It would be understandable if the Dallas Stars had come out flat tonight.
After all, the American Airlines Center only hosts 18,532 at maximum capacity. When you compare that to the 85,000-plus that filled the Cotton Bowl, more than 60,000 of which were there to cheer on the hometown hockey team, it could be a bit of an emotional let down coming back to the smaller venue.
“The crowd was good tonight. It was fun. We love playing here,” Joe Pavelski said after the game. “But, I mean, that Cotton Bowl was something else. Everyone was just talking about how cool of an event it was. Really, the venue was awesome but the fans made it that way.”
Those same fans have not cheered on Pavelski for many games, especially when taken into context in the 13+ seasons he’s played in the NHL, all of which before this season were played with the San Jose Sharks. After playing in his 1,000th game earlier in the season on the road, tonight the Stars honored his accomplishment in front of his new home arena and its fans.
Playing against the rebuilding Detroit Red Wings, the Dallas Stars should have won if you look at the standings. After all, the Red Wings rank near the bottom of the league in many categories that people would use to separate the good teams from the bad: points, wins, goals for per game, goals against per game.
Dallas took care of business, and got the win against a team they should have won. They extended their win streak to four straight games after the Christmas break.
Of course, the Stars didn’t dominate right away. Even interim head coach Rick Bowness after the game said that it took them a little to get their legs under them. That led to an early goal against, when Dylan Larkin potted a goal after a pass took a fortuitous bounce off of Miro Heiskanen’s skate and straight to his stick blade.
The goal came just 3:47 into the game, another one in which Dallas let in an early goal.
As the period went on, the Stars started to find their game. The penalty kill actually kind of helped with that, with Radek Faksa sitting for four minutes due to a hi-sticking penalty that drew blood.
After a particularly strong penalty killing shift by Pavelski to get the puck up through the neutral zone, Esa Lindell entered the offensive zone on a 2-on-0 with Roope Hintz. Hintz netted his 14th of the season on the shorthanded attempt, a nice turn of tables with the Stars capitalizing on an odd-man rush after infamously bobbling several earlier in December.
The penalties continued into the second period, with Dallas getting called for an Alexander Radulov offensive zone hooking penalty (the free square on the Stars bingo card each game, seemingly.) Pavelski got a tripping penalty almost immediately after the end of the first penalty, essentially giving Detroit nearly two four minute penalties in the game tonight.
Thankfully, the penalty kill wasn’t the only side of the special teams that were cooking for the Stars.
Earlier in the period, Madison Bowey was in the box for a holding penalty when Faksa redirected a Lindell point shot to give Dallas a two goal lead just 1:36 into the period. Once that lead was established, it never really was threatened by the Red Wings.
Pavelski capped off his big night in front of friends and family on his big night when he forced a turnover in the neutral zone. As he looked pass his whole way towards the net, Pavelski called his own number and rang one right in past Jonathan Bernier for the game’s only unassisted goal.
Though Dallas was basically locked into a win to start the third period, it wasn’t without a little bit of controversy.
They had a seemingly fourth goal overturned on a goaltender interference call. On the replay, it appeared in the arena that Pavelski had been pushed by a Red Wing into Bernier to bump him before the puck went into the net.
But apparently, at least for tonight, that was goaltender interference. As one commenter on Twitter said, this is the NHL’s equivalent of pass interference from the NFL in that nobody really knows what it is from game to game.
The night was capped off with an Andrej Sekera shorthanded empty net goal. With Roman Polak in the box for a delay of game penalty due to putting the puck over the glass, the Red Wings pulled Bernier for an extra attacker to try to cut the lead near the end. After about four looks at the empty net and a good impression by Detroit players of a Premier League blocking wall, Sekera blasted one in from the blueline.
*Janmark had another strong game tonight, even if his work didn’t show up on the scoresheet. His strong efforts defensively and ability to gain the offensive zone is a big part of the team’s win, even if you wouldn’t know it by just looking at the box score. He was also a key part of the Stars’ penalty kill going 5-for-5 in the game.
*Polak with the surprising play of the game on a good look at the net after joining the rush offensively.
*Andrej Sekera: heating up. In two games, he’s scored outdoors, indoors, at even strength, and shorthanded.
*Lindell recorded his third primary assist of the night on Sekera’s goal. Strong night from the usually nondescript defender that plays next to (the currently injured) John Klingberg.