The Dallas Stars entered the game tonight with nine left on the schedule, and a back-to-back set on home ice versus the Carolina Panthers. Home ice has been kind to the Stars this year — they’re 12-6-8 at the American Airlines Center. The road has been less forgiving, and with the Stars closing out the season on a seven-game road trip and their playoff lives hanging in the balance, making hay one last time at home was desperately needed if the Stars want to keep in this tight race in the Central Division.
They did just that tonight, and now will need to see if they can turn around and do the same less than 24 hours later.
Everything was coming up fabulous for the Stars in the first period tonight.
It started early when Jamie Benn got hooked on what was going to be the first breakaway of the night just 16 seconds into the game. That gave Dallas an early power play opportunity, and Jason Robertson’s crashing the net got James Reimer discombobulated to the point where Joe Pavelski was able to clean up the loose puck to the side of the net and bank one home courtesy of the traffic in front.
Carolina would push back after that. They’re top of the division for a reason, after all. But at even strength, the two teams were basically dead even according to Natural Stat Trick. The scoring chances were split evenly 50/50 between the two teams. But the quality of those favored Dallas heavily. Dallas took a 6-3 advantage in that department, finding time and space in those valuable parts of the ice.
That’s why it really wasn’t much of a surprise when Dallas was able to extend that lead to 2-0. However, that goal wasn’t without a little element of surprise to it. Esa Lindell let a shot loose from the point that stayed low to the ice. It seemed to hit Jason Dickinson’s skate as he was in a kicking-esque motion and deflect past Reimer. That movement wasn’t considered intentional, though, so Dickinson’s goal was a good one.
Dallas managed to keep that lead even with a couple of power play chances by their opponent, even with a rarely-sighted Miro Heiskanen slashing penalty with a little over two minutes left in the period. The Stars were able to block the shooting lanes, and Heiskanen was even sprung out of the box when his penalty expired, ending the first frame on a rush chance by the defenseman.
Things weren’t as peachy for the Stars in the second period, though. The two teams played fairly evenly for the first seven minutes, lulling fans into a false sense of an easy win heading Dallas’ way. But that wouldn’t really be Stars hockey, would it?
Max McCormick managed to pop the first goal in off a shot that looked more suited to the baseball diamond than the hockey rink. He managed to keep the stick below the crossbar, and found space between Jake Oettinger and the net.
About three minutes later, the Stars were staring at a tied game courtesy of Jaccob Slavin. Andrew Cogliano got stuck out on the ice without a stick, and the wily defenseman made sure to take advantage. His shot was a particularly pretty one, picking the far corner over Oettinger’s shoulder when he came out to play the shot aggressively from his net.
Then, Jamie Benn entered the chat.
The Stars captain had been playing a very good game. In fact, he had registered assists on both fo the Stars’ goals and seemed to be driving his line to dangerous looks each time he was on the ice. After the Stars allowed the first goal, he was pushing to regain that two-goal lead.
While he wasn’t successful that way, he did setup the eventual game winning goal by Denis Gurianov. As the play developed off of a neutral zone turnover forced by Benn intercepting the puck with his skates, he spotted Gurianov streaking down the wing side. He hit him in stride perfectly through all of the Carolina and Dallas players, finding an open seam cross-ice, and Gurianov absolutely blasted home a one-timer to give the Stars a 3-2 lead.
Dallas looked like they were going to shut down the Hurricanes in the final 20 minutes. Though the scoring chances heavily favored Carolina (chasing a game can do that in the last period of a game), the Stars didn’t really seem to be turtling into protecting the lead. They did look dangerous at times, and managed to test Reimer a few times. Oettinger stood tall when they needed him to. Carolina is a deadly team, and that period showed why.
The team from Raleigh, which is fighting for their own playoff positioning trying to stave off the Florida Panthers and Tampa Bay Lightning atop the wouldn’t be put away that easily. They took advantage of a miscue with the puck by the Stars in the neutral zone. With nobody covering the trailing defender, Jani Hakanpaa blasted one past Oettinger to tie the game with a little over three minutes remaining in regulation.
Hakanpaa also managed to put Roope Hintz into the corner pretty hard late in the game. Hintz had been looking like he was primed for a great scoring chance until the Carolina defender made that play. With his status constantly at “game-time decision” and no penalty on the play, fans in the building let the refs and the player know that action was not appreciated.
Thus, the Dallas Stars found themselves in that oft-visited game situation this season: overtime.
Carolina seemed to dominate the puck possession time. But thanks to the Stars’ defensive play, they never registered a shot on goal. On the end of a shift that lasted 1:40, Robertson made a strong defensive play — and then went nearly 200 feet the other way, setting up the fresh legs of Benn for the winning goal.
Benn finished the game with one goal and three assists, tying the franchise record with Mike Modano for most overtime goals. Robertson scored two assists (both primary) and pulled closer to tying Minnesota Wild forward Kirill Kaprizov in the rookie scoring race.