Tonight the Dallas Stars visited the Sunshine State to take on the Florida Panthers in the first of three games in the next four days. This is the first game after Texas was blanketed in snow and ice and the Stars had four games (two each against the Nashville Predators and the Tampa Bay Lightning) postponed for energy conservation reasons.
So the Stars have enjoyed an eight-day rest while Florida had an entire four-game road trip during which they went 3-1-0.
Good news for the Stars — this allowed Roope Hintz time to heal and get back in the lineup. Bad news for the Stars — the rust was real.
As is tradition, early chances favored the Panthers, but the Stars got on the board early when Blake Comeau picked up the rebound off a shot by Jason Robertson from the point.
Robertson followed up this beautiful move by slashing Aaron Ekblad, but since it didn’t lead to a Panthers goal it’s hard to be too mad about it. The Panthers traded penalties back when Eetu Luostarinen was called for tripping Denis Gurianov.
Roope Hintz took a puck to the head under his helmet off a deflection on a shot. He made it back to the bench on his own steam but took a long time being evaluated before returning to play. With Hintz out, the rest of the power play for Dallas suffered, giving the Panthers more shorthanded attempts than anyone should truly be comfortable with.
Chris Driedger rounded out the first period with a huge save on a Gurianov breakaway.
Shots: Dallas 10, Florida 11
Score: Dallas 1, Florida 0
This entire period was a painful struggle that the Stars didn’t really survive. The good news? Anton Khudobin looked like Anton Khudobin again. The bad news? The Stars did their best impression of pylons.
But first, Mark Pysyk drew a penalty against his former team, and it was on this power play that Khudobin had the big stops that really signaled he’s back in action.
And then not a lot happened for the Stars, but the Panthers managed to get 10 unanswered shots on goal. On their 11th, Aaron Ekblad scored. Seems inevitable when the Stars can’t clear it out of their own zone.
Then Jamie Oleksiak got a penalty for being tall — or interference on Anthony Duclair; it’s really anyone’s guess. Jason Dickinson got hit in the face, so it was just another Monday evening for him. And then John Klingberg punched his NHL fight card.
Yes, you heard that correctly. In a fight that he started, no less!
It didn’t go well for him, as could be expected when someone who has never dropped the gloves before does it against someone who is both bigger and slightly more experienced. Hornqvist has one more fight under his belt than Klingberg, but certainly punched like he knew what he was doing.
The Panthers rounded out the period by pulling ahead off a slap shot from the left point by Keith Yandle.
The Stars had four shots on goal to the Panthers’ 29, and that is not a typo. It doesn’t even paint the entire picture. The shot attempts were 41-5 in favor of the Panthers, and high-danger chances (the area right in front of the net) were 9-0 in favor of the Panthers. It’s unclear whether anyone but Khudobin really tried at all.
Shots: Dallas 14, Florida 40
Score: Dallas 1, Florida 2
The Stars came out in the third and actually played the game. They had shots on goal, high-danger chances, and momentum in their favor.
Also, Anton Khudobin continued to save their collective bacon at every opportunity.
There were no penalties, and nothing particularly special happened. Khudobin was pulled for the extra attacker with a little over two minutes left.
Unfortunately, the only hero on the Stars roster tonight sat for the last two minutes of the game.
Instead, Aleksander Barkov made a 100-foot backhanded empty-net goal and the Stars lost their eighth game of the season. It’s been a little over three weeks since they won a game and they are now 0-3-3 in their last six games.
This is the first of three games against the Panthers this week, so the Stars have an opportunity for redemption on Wednesday.
Shots: Dallas 25, Florida 52
Score: Dallas 1, Florida 3
The next game in the series begins at 4 p.m. CST on Wednesday, February 24th.