The Dallas Stars played their first road game after a 17-day shutdown due to a COVID-19 outbreak within the organization. It was also their third game in four days since returning to game action, no small feat under normal circumstances, much less after so much time without having a full contingent on the ice.
Layer to that a pretty gross road record (4-9-1 heading into this game) and the St. Louis Blues riding an 11-game point streak on home ice (10-0-1), and it was a perfect storm for a penciled in loss as the Stars traveled for a game just 24 hours after the puck dropped on their 3-2 win over the Pittsburgh Penguins.
But they didn’t deserve how this game ended.
The Stars played a pretty good road game in the first 20 minutes. Neither team scored, and the shots on goal only had a slight edge in favor of the Blues. According to Natural Stat Trick, high danger scoring chances were exactly even, reflective of the eyeball test of it being a pretty even period between the two Central Division rivals.
Games between the Blues and Stars are historically pretty low-scoring affairs. Today looked headed towards more of the same. Jason Robertson finally broke through midway through the second period, beating Jordan Binnington with traffic in front of the netminder as the Stars crashed the net.
It felt like Dallas could have had more that frame, though. They racked up 75% of the high danger scoring chances that period. Binnington came up with some big saves to keep it a one-goal game for the home team.
Though the Blues had the expected push in the third period, it looked like Robertson’s goal was going to be the difference. Dallas was less than two minutes away from securing the two points. But the last 30 seconds of chaos led to an altogether different result.
Jani Hakanapaa was called for a hooking penalty with 1:52 left in the game. Early into the penalty kill, Esa Lindell had his stick broken, making the power play essentially a 6-on-3-and-a-half with Binnington pulled for an extra attacker. As Michael Raffl rushes to the bench to get a stick after handing his off to Lindell, Pavel Buchnevich appears to haul down Miro Heiskanen to the ice.
That went uncalled. When asked if the refs told him or captain Jamie Benn what happened on the penalty calls, Heiskanen said, “They didn’t [tell] me anything. I think they knew they were wrong.”
With Heiskanen trying to defend after the non-call, he slashed the stick of Jordan Kyrou. That one the refs did not miss. With the delayed penalty call, Ryan O’Reilly shot the puck past a sprawling Braden Holtby, who appeared to lose his balance after trying to block the shot that led to the eventual rebound off the boards leading up to the Blues goal.
“The two penalties we took were penalties, but I think they took one on Miro that was pretty evident right away,” Holtby said. “That either goes two ways: he either gets the puck down the ice or there’s a penalty and a faceoff at the other end. Usually ends the game.”
“I think that was a really bad call by them,” Heiskanen said. “I got tripped in the corner and they called me [for] a slash. Yeah, it might be a slash, but I think that was a pretty clear trip in the corner. I don’t know. It’s frustrating. That sucks. I think we played really well and they do that at the end, so it sucks.”
With another power play and another 6-on-4 opportunity, Kyrou banked the puck off of Hakanpaa and into the net for the 2-1 regulation win.
“If you’re watching the game, you saw what happened,” Stars coach Rick Bowness said after the game. “They clearly pulled Miro down, clearly grab his stick and pull him down. That’s my opinion. They got lucky. Broken stick on a penalty kill, second goal goes in off our feet. That’s the breaks of the game.”