The Dallas Stars kicked off an eastern Canada road trip with a ton of storylines.
There was the fact that with Joe Pavelski out day-to-day and Alexander Radulov hitting IR, forward prospect Jason Robertson was making his NHL debut.
Or how about the games played milestones, with Andrew Cogliano set to skate in his 1,000th career NHL game in front of his hometown crowd and Roman Polak set to skate in his 800th career NHL game.
Then there was some scoring-related milestones in the locker room: Jamie Benn sitting on the cusp of his 300th career goal; Tyler Seguin with a 17-game goal-less streak, the highest such streak ever in his career; Radek Faksa riding a 11-game goal-less streak.
With a win and goals from Denis Gurianov, Seguin, and Radek Faksa, the stories around this 2019-2020 Dallas Stars season continue to be written.
Dallas weathered the first shift by the Leafs’ massively-paid top line. After John Tavares came onto the ice on the line change, he struggled to shake the Stars forwards pressuring him in the offensive zone as he looked to move the puck out of his own end. Denis Gurianov took advantage of a rare turnover by the veteran forward, who was behind all three Leafs forward before they knew it and alone in the slot in front of Frederik Andersen. He put just enough force behind his shot for the puck to squeeze through and over the goal line.
The Stars had opened the scoring for the second game in a row with just 1:20 passed in the game.
Dallas did a very good job with their forecheck, keeping the Leafs forwards from finding too much time or space for much of the first period. They didn’t register a shot on goal until half the period had passed. In fact, with 15 minutes passed in the period, the shots were an astounding.....3-2.
Trademark Dallas hockey, that.
One of the best embodiments of that style of game (other than the marked lack of shots on goal for either team) was a backchecking shift in their own zone. William Nylander had the puck on his stick and was coming in hot towards Ben Bishop with Miro Heiskanen right on his tail. He tried to shift the direction of his shot, and Radek Faksa was right behind the duo and able to take the puck away from what could have been a dangerous chance area.
Dallas didn’t even need 1:20 to score in the second period. Radek Faksa took a puck on a breakaway into the zone thanks to a great neutral ice pass by Blake Comeau to spring him. He needed just 24 seconds to put the puck through Andersen to put Dallas up 2-0 in the middle frame.
A little more than 30 seconds later, Tyler Seguin took the butt-end of a stick to the face courtesy of Travis Holl for Dallas’ first power play chance. They struggled to get clean zone entries on the man advantage and really didn’t generate much to speak of during that two minutes. Ditto for the two minutes that followed not long after when the Leafs took a too many men on the ice penalty.
Kyle Clifford and Jamie Oleksiak fought not long after the expiration of the second power play by Dallas. It felt a little bit like a play trying to get the Leafs going, and Oleksiak took him up on the offer.
The Leafs did have push back after that.
It eventually led to a power play chance, and just like the things you can count on in life — taxes, coaches not playing a favorite player enough — Auston Matthews got his standard goal against the Stars to cut the lead in half. He’s scored a goal a game against the Big D squad in his career so far (so Stars fans are likely grateful he only gets two cracks at them during the regular season).
Though the Leafs improved as the period went on, the Stars were able to weather the storm and take their one goal lead to the last 20 minutes of regulation.
The next time Seguin goes on a goal scoring dry spell like this, the trick just might be to get him some home cooking by his mother, Jackie Seguin. She fed her son last night in Toronto and was in the house when her son ended his 17 game goal-less streak. Funnily enough, he needed just 1:21 into the last period to score, marking the best game of period starts by Dallas in a pretty long time.
Tavares struggled to keep up with Heiskanen’s speed, and his tripping penalty would put Dallas on an early power play. It will never go down as a hallmark Seguin goal, nor used as the definition of the type of shot and scoring ability he had in his prime. But it does not matter if this had been the dirtiest goal ever scored in the history of hockey, this was a beautiful one in Seguin’s highlight reel for the significance it holds this season:
Jason Robertson, making his NHL debut tonight, picked up an assist on that play.
Though Dallas would get a few more chances in the period, the majority of the rest of it was spent in the defensive zone. To be expected, surely, given the two goal lead and the impact of score effects. Dallas saw a lot of Matthews, Nylander, and Mitch Marner that period, as they were out nearly every other shift.
Toronto pulled the goaltender for the extra attacker nearly four minutes before the game ended. They were able to cut the lead to 3-2 when Ben Bishop thought he had made the save and the puck shook loose out of his paraphernalia. Zach Hyman, in prime position to see the puck’s path, was able to swat it past Bishop. Though the goal could have meant a comeback, Dallas shut the door for the last minute to come out with the 3-2 win against a very talented, skilled Leafs team.
Dallas now has 71 points in 57 games this season. They’re within striking distance of the St. Louis Blues as the top of the Central Division gets tighter — and the number of games left in the regular season tick off.