The Stars scored two power play goals, and Jamie Benn was awarded a hat trick without ever putting a third puck in the net as the Stars took town the Hurricanes 4-1 on Tuesday night in Dallas.
Alexander Radulov returned to the lineup after missing a bit of time, while Joe Pavelski was a late scratch with an upper-body injury, although he did take warmups before the game. Anton Khudobin also started his second game in a row, perhaps getting the nod against his old team for strategic reasons. However it all was drawn up, it certainly went down as a solid, reassuring win for the Stars against a team that has had their number in the two clubs’ last couple of matches.
Andrej Sekera drew back into the lineup in favor of Roman Polak, and the Stars outskated and outplayed the Hurricanes in all three zones for more or less 50 minutes of the game. It was a team win that ended up highlighting the captain, and that might be the most appropriate sort for a self-effacing guy like Benn to score three goals in.
The power play was key in getting the Stars a lead to reflect their play, but this was a win as deserved beforehand as it was earned afterwards. Dallas stayed out of the box (they only took one penalty), still created chances even when leading, and Anton Khudobin had to come up big a couple of times to make sure the Canes didn’t inch back into the game.
The defense looked mobile and smart on all three pairings, and the Stars’ physicality—they are a big team, you remember at times—complemented their smart puck movement to a degree we’ve only seen here and there this season.
The team still has a long way to go, but if you’re going to bemoan their weaknesses when they lose, you should darn well celebrate their strengths in a fun, rewarding win like this one.
The Hintz-Seguin-Perry line got a couple of great looks early, but Petr Mrazek was able to stand strong. Denis Gurianov also got a chance in the beginning of the game, but his quick shot after finding the puck out of a scramble couldn’t beat Mrazek’s quick pad. But Roope Hintz would get the best chance of all, when a perfect Tyler Seguin pass led Hintz just enough to get in all alone on Mrazek, only to put the puck over the crossbar.
Finally, Jamie Benn would get the job done after a great 4-on-2 rush that started with a Jason Dickinson backcheck in the defensive zone to set it all up. Miro Heiskanen let the rush, then dropped the puck to his own defense partner, Stephen Johns, who then found Benn cross-ice for a sweet little finish.
Come for the Jason Dickinson back check, STAY FOR THE JAMIE BENN GOAL— FOX Sports Southwest (@FOXSportsSW) February 12, 2020
Johns finds the Captain in transition, and No. 14 does the rest to give the @DallasStars a 1-0 lead in the first period!#GoStars | : FSSW pic.twitter.com/jsmi4jj6Rh
It was a fitting way to make the scoreboard reflect at least a bit of the Stars’ dominance in the first part of the game, when they leaped out to an 11-3 advantage in shots on goal. But although Dallas was feeling good about themselves, generating no fewer than four solid chances that could have turned into pay dirt, the period would end up reflecting a much starker reality.
Radek Faksa put a hit on Justin Williams that was probably a one-minute boarding call, but that’s going to get called in the first period almost every time, and it was. Sebastian Aho then found an errant pass in his skates right as the penalty expired, and he whipped the fluttering puck just past Khudobin’s toe for the Canes’ first goal.
In fact, for all the good Dallas did early, they were fortunate to end the period level. After losing a puck, Anton Khudobin then had to scramble and rob Teuvo Teravainen to keep the game knotted at one apiece.
khudobin changed the other guy's name to teravain'tin pic.twitter.com/Pb1agiOhNs— Robert Tiffin (@RobertTiffin) February 12, 2020
End of first period: 1-1. Shots on goal: 12-9, Dallas.
The middle frame was kinder to the Stars’ scoring efforts, but it all started with a nice defensive play (the coaches have not paid me to say this) when Jamie Benn made a great 180-foot backcheck to foil the finishing end of a Hurricanes’ early 4-on-2 chance (which came after Mattias Janmark tried a pass off a 3-on-2 that should have been put on net).
Martin Necas then got caught grabbing Stephen Johns’s stick, and the Stars went to the power play, upon which their best chance came (like Carolina’s) right as the two minutes expired, only to have Mrazek foil Gurianov and company to keep things level for the time being.
The power play would get more chances, however—remember when this wasn’t necessarily a guarantee?—when a foolish Gardiner turnover necessitated a penalty, and Denis Gurianov redeemed a scuffling power play with a world-class one-timer that obliterated the cap on Mrazek’s water bottle.
Denis Gurianov can score on goals turned completely backwards, I am confident of this fact pic.twitter.com/gl63FH7ZBK— Robert Tiffin (@RobertTiffin) February 12, 2020
The third Stars power play of the period came when Roope Hintz ensured that Brock McGinn’s hook was well-displayed for all to see. As Razor said on the broadcast, Hintz may have been a bit overzealous in chicken-winging the hook, but it was a penalty nonetheless, and Jamie Benn’s sick wrister from the slot then ensured that the Stars’ lead was well-established. The Stars’ power play: It Is Good Again!
jamie benn won an art ross trophy once, you may have heard pic.twitter.com/9Nu81x3LT1— Robert Tiffin (@RobertTiffin) February 12, 2020
The period ended with a flurry that included a Svechnikov breakaway after Blake Comeau lost the puck on a double curl in the offensive zone as well as a strong Esa Lindell hit on Sebastian Aho as the horn sounded.
Stephen Johns also took a puck up high in the final minutes of the second period that saw him head down the tunnel, but he would return for the third period.
End of second period: 3-1, Dallas. Shots on goal: 29-19, Dallas.
Before the Stars went into lockdown mode, they were given another power play after a bit of a frantic scrum in their own zone. They generated another handful of great chances, but they couldn’t quite find that fourth goal.
They still managed to get a chance or two in the meantime, though. Denis Gurianov in particular got a nice look on a 2-on-1 with Jason Dickinson, but Mrazek’s glove just barely got a piece of Gurianov’s shot to keep him one goal off the team lead.
The Stars really did control the game the way they needed to down the stretch, and they scored a relatively rare empty-net goal (well, rare for Dallas). Oh, except they didn’t.
Hey, it was only right that on a night when the Stars gave away free hats, Jamie Benn would be given a hat trick without having to put the puck in the net. I would also be remiss if I didn’t point out just how strong Benn was to ensure he got the puck and stayed on the right side of his man all the way down the ice. That was vintage Jamie Benn to a large degree, and you really were smiling right along with Seguin and company to see the captain get a hat trick.
Final: 4-1, Dallas. Shots on goal: 36-25, Dallas