On a night when Stephen Johns was busy looking like a hockey man among hockey boys in Cedar Park, the Stars had their own business to take care of, hoping to extend their six-game winning streak against the floundering San Jose Sharks, who have had their moments this season, but most of them bad.
Unfortunately for Dallas, despite getting an early lead, the Stars never found a way to generate consistent quality, and the Sharks’ newly crowned goaltending savior (which is to say, close-to-average goalie) Aaron Dell came up big the few times they managed to get some good looks. The Stars’ power play stayed fairly functional, although their second (and final) chance of the night sputtered when they needed it most. But when you’re sitting there wishing that your power play could have gone 100% on the night, it usually means you had bigger issues at 5v5, and they certainly did, when it came to finishing the job in the Sharks’ zone.
The night began with fanfare, however, as Joe Pavelski was honored by the Sharks in a pre-game video tribute that was quite emotional and heartfelt, as was plain to see on Pavelski’s face. Check it out below:
San Jose still loves you, Pavs. pic.twitter.com/jMmipK2wbl— San Jose Sharks (@SanJoseSharks) January 12, 2020
It’s too bad the Stars couldn’t have finished their California stay with yet another victory, but the team was missing John Klingberg on a night when open ice was beckoning to a lot of players (and Erik Karlsson and Brent Burns certainly grabbed it), and they looked pretty out of gas by the time all was said and done.
The Stars will finish their road trip on Tuesday in Colorado, where that winning streak began way back in 2019. Hey, remember 2019?
Anyway, let’s get into the details of this one.
The first period started off well for Dallas, but it devolved into a bit of pond hockey as things wore on.
Right off the bat, Evander Kane took a high-sticking penalty as he tried to jump past Jamie Oleksiak, trailing the stick and clipping a very tall man’s face. Given how hot the Stars’ power play has been, that probably was somewhere on the Sharks’ pre-game list of “THING TO NOT DO AGAINST DALLAS.”
And, sure enough, after spending the entire first part of the power play in the Sharks’ zone, the Stars caught the San Jose PK far too spread out, and they capitalized. Jamie Benn kept the power play rolling with a Pavelskian high tip from Tyler Seguin to put the Stars up 1-0.
THE PRECISION— FOX Sports Southwest (@FOXSportsSW) January 12, 2020
Seguin hits Jamie Benn's stick on the power play, and the Captain deflects it perfectly into the back of the net to give the @DallasStars a 1-0 lead! #GoStars | : FSSW+ pic.twitter.com/YRMZTEFmoc
Miro Heiskanen almost made it 2-0 just minutes later, getting another wide-open chance with a lot of net to shoot out, but Aaron Dell got just a piece of it, putting the puck off the bar and back out.
Stefan Noesen tried a tip-in of his own, but this might have been the easiest no-goal call on the ice any official could make, with Noesen reaching up with both hands to tip the puck down from a good couple of feet above his shoulders, let alone the crossbar.
Anton Khudobin made a nice save on Tomas Hertl, who got some daylight after a great Brent Burns stretch pass off the boards that was relayed at the blue line for Hertl, who came in with speed and ripped one from the circle.
Burns would create another chance, but Khudobin also stopped Melker Karlsson’s high-tip chance, proving once again that the Stars might just have better goaltending than the Sharks, not sure what the numbers say, maybe somebody should check.
Marcus Sörensen would test Khudobin next, after an Erik Karlsson stretch pass beat pretty much all five Stars skaters, putting Sörensen in alone, only to get beaten once again by Khudobin.
So after all the work by the Sharks’ defensemen to set up other would-be scorers, Brent Burns finally took things into his own hands—well, skates—by driving the net off a faceoff win and deflecting a Timo Meier feed through Khudobin’s pads in a manner that was about 73% on purpose (I did the math, checks out) to make it a 1-1 game.
The officials did a brief check for (we assume) the puck’s being kicked in, but it was never being disallowed, and things were deservedly knotted up.
