The Dallas Stars open the season at home in the American Airlines Center tonight, their first time playing to a full capacity crowd at home since March 10, 2020, and a 4-2 loss against the New York Rangers.
The season is only four games old but the Stars have been mercurial at best, currently at 2 wins and 2 losses in the early season. They’ve lost John Klingberg to injury in the first game of the season against the Rangers, and Blake Comeau and Jason Robertson have been out since training camp. The two wins they’ve gotten have come in overtime and a shootout. Prior to the start of this game, their goal differential was at -1.
Most problematic of all, it’s four games in and Tyler Seguin didn’t have a single point at the start of this game.
The best the Stars really looked through sixty minutes was the first three. They had some early pressure and chances before getting bogged down in missed passes and shot suppression.
Ryan Suter, now a Star, did have a great chance for his first as a Star but hit the crossbar a few minutes into the game.
The Achilles heel for the Stars in 2020-21 was their penalty kill, where they were third from the bottom in percentage and middle of the pack in time spent shorthanded. The Stars hoped to fix some of that by adding Suter in the off-season but then lost John Klingberg, who eats a lot of shorthanded minutes, to injury in the first game.
All this to say, the Stars really start putting their penalty kill to the test this game.
Radek Faksa is the first to take a trip to the box on a tripping call against Kings Captain Anze Kopitar, but the Stars kill that penalty.
The shots are 12-3 Kings after that power play, but it should be noted that the scoring chances (from the defined zone in front of the night and up to the face-off dots) were actually equal at one at even strength.
Roughly five minutes after killing the penalty, Stars goalie Braden Holtby cheats to the side as Viktor Arvidsson takes a pass across the zone to Kopitar, who had set up shop next to the net on the other side. With no pressure from Stars defense and Holtby on the other side, the net was wide open for Kopitar to pick up the trash.
As the tweet says, this is Kopitar’s fourth goal in four games.
The Stars got the next power-play opportunity off a cross-checking call against Drew Doughty. The extra ice gave Tyler Seguin his first of the season off a pass from Suter with less than a minute left in the first.
It’s difficult to overstate just how much the Stars were outplayed in this period, given the even score.
Not exactly ideal. pic.twitter.com/3xH4f8Xyt3— The Ghost of Merrins Past (@merrinish) October 23, 2021
The Stars certainly did Stars.
Shots: Dallas 4, LA 14
Goals: Dallas 1, LA 1
Stars coach Rick Bowness reunited the line of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, and Alexander Radulov for this period, which ended up lasting for most of the rest of the game at even strength.
However, this period didn’t see a lot of 5-on-5 time.
In answer to what some deemed a weak call on Doughty in the first period, a weak holding call was given to Joe Pavelski in the early part of the second period, but the penalty kill knocked that out, and Roope Hintz, in particular, had a great shift, giving the Stars some shorthanded opportunities.
Next, Ryan Suter was called for cross-checking against Blake Lizotte, but there wasn’t anything weak about that call. Sixteen seconds into the power play, Arvidsson took a tripping call, negating the man advantage and putting play even again at 4-on-4.
To note: halfway through the game, the Stars had 7 shots on goal.
Jani Hakanpaa, who signed with the Stars this summer as a free agent, took a holding penalty with 16 seconds left in 4-on-4, giving the Kings some 4-on-3 time, but nothing came of it.
Hakanpaa took a second penalty five minutes later against Drew Doughty, a dangerous knee-on-knee hit that took Doughty out of the rest of the game. Hakanpaa was assessed a five-minute major and a game misconduct.
Drew Doughty injured after getting kneed by Jani Hakanpaa pic.twitter.com/QAcjIpl6em— Brady Trettenero (@BradyTrett) October 23, 2021
With the extra time at power play strength, Gabriel Vilardi scored to bring the Kings up 2-1.
The same shot map at all strengths for the second period is just as depressing as the shot map for the first period, though it does reveal that the Kings favored high danger chances from the stick side.
Michael Raffl, recently signed with Dallas from the Washington Capitals, had the most chances on the Stars side, the only player to have more than one shot on goal in the second period.
Shots: Dallas 10, LA 31
Goals: Dallas 1, LA 2
The Stars had some leftover penalty kill time in the third period, but were back to even strength within the first minute.
This period felt like it was going to be more of the first 40 minutes, the Stars only had one shot at eight minutes into the period. Then, penalties began to plague the Kings.
Sean Walker had a tripping penalty against Raffl, then with 30 seconds still to go in the power-play, Matt Roy took a penalty for delay of game, putting the puck over the glass. The Stars have not excelled at 5-on-3 in recent memory, but this opportunity proved to be an exception.
Stars scored on the 5 on 3, Pavelski found Heiskanen across the zone after a slew of saves from Jonathan Quick.
This goal was Heiskanen’s 100th point as a Star, and he becomes the youngest defenseman in franchise history to hit the mark, also the second fastest after Klingberg.
Roy took a second penalty a minute later, an interference call against Raffl. The Stars finally woke up and started getting the shots, they ended this period with 9 despite only having one almost halfway through the period. Sixty minutes wasn’t enough for a decision though, so to overtime the game went.
Shots: Dallas 19, LA 41
Goals: Dallas 2, LA 2
The extra minutes were particularly exciting, with some amazing opportunities on both ends. Holtby stood firm and made some unreal saves for the Stars, but so did Quick. In the end, Denis Gurianov managed to get the puck past Quick for a Stars win.
And because the crowd reaction makes everything better:
Denis Gurianov did the damn thing. What a beauty in overtime. Blew the top off the AAC. pic.twitter.com/nRlYyudnVS— Saad Yousuf (@SaadYousuf126) October 23, 2021
It’s a result the Stars like to see, though the shot suppression plan hasn’t come to fruition and the Stars are still relying too heavily on their goaltending. Holtby, amazing as he is, will not sustain a .955 average through the whole season.
Still, a win is a win is a win.
The Stars will be back on the road after taking Saturday and Sunday off. They’ll be in Ohio to take on the Columbus Blue Jackets on Monday night, puck drop will be at 6 pm CST.