Heading into tonight’s game, Dallas had five games in hand on the Chicago Blackhawks and the Columbus Blue Jackets, the two teams they’re in a battle with for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Central Division. The team’s inability to find the extra point in games past regulation will absolutely not come back to bite them, not at all. [/end sarcasm]
Without half of the team’s top six forwards - Tyler Seguin (offseason surgery), Roope Hintz (lower body), and Alexander Radulov (lower body) - the Stars have been desperate to get some depth scoring going. And they’ve actually started to get some of it going.
Tonight, it started with Rhett Gardner. After scoring his first point in the NHL last night with an assist, he decided to follow that up with his first career NHL goal. Radek Faksa then scored his fourth goal of the season to allow Dallas to jump up to a 2-0 lead after the first 10 minutes of the game.
Ty Dellandrea then extended the lead to make the game 3-1 when he redirected Joe Pavelski’s redirect of a John Klingberg shot with seven minutes left in the second period.
Unfortunately, the team let the Predators whittle away at the two goal lead, eventually surrendering the tying goal in the third period and not being able to find the fourth necessary to end the game in regulation.
Nashville could have easily tied the game earlier than they did when Anton Khudobin came out of his net to stop a puck. He did a little spin on the puck, and didn’t have it secured. The refs blew the whistle and then the puck found its way to the back of the net. Luckily, the whole “whistle already blew the play dead” thing worked out in Dallas’ favor, or they’d be staring at a regulation loss instead.
John Klingberg had a prime scoring chance to end it in overtime, and was absolutely robbed by the post of the net. He had beaten Pekka Rinne but the puck went off the left post and didn’t fall into line. That was one of the loudest “pings” in the history of overtime hockey ever.
The teams couldn’t do it in overtime, sending the game to a shootout. Jason Robertson shot wide left on his attempt. Dellandrea got his first shootout chance and was stopped by a poke check that ended with himself (and not the puck) in the net. Pavelski juked Rinne straight out of his net and scored in the third round of the shootout, sending it to extra chances.
John Klingberg (!) was stoned by Rinne, and then Jamie Benn missed in the fifth round, giving the Predators the 4-3 win. Khudobin had a beautiful pad stop in the shootout, but he didn’t get much in the way of scoring support to make that performance stand up for the extra point tonight.
GAME OF ATTRITION
The Dallas Stars continue to rack up injuries. Much like Roope Hintz, Alexander Radulov is now going to be a “game time decision” before each game from here on out. Reading between the lines, it seems his lower body injury, which caused him to miss 15 games earlier this season, is one that requires a more permanent fix that can’t happen in-season (or, so long as the Stars’ playoff hopes are alive anyway.)
Unfortunately, the forward depth took additional hits tonight. Radek Faksa didn’t return for the third period due to a lower body injury. Joel Kiviranta, who blocked a shot with the inside of his foot/ankle area early in the third period, also didn’t finish the game with a lower body injury.
That leaves the Stars’ center depth razor thin. Without Seguin and Hintz already, Faksa going out means that’s the top three centers on the depth chart the Stars are without. It’s just a matter of how long that will be the case, and has become a glaring weakness in the Stars system.
Dallas has been preaching a “next man up” mentality for a few years now. With a very compressed schedule for the rest of the regular season, that’s going to be put to the test.