End of 1st period: 1-1. Shots on goal: 9-7, Sharks
The officials managed to successfully even up the calls early in the middle frame, as Tyler Seguin was whistled for, I guess, being close to a player and stick checking him. As Razor said on the broadcast, sometimes officials find what they’re looking for, and Seguin’s reaching into Kane’s skates with his stick was good enough for two minutes, no matter what anyone else thought.
As it turned out, the Sharks’ power play wouldn’t get the credit, but the rest of the team would reap the interest from their deposits, as Patrick Marleau—playing in his 1,700th game, by the way—cleaned up a Brent Burns point shot just after Seguin got out of the box, and just like that, the Stars were well and truly trailing 2-1.
That woke them up a bit, as Joel Kiviranta created a great chance for Mattias Janmark after a neutral zone turnover, but the cross-crease feed found Janmark a bit deep, and his attempt was stopped with a nice bit of work with the arm by Aaron Dell.
The second period went on with some forays at both ends, but the Sharks got the next power play when Radek Faksa got tabbed to serve a hooking minor. The Stars would get the best chance of the two minutes, however, when Joe Pavelski chased down a loose puck after causing a neutral zone turnover, and he fed a streaking Roope Hintz in front of the net. Aaron Dell, however, was well-positioned to make the point-blank save, though it took the shaft of his goal stick to do it.
That save was bettered by Khudobin late in the period, however, when a sloppy bit of defense by the fourth line led to Evander Kane getting a chance all by himself on Khudobin’s doorstep, but those legs are made for blockin’, and that’s just what they did.
End of second period: 2-1, Sharks. Shots on goal: 19-17, Sharks
The Sharks began the third period without Brent Burns, who left the ice part of the way through the second period, but he would return with about 12 minutes to go in the third.
Dallas had an injury scare of its own when Roope Hintz flew down the wing and then lost his footing and went into the end boards at nearly full speed. Thankfully, Hintz was able to pick himself up and skate off the ice as the play progressed.
However, the Sharks kept up the pressure when it came to the puck itself, generating a few quality looks in the first half of the third, and hemming the Stars in their own zone more than once.
It was Miro Heiskanen who generated the Stars’ first chance of the period, skating all the way through the neutral zone trap to generate a rush chance with Radulov, but the return feed didn’t cooperate with his stick, and the puck slid harmlessly away.
Blake Comeau created another great chance just after that with a shot off the wing, but Andrew Cogliano’s rebound attempt got cleaned up by Brent Burns just in time to prevent the Stars from tying the game, for the moment.
But the Stars had turned the tide, and it was former Star Brenden Dillon, of all people, who would put them on the power play (coincidentally evening up the calls, surprise surprise) by leveling Jason Dickinson (who else?) well after the puck had left the vicinity. Thus, the Stars had a power play chance to tie things up with 7:20 left to go.
How did the power play go? Well, let’s just say an Anton Khudobin zone clearance was the most exciting thing to happen. In fairness, however, Seguin did get a great chance right after the advantage expired, but Dell was once again in the right place to take care of it.
For all the Stars’ scoring problems in this one, Khudobin kept them in it, even foiling a couple of Sharks odd-man chances late.
But you need quality when it comes to both ends of the ice, and the Stars had trouble finding that quality opportunity—at least, without higher quality goaltending to answer it.
The best chance was a heartbreaker: a bouncing puck found Janmark open in the offensive zone, and he found Kiviranta for a perfect low-slot one-timer, but Dell’s left leg got over just in time to keep the rookie’s first NHL goal from becoming reality.
And then another flurry of chances as the final minute approach: Jamie Benn tipped a pass on net from the doorstep, but right into Dell. Then Heiskanen fired a rocket from the slot that was turned aside. It was fast and furious, but not quite good enough. Aaron Dell did enough, and the Stars ended their third game in four nights with a disappointing 2-1 defeat.
Final score: 2-1, Sharks. Shots on goal: 28-26, Stars