The good thing about streaks is that they eventually come to an end.
When you’re staring at a losing streak, eventually there is going to be a win to provide light at the end of the tunnel. But the opposite is also true — win streaks don’t last forever either. Eventually a loss gets thrown in to mix things up on you a little bit.
Tonight’s game between the Dallas Stars and the St. Louis Blues featured two streaks heading in opposite directions. For the Stars, it was a three game losing streak as teams below them in the standings found some traction and started to gain a little ground on a playoff spot for themselves. For the Blues, it was an 11-game win streak that vaulted them up the standings from all-but-out to cushy lead for third in the Central Division.
Any time two divisional teams face off down the stretch of the season the points are huge. But this one was even bigger given the trajectories of the two teams.
Both streaks ended as the Stars got a quality 5-2 win over the team they’re now chasing in the standings. They shrunk the hurdle to overcome to just four points, and maintained a three-point cushion on the second wild card team as the Minnesota Wild pulled out of their losing streak with a quality win of their own.
It wasn’t the most boring first period the Stars have ever played, but it wasn’t exactly exciting either. They started off a little rocky, with the Blues getting a couple of the early quality looks and having the better puck possession. However, Antoin Khudobin, who made his seventh straight start tonight with Ben Bishop sidelined with an upper-body injury for a bit, was more than up to the task.
In fact, it looked like fans in attendance and watching at home were in for a goalie duel between Khudobin and Jordan Binnington, the rookie phenom that has been a big part of the Blues’ 11-game win streak heading into tonight’s game. Both were good when needed as the two sides settled into a rhythm.
Both teams looked like they didn’t want to be the first to blink, probably because the first goal scored may have ended up being the game winner the way the two goaltenders were looking, and that conservative approach by the two teams led to a scoreless first period.
Throughout the season, the second period seems to be the Stars’ best, particularly on home ice – and tonight was no exception.
Dallas opened the scoring when Miro Heiskanen made an excellent pass to captain Jamie Benn, who buried it past Binnington just under four minutes into the period. Five minutes later, Benn’s line would score a second goal when Radek Faksa pulled a little spin move on an Esa Lindell shot he caught at the front of the net and slide it right past the left pad of Binnington, who was near the top of his crease.
A minute later, Alexander Radulov joined the party with a spectacular celebration to put an exclamation point on the six minute of offensive outburst the Stars had. (Oh yeah, and the goal was pretty cool too, as the puck went between the legs of the defender and over the head of Binnington, who is listed as 6’1” tall.)
The Blues had to call their timeout after the third goal to settle themselves.
It seemed to work, too, as Vladimir Tarasenko scored a power play goal after being left all alone in the slot as 4-on-4 time expired and the Blues hit the power play. Benn, who had one of his more dominant games of late, restored the three-goal lead after he tipped a Lindell pass. Lindell, too, had himself quite a game on the stat sheet, adding to his career best numbers with two helpers tonight.
As the period wound down, Ryan O’Rielly would pull the Blues back within two goals after he setup shop in the slot and took advantage of a rebound opportunity to put it past a sprawling Khudobin. With six total goals scored in the period, Dallas led 4-2 after the middle 20 minutes.
Dallas was a lot more defensive-oriented in the third period, though part of that was a product of taking some penalties. The early chance in the third when Joel L’Esperance committed an offensive-zone interference was a key moment in this win. Had the Blues scored, they would have been within one goal with nearly an entire period still to play. With the penalty killed, though, Dallas kept the Blues from gaining momentum in that way.
The rest of the period was the Khudobin show. He came up huge in a 40-plus save win, including two stellar stops on some shorthanded chances the Blues had later in the period. When St. Louis pulled the goaltender with three minutes left in the period, he looked calm and swallowed a lot of shots that came his way, not allowing much in the way of rebounds.
He got a little help from his friends in front when needed, too. The Stars were committed to team defense, and it allowed them to shut down a win. Then Tyler Seguin dove his way across the offensive zone blueline and shot the puck in for an empty-net goal to seal the win away.
Now, in the bar trivia contests in St. Louis, the question won’t be who the Blues beat to set a franchise-high 12 game winning streak. Instead, it’ll be who ended it. That’s the right side of history for the Stars to be on – if you’re a Stars fan, player, coach, or staff member, anyway. The Blues might disagree on that opinion.