Stars Fall To Capitals In Overtime, Struggle To Lock Down Leads

They had two one-goal leads that didn’t last more than three minutes tonight.

You’d think the Dallas Stars and Washington Capitals were divisional rivals with the chippy play between the two tonight. Not teams that see each other only twice in the season, and have never played a playoff series against one another (because that would require both going to the Stanley Cup Final to happen).

Maybe Washington was riding the fact that they haven’t won in this building in regulation for an absurd amount of time (8,099 days in fact, as I learned today from Japers Rink, the SB Nation blog that covers the Capitals.) Or it could be that, for whatever reason, games in Dallas are just “weird” when they involve the Capitals. They’re never without event, and tonight’s matchup did not disappoint.

One thing we can say with certainty – Tom Wilson and Antoine Roussel don’t like each other on the ice.

The two did their jobs, and did them well. Neither were the opposition’s favorite to see playing opposite of them. Roussel got the shenanigans of tonight started when he exchanged some jabs with the Capitals’ hot rookie Jakub Vrana. Roussel would take an extra two minute penalty for roughing and put the Stars on their first penalty kill of the night.

It was actually a pretty decent kill. Outside of doing its main purpose of not allowing the Capitals to score, the Stars gave them fits just getting through the neutral zone and did a decent job with their sticks in their own zone to break up passes. Washington is a very talented club, however, and still managed a dangerous look or two because they have an ability to change the direction of the puck in the offensive zone that could spark jealousy in its efficiency at times.

That ability is part of what caused the first Capitals goal tonight. It led to blown defensive coverage assignments, and a wide open Andre Burakovsky did not miss his chance. He picked the corner right over Ben Bishop to open scoring.

In the latter half of the period, Wilson, who took exception to Roussel mixing it up with Vrana earlier in the period, went toe-to-toe with Roussel right off of a faceoff. Roussel was almost immediately taken down by Wilson, and it was Wilson’s turn to take the extra two minutes for roughing. John Klingberg wasted almost no time on the power play, sending a laser of a shot that was tipped by Jamie Benn to even the game up just eight seconds into the man advantage.

All of those events, and it was still just the first period.

Thanks to a late period too many men bench minor by Dallas (who, unscientifically speaking I think might lead the league in taking those unnecessary penalties), the Stars started the middle frame on the penalty kill.

Not to be outdone, the Capitals took one not long after, and the Stars went to work. It seemed as though the Stars had scored a go-ahead goal but it was immediately waived off. The referee said it was because they’d already blown the whistle. Upon review, the call was upheld, as it should have been – even if the whistle had been blown, Alexander Radulov went goalie bowling and you can’t score by pushing the puck and the goaltender into the net at the same time. It was the right call, even if Stars faithful in the building didn’t agree with it.

Nearly half way through the period, the stalemate was finally broken as Gemel Smith and his line spent quality time cycling in the zone with tenacious battles for the puck. It paid off as Smith scored on his own rebound.

Sadly, as with many other times we’ve seen this season, that lead was short-lived. Dmitry Orlov had a goal-of-the-year candidate with a slick deke that got Klingberg’s skates tangled up under him and caught a windmilling Bishop without much of a chance to make the save.

For the second period in a row, the Stars took a penalty within the last two minutes and started the next period on the kill. They were lucky they were on tonight in that regard – they’ve been torched a lot lately when down a man. It’s something of a trend that has come out the last few games – and something they need to clean up because it will bite them (hard) one day.

Braden Holtby and Ben Bishop did much of the showstealing in the last frame. Each of them made some absolutely phenomenal saves, and after each of them there were a lot of scrums between the two teams. That is, until late in the period when Radulov absolutely screamed one past Holtby after a neutral zone battle sprung him into the offensive zone.

Yet again the lead was short-lived.

Brett Connolly was left all alone as he drifted into the slot. All five Stars players on the ice were puck watching, