understandable if the team came out a little flat. After all, a 13-1-1 stretch and six straight wins is more than respectable. If the streak had ended there, it wouldn’t have been met with consternation or anger.
After all, the Vegas Golden Knights had won every contest at the American Airlines Center in their (short) franchise history. They hadn’t won a game in which Marc-Andre Fleury hadn’t started yet this season. With Malcolm Subban starting, that was more than tempting enough for the hockey fates to decide to write a storybook ending — for the Vegas team.
Instead, the Stars get to enjoy another game in which the winning and point streak extends — and tie a little history in the process. This team just finds a way these days, because they have a whole lot of confidence behind them.
This was likely one of Dallas’ best periods of the season (even factoring in their excellent outing versus the Chicago Blackhawks first period play on Saturday night). They absolutely dominated the Golden Knights, putting up a 16-6 shots on goal lead. They scored twice. Natural Stat Trick had them at a 83.3% share of high danger scoring chances.
Even though it took them more than half the period to find the back of the net, their play prior to the goal was top notch. The first goal was an excellent point shot by John Klingberg that deflected off of Alexander Radulov and in. Both he and Roope Hintz were providing a screen in front of Malcom Subban.
Less than two minutes later, Radulov would hit the offensive zone on a 2-on-1 play. Instead of taking the shot (even though he was faking shot the whole way), he instead found the streaking Esa Lindell. Lindell, whom every Golden Knight had forgotten was on the ice, was completely uncovered down near the faceoff dot. He had no hesitation as he took the feed from Radulov and buried it, giving Dallas an early 2-0 lead.
Dallas killed off the first of what turned out to be many penalties late in the period, with Joe Pavelski sitting for holding.
The second period was a tough one for the Stars. For those that kill penalties, it probably felt a lot longer than 20 minutes. For those that don’t usually kill penalties, it was the type of period that takes you out of the game because you’re barely seeing ice time.
Dallas took four penalties in the period. The first was a hi-stick by Tyler Seguin, and if I’m being honest, the replay didn’t show any point in which he had got his stick up in someone’s face. But the calls are the calls, and all you can do is try to make sure it doesn’t effect the outcome of the game.
After successfully killing off that early penalty, just a minute and a half later they went back to the kill when Jamie Oleksiak got nailed for interference. That one was earned more than not, though plenty of those types of plays on both sides had occurred in the game that had gone uncalled.
With about 20 seconds left on that infraction, Roman Polak got called for a delay of game penalty. It was on a play in the defensive zone in which I could have sworn I saw the netting move as if a puck got up into it. Instead, the ref said Polak put the puck straight up and out into the stands, which is of course a delay of game when it occurs in that part of the ice.
The thing that really could have been a turning point in the game was a very blatant hi-stick that Jason Dickinson was the victim of on a shorthanded chance that the ref didn’t call. To then have to kill off a short 5-on-3 but also face extended kill time afterwards had several Stars players shouting in frustration from the bench.
Luckily for the Stars, their penalty kill came up big, thanks in big part to big Ben Bishop in net. One of his best saves of the game was on the kill when he got his long leg reach over to stop a chance from the side of the post.
Almost immediately after the Stars killed that one off, they allowed the first goal against tonight. It was almost an inevitability given how worn out the defenders were at that point. The lead was cut in half.
Although the period was basically dominated by the Golden Knights, in large part because of their power play time, the Stars still came out of it with a two goal lead. Dickinson got his revenge on the missed call by scoring a beauty of a goal....and then celebrating like a Radulov prodigy would:
Seguin would tack on another hi-stick penalty (this time earned) in the period, but Dallas would go to intermission with the 3-1 lead and a perfect penalty kill intact. They were outshot 13-2 in the period, vastly outplayed, and still leading by a pair.
That has the feel of destiny doesn’t it?
Destiny was not to be denied tonight. The Stars weathered the unbelievable push in the second period by Vegas and went back to work on their game in the third period. They may have been helped by the fact that the referees seemed to swallow their whistles and just ‘let them play’ for the start of the third.
But that’s how it goes sometimes in the game — you get calls you shouldn’t and you get calls you should. The only thing you can do is play the game the way it’s dealt to you.
The game could have turned again after Paul Stastny scored just 1:23 into the third period. But this Dallas team has matured, as Jim Montgomery said after the game, and they dug deep to lock down the game.
Then, as fate would have it, Cody Glass committed one of the more obvious of penalties tonight as he hooked Miro Heiskanen down to the ice. The same Heiskanen that made a pass up the ice for Denis Gurianov through the neutral zone from his knees.
Alexander Radulov once again provided the Stars with a power play goal, giving them the dagger needed to put this one away.
For the first time in franchise history, the Vegas Golden Knights did not walk out of the American Airlines Center with a victory. The Dallas Stars tied their franchise record with a seventh consecutive win. They improved to 14-1-1 in their last 16 games played and officially take over as the hottest team in the league. They’re two points behind the St. Louis Blues for the lead in the Central Division.
Who would have thought that’s what we’d be talking about a month after that disastrous start?