Game 44 Afterwords: Dubnyk Vs. Benn

The Wild finally didn't blow a multi-goal lead against Dallas. Hooray for the Wild.

When the puck dropped on this game, everyone did a double take. Jamie Benn was on the ice, and Cody Eakin was his center, but on the right wing was none other than Colton Sceviour. What?

Razor surmised that Ruff was trying to jump-start Jamie Benn, and if so, well, maybe it worked? I'm not sure that a 2-1 loss constitutes "working," but Benn certainly could have had three goals tonight. So if line Ruffling can create scoring chances, then more power to it.

Biggest talking point, of course, is the disallowed goal. The rule is pretty clear that Roussel's being fully in the crease before the shot as the goalie was preparing to make the save can constitute interfering with Dubnyk's ability to make the play, and that's what was called. Here's what the league had to say:

The Referee determined that Roussel prevented Dubnyk from doing his job in his crease, in accordance with Rule 78.7 which states in part: "The standard for overturning the call in the event of a ‘GOAL’ call on the ice is that the Referee ... determines that the goal should have been disallowed due to ‘Interference on the Goalkeeper,’ as described in Rules 69.1, 69.3 and 69.4."

Rule 69.1 states that goals should be disallowed if "an attacking player, either by his positioning or by contact, impairs the goalkeeper's ability to move freely within his crease or defend his goal."

Therefore the original call is overturned – no goal Dallas Stars.

Since the Coach’s Challenge resulted in the original call being overturned, the Minnesota Wild retain their time-out.

The referees actually didn't take long at all to overturn the goal, which surprised me. I'm guessing that the combination of Roussel's being fully in the crease along with his visible contact with Dubnyk's glove are what clinched it for them. I don't really have a problem with the call, but the bottom line is that we've gone from a subjective call according to fairly nebulous rules applied in real time to a review/replay by both officials. In theory, it means the right call will be made more often. In practice, just having one of these even slightly borderline calls go against your team is enough to make you want to shut down replay forever and arrest Thomas Edison for inventing television or whatever.

The end of this game was foreshadowed after the disallowed goal by Dubnyk's ridiculous save on Jokipakka. The gargantuan goaltender was dead to rights on his back, fanning his pads and reaching up with his glove hand, and he managed to shut down the hard-luck Jokipakka.

Of course, it's not like the Stars didn't get some gave-saving (almost) goaltending of their own. One early such instance was the Niemi pad save to hold his left post on Spurgeon after Ryan Carter drew Jamie Benn off with a hack-n-slash fest before a faceoff. For all their shots, the Stars probably should never have been in this game given their play through two periods. Of course, we've seen the Stars get outscored by Minnesota this season quite a few times, and that hasn't stopped them from winning before. Alas.

Despite his successful goading of the Stars' captain the first time around, Ryan Carter would go too far later on Jokipakka, putting Dallas on the power play. For a team that had worked on the power play recently, the results weren't there this time. Yes, the puck movement was fantastic, even getting Dubnyk swimming, but Seguin's hitting a post with a wrister through a Benn screen was as close as they would come. Dubnyk, well...that guy is tall.

As far as their gameplan, the Wild were definitely attacking Benn (and all of the Stars) physically early on, and Dallas responded almost perfectly. They didn't score, but they generated more chances in response, which is the right tactic, because chances (usually) lead to goals.

The Ryan Carter goal was as broken a sequence as you'll see. After Benn had a point shot blocked in the offensive zone, the Wild's transition was muddy but effective enough to bounce its way into the Stars' zone. A cross-ice feed was mostly taken care of by Oleksiak on his man, but Jokipakka's clamp down on Carter's stick just wasn't enough to prevent the tap-in goal. You'd love to see Jokipakka be a tad quicker both getting to the puck and sweeping it away instead of just stick checking, but it was a dumb sequence all the way around, so who even knows. Tough go of it for the third pairing on defense to eat another goal. That's happened a few times lately. (Spoiler: it would happen again, too.)

Niemi's saves on Parise's backhand (after a rather unforced error by Klingberg on a bouncing puck) and Granlund's doorstep effort were crucial, though. If the Wild go up 2-0 in a flash after Dallas had been creating most of the good chances, then maybe their play completely sags and they never recover.

At least, that's what I thought until Cody Eakin fired the puck right into Coyle's skates at the Stars' blue line, creating an automatic breakaway for Vanek, who quickly had Niemi dead to rights. The Eakin giveaway was the progeny of an icing faceoff which was necessitated by an Oleksiak pass to no one. I'm not really blaming Oleksiak for any portion of that goal, to be clear; the Stars had been loose with the puck for most of the second period up to that point, and Eakin's pass came after the Stars had won the faceoff and were breaking out of the zone. In any case, Eakin's attempted pass was as close to an unforgivable play as you're going to see, and it could hardly have come at a worse time in the game.

Yet, for all that, Jamie Benn got a glorious chance on a 2-on-1 with Seguin right after that to bring the game back within spitting distance, but Dubnyk's blocker denied him. It was the battle within the battle (or maybe just the Stars' only consistent battle by anyone with the puck around the net) for most of the game.

Jared Spurgeon got absolutely home-runned by Tyler Seguin's stick (unintentionally) early in the third, but the Wild actually cleared away the puck with a high stick of their own. It was a weird sequence, because the puck was blown dead after Klingberg corralled it, but Seguin escaped without being called for the infraction. That's obviously four minutes for Seguin if the official sees it, but none of them did. Is that karma for the Wild clutching at the North Stars' franchise history for vestiges of their own? I am not saying that it is not that.

Shortly after that, Niemi continued playing like the only Star with skates on, stopping Zucker on a breakaway. Honestly, the dude is a good goaltender, and he's been there for this team so much this season. It's just too bad that the Stars of late haven't been able to help him out.

Scary moment late in the third when Benn made a nice move to get in on Dubnyk, then chose to hold the puck for a wraparound. Unfortunately for Benn, Charlie Coyle was ready for the maneuver. Coyle plastered the captain near the end boards with as good a body-on-body hit as I've seen Benn take. It was the result, I think, of some tunnel vision by Benn on a night when everyone was frustrated, and he paid for it dearly.

I loved, loved, loved the Ruff choice to pull Niemi on the late power play. And even as the Stars got set up in the zone off the mid-power-play faceoff with six skaters, it nearly blew up in their face. Or Spezza's face, rather, as his stick exploded on a slapper at the blue line, but Klingberg and Goligoski continued to hold it in, and Jamie Benn finally, finally beat Dubnyk after a healthy dose of chances on the night. It was so satisfying, but it also felt a bit too much like that Trevor Daley 6-on-3 goal against Columbus in the Peverley make-up game--too little, too late.

And yet, Benn almost had another with a minute left and Niemi (again) pulled. After a mortal battle along the boards with Seguin and Roussel, the puck finally got won to Sharp around the boards, and he fed Benn in the slot, who somehow was foiled by a bit of extra tape on the bottom of Dubnyk's stick. Tyler Seguin clearly believed that meant Benn was due another goal, but his choice to try the cross-crease pass from the doorstep in the dying seconds of the game proved fruitless.

I am tired, but not nearly as exhausted as Dallas must be. The broadcast noted that Dallas has played more games since December 25th than any other team in hockey, and it showed. Dallas demands a lot of skating from its players, and when they're tired, it shows even more. Even with the shot ratio looking favorable to Dallas, they barely managed to generate more scoring chances than Minny, and it took a two-man advantage just to get a power play goal. Things were still not exactly fixed last night.

Maybe Chicago goes ape and catches them over the next week. Maybe Dallas doesn't take a victory lap in March, and maybe they're fighting for their playoff berth come season's end. There has always been the possibility that things could conspire to prevent Dallas's second half from being anywhere close to as successful as their first. Indeed, that has always been more of an eventuality, if we're honest. Dallas was on an historic pace; now they're just on a really great pace. Maybe they slow down some more, or maybe they rebound and start pulling away for good.

Either way, Anaheim is one heck of a place to start a winning streak, don't you think? I'll be there, and I suspect the Dallas Stars we've come to know for most of this season will be, too.