After going on a 13-2-1 stretch from mid-October to the end of November, the Dallas Stars found themselves swooning a bit after seeing that run of fantastic results come to an end on the second half of a back-to-back in Chicago just days before Thanksgiving. They had not won a game in four straight, and only picked up points in one of those, a shootout loss to the Minnesota Wild at the beginning of the week.
With the Stars looking for answers, and a few ill-timed penalties in the offensive zone by Alexander Radulov combined with long stretches of a lack of production, head coach Jim Montgomery made a bold decision to scratch the Stars’ third-best offensive producer. That led to some reconstructed lines. He also switched up his defensive pairings, moving John Klingberg to the second pairing, presumably in an effort to find some easier matchups against the Winnipeg Jets.
The same Jets that just days before had manhandled the team and caused the coach to call it the Stars’ worst game of the year. The moves paid off, though the Stars couldn’t get out of this one cleanly. Make no mistake, however — these aren’t long-term solutions nor were they causative of the win.
Dallas won by playing to their identity, getting back to the more structured game that saw them have good success earlier in the season. Inserting Radulov back into the lineup should only improve Dallas, so expect him to be in his regular top six spot when the Stars take on the New York Islanders in two days.
If you watched the opening period of Tuesday night’s game and then the opening of tonight’s game, you would not believe that these were the same two teams. That’s partly because Dallas had a much better start than last game.
“We invested a lot through that winning streak, and I think the biggest challenge is to invest that every night,” Joe Pavelski said after the game. He said tonight was more “our hockey”, and overall, it’s hard to disagree with his assessment.
Dallas did a much better job of puck support, and they were on top of pucks more. They won more one-on-one battles and imposed their will into the game for much of the contest. One area that shined through was on the power play, when the Stars had much better puck movement and looked to be a unit that was on the same page.
Jamie Benn opened the scoring tonight on the man advantage late in the first period, making the score more reflective of how the first period was played. His goal was made possible by having Joe Pavelski providing the screen in front, a place he’s been very successful at in his career but surprisingly not always where he’s placed on the power play in Dallas.
In the first period, Blake Comeau thought that the Stars had scored on a goal-crease scrum. He said after the game that he was positive the puck crossed the line, though he may have been the only one with the angle to definitively make that call. On the ice, the officials immediately waived off the goal. After a review, they confirmed that it did not cross the line. It was a review initiated by the off-ice officials, not a challenge by Dallas.
The second period had a little more ebb and flow to it for the first half. Denis Gurianov woke things up with a snipe on the far blocker side to put Dallas up 2-0 about halfway through the period.
This one had a feel of a playoff game. Because of how much the two teams have seen each other the last few weeks, and given the thrashing Dallas took at the hands of Winnipeg just 48 hours prior to this game, both sides had plenty of emotion tonight.
It led to post-whistle scrums and some entertaining interactions for fans. Dallas played tonight with “emotion” and not “emotionally”, a distinction Montgomery emphasizes he wants his team to toe the line of. Mark Scheifele let some of that emotion get the better of him. With Blake Comeau and company shutting his line down much of the night, his frustration bubbled up when he took a hooking call — and then doubled the penalty thanks to an unsportsmanlike conduct call, seemingly for something he said after the call. “I don’t even swear,” Scheifele said after the game. “I said, ‘You suck.’ I don’t think my mom even punished my sister for telling me I suck when I was 10 years old.”
While Dallas did not capitalize on either of these opportunities in the game, they did build momentum. They played an aggressive style to keep the puck in the offensive zone, with defensemen making pinch plays inside the blue line. That did lead to a couple of shorthanded looks for the Jets, but Bishop continued to come up big.
However, Dallas looked the most dangerous on the balance during the four-minute power play. Miro Heiskanen had the best chance to extend the Stars’ lead, hitting one square off the front face of the post and bouncing back out to the play in front.
This game is a game of inches at times, and tonight there were more inches that didn’t fall in Dallas’ favor.
Nothing comes easy in this league, either, and those missed inches can be the margin between winning and losing.
Bishop, who had been otherworldly good through two periods, let in a blooper-reel goal just 1:38 into the last frame to put Winnipeg squarely back into the thick of things. The puck was shot on his glove side, between him and the post. It squeaked in, and as he realized it was going over his shoulder, he tried to reach his glove around to catch the puck on its descent.
The hockey gods were not feeling favorable tonight, and Blake Wheeler’s shot cut the Stars lead in half.
Not long after, Blake Comeau shot the puck into the stands, sending Dallas to a crucial penalty kill. They were able to quite efficiently kill off the penalty and slow the momentum Winnipeg had been gathering.
The rest of the period was fairly evenly played up until the last five minutes. Those minutes felt like Winnipeg had already pulled Hellebuyck for an extra attacker, that’s how much time Dallas spent in their own zone. That’s why the tying goal felt all but assured, because bad things happen when you can’t get out of your own zone for long stretches of time. (That miss by mere inches of Esa Lindell’s shot at the open net with the man advantage would have come in really handy if it had gone a few inches the other way.)
Scheifele, that factored into several of Dallas’ power play chances earlier in the game, came up with the game-tying goal. It was a result of gassed players playing the end of a long shift and getting caught puck-chasing. All of Dallas skaters on the ice were on the same side as the puck, leaving Scheifele completely uncovered to accept the pass and beat Bishop to earn a point for his team.
The goal was reviewed, as initiated by the off-ice officials as goals scored late in games can be. They were looking to see if the play had started with a hand pass off the opening faceoff, a play that would have killed the play (a “missed stoppage” as the review is called). It didn’t take long for them to confirm the goal as good, and the Stars and Jets headed to overtime.
Dallas set the tone early in the 3-on-3 overtime period. The trio of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, and Miro Heiskanen nearly ended it with a couple of solid looks at Hellebuyck, who came up tall with some big saves. The speediness of Roope Hintz earned Dallas a power play in the overtime, resulting in 4-on-3 for two minutes.
That’s when the Stars capitalized for a second time tonight on the man advantage. Both times, Joe Pavelski was set up right in front of the net. This time, that positioning allowed him to be in good position for Seguin’s rebounded shot and redirect to the front, where he had a wide open net to put the puck home.
Captain America didn’t miss, giving the Stars the extra point tonight and snapping the recent losing stretch Dallas had found themselves in.