“Fluky” Goals, Lack Of 60-Minute Effort Downs Stars 3-2 To Wild

A goal allowed within the last minute of the game is the straw that broke this camel’s back.

The Dallas Stars had a sour taste in their mouth heading into their matchup versus the Minnesota Wild. The last time the two teams met, before the All-Star Break, Minnesota ran Dallas out of the building to a tune of a 7-0 thrashing.

Obviously, the team wanted to have a better effort against that same opponent, especially in front of their home fans. For 59 minutes, it looked like they were at least going to be able to get a point against an opponent that’s behind them in the standings. The first period was an evenly matched, high-event affair.

Not exactly what we’re used to for the Stars, who tend to have slower starts this season.

But they flipped the script a little bit. After eight straight games of being scored on first, Dallas opened the scoring for a change. Though the first 15 minutes of the game featured big saves by both Ben Bishop and Devan Dubnyk, and it looked as though the first frame would go by scoreless, Dallas took advantage of a power play that’s been relatively hot of late to be the first to break the shutout.

Luke Kunin would go off for hooking against Blake Comeau. The Stars first unit came on the ice, with John Klingberg, Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, Alexander Radulov, and Joe Pavelski. It took them 14 seconds to score. Pavelski, who has been on fire the last few games, has his first extended point streak in a Dallas uniform with his fourth straight game of at least one point thanks to this rocket:

That play was also the first in a line of weird plays tonight.

Pavelski’s goal was scored on a delayed penalty call. With Jared Spurgeon’s penalty negated by the power play, Dallas continued the man advantage play after the goal, seeing the full four minutes of a double-minor hi-sticking penalty Jonas Brodin committed on Alexander Radulov. Usually, a delayed penalty resulting in a goal being scored would result in a negated penalty. Because it was a double-minor being called and Dallas was already on the man advantage, it basically negated the 5-on-3 portion of the penalty that would have resulted had Pavelski not scored.

The Wild would get a bit of a break when Radek Faksa took Dallas off the power play about 30 seconds into the four minute penalty. However, with all of the special teams play to close out the period, Minnesota was kept without a shot on goal in the last 6:44 of the first. Dallas would take a 1-0 lead into the intermission.

The second period picked up where the first ended. Dallas got an early power play chance when captain Jamie Benn was tripped at the offensive blue line just 50 seconds in. Though the Stars did not convert on that opportunity, the momentum gained by the team’s offensive zone time.

Miro Heiskanen would get pulled to the ice in a puck battle. He’d manage to pop up, recognize the puck was still loose nearly 30 seconds after it was left sitting on the ice (if Wild head coach Bruce Boudreau has done his math correctly), and hit a wide open Denis Gurianov at the faceoff circle right as time expired. Gurianov would score it short-side on Dubnyk to give Dallas a 2-0 lead  early in the frame.

Then, the real weird plays started.

After a scrambling play behind his own net, Bishop appeared to score on himself. The puck had basically gotten caught up in his skate from behind after deflecting off of Roman Polak, and as Bishop moved within his net, the puck slipped across the line behind him. That’d cut the lead in half for the Wild.

A bad angle goal by Bishop would see the game tied. Ryan Donato’s shot at Bishop found the smallest sliver of daylight between the goaltender and his post. It’s a little frustrating that in all the games in which Bishop and Anton Khudobin have bailed the Stars out or flat-out won games for them, Bishop couldn’t get any additional run support to help him out when he had two fluky goals scored against him (whomever’s fault it is notwithstanding).

The third period was exciting, with both teams looking for the go-ahead goal. It appeared that the teams were heading to overtime.

Until it didn’t.

Less than a minute left in the period, and the Stars were victim of getting completely outworked. The breakdown of the eventual game winner starts when Seguin’s stick appeared to be slashed in half by Joel Eriksson Ek. Seguin, without a stick and after having several penalties against him go uncalled (particularly a blatant obstruction of his path to the net on what would have inevitably been a breakaway), was looking for a call.

The rest of the Stars unit on the ice starts to scramble, trying to move into position with a forward that, for all intents and purposes, is out of play completely because he doesn’t have a stick. Here’s where it really went to hell:

Instead of following his man behind the net, Polak stops at the side of the net. He’s likely anticipating that Jamie Oleksiak would pick up the guy coming behind the net, but as this screenshot shows, Oleksiak is a little busy. The forwards here were kind of in no-man’s land to be able to pick up the breakdown in defensive coverages. Faksa cannot close the distance between himself and where Eriksson Ek will eventually score (that nice gaping net side in that image there) fast enough to be effective defensively.

It’s a frustrating loss that easily should have been at least a point tonight for the Stars. The problem was they couldn’t find run support for their goaltender when he was less than perfect, and they failed to play a full 60-minute effort. Yes, Dubnyk had some absolute steals of saves and was a determining factor in the Wild escaping with a win. At some point, though, it’s not always a best-performance-ever goaltender or stifling defense from the other team that is the problem — it can’t possibly always be the other team’s play that is the cause of losses.

It’s time to look in the mirror and try to figure out why, with all this talent, this system fails to score offense consistently and at a better level than barely two goals a game. Because as tonight proved, when goaltending isn’t all-world levels of good, that lack of offense becomes a weakness that the opposition will exploit.