For the first time since October 18th, the Dallas Stars lost two consecutive games in regulation.
It started with a loss to the Chicago Blackhawks on the other side of the Thanksgiving break, in a second game of a back-to-back. That one ended a 12-game point streak and a seven-game win streak. Tonight’s was at the hands of the St. Louis Blues, a 3-1 loss that was actually closer than the score might make you think.
Overall, it wasn’t the best period of Stars hockey this season but it most definitely wasn’t the worst either.
The Stars likely held the edge in chances from the high-danger scoring areas, but Jake Allen stoned them all. Roope Hintz and Alexander Radulov combined for a few of them early on, with Hintz trying twice from within a five foot radius of Allen to no avail.
Colton Paryako continued to be the kryptonite of Ben Bishop. You’ll remember him from the playoffs as the player that shot that puck into Bishop’s collarbone in the playoffs, leading to the Blues scoring as Bishop was down on the ice and causing an eventual implosion in that game for the Stars. It was a defining moment of that playoff series this past spring.
Tonight, his soft shot from the point got through traffic, including a Jamie Oleksiak - Zach Sanford battle in front of him, blocking Bishop’s view of the shot. It appeared to redirect off of Sanford’s stick, but the official goal scorers reviewed it and eventually credited Parayako as the goal scorer. meaning it did not hit one of his teammates prior to going in.
Dallas went into the second period down 1-0.
The Stars played a better second period, with the teams getting into a bit of a track meet, exchanging looks both ways. The Blues had a chance to take a 2-0 lead when they shot a puck through the crease between Bishop’s skates and the post and it didn’t go in.
There was a sequence in which seemingly every one of the five-man unit on the ice made a save after Bishop made the initial stop. Immediately after, Jake Allen survived a flurry by the Stars. He made a split save that stopped a shot in a very sensitive area, and it felt like a harbinger of how the game was going to go tonight.
St. Louis did appear to score late in the middle frame. It was a very clear offside on the zone entry, and after a short review, the call was called back. The Stars have a very good video coach in Kelly Forbes, and he apparently was telling the coaching staff that it was offside before the puck hit the back of the net. Dallas is one of the more successful teams in terms of challenges so far this season.
You would hope that the Stars could get some momentum off that reversed call, but the Stars continued to play into the Blues’ game instead. They got the first (and, it turned out, were the only team to receive) a power play when Justin Dowling was called for tripping with just 1:22 left in the period. The Stars killed the penalty off at the start of the third.
If it weren’t for bad luck, the Stars wouldn’t have had any luck at all tonight it seems.
Dallas came tantalizingly close to scoring a few times. There was a shot by Oleksiak that just dribbled past the open net after beating Allen, who was playing at the top of his crease. There was the ensuing chance by Hintz as Dallas recovered the rebound, as he stood in the blue paint. With Allen down in the net, Hintz sent the puck just wide of the yawning opening.
Unfortunately, Dallas couldn’t get out of their own way at times in this one. After the slow start, and a game in which the Stars didn’t skate as well as they have recently, there were also drop passes to Blues players after entering the offensive zone. There were turnovers in the neutral zone. There were also failed attempts at clearing the defensive zone that led to chances against Bishop, who was really sharp tonight for most of those opportunities against.
Hintz had the most eventful few minutes of the game. He was called for hi-sticking late in the period. Again, the penalty kill came up with a big kill for the Stars, a relative strength for them this season.
Just prior to the penalty ending, I had been thinking that we hadn’t seen the Stars be able to work the puck to the player coming out of the penalty box for an odd-man rush against. Tonight, Dallas did just that when they sprung Hintz for a 2-on-1 and he buried it past Allen, a nice reward after the number of missed chances that he had earlier in the game.
Then, just 18 seconds later, the Stars had a complete failure at defending within their own zone. All the Stars players were caught focusing on the puck carrier and failed to account for Ryan O’Reilly, the trailer on the play. O’Reilly snapped one home to restore the one goal lead for his team, and the moment of joy for the Stars was short-lived. An empty net goal make the score 3-1 and a loss for the Stars.
After the game, Jim Montgomery said that giving up the winning goal in that way was “disappointing.” He continued, “Kind of lucky that maybe we were going to get a point out of it, and get into overtime, and then you never know, maybe get the two points.”
It’s a learning moment for the team, as Roman Polak pointed out post-game too. “I think we’re going to be ok,” he said. A poignant remark about how far this team has come since the 1-7-1 start.
Winning a lot lately certainly has a tendency to change perspective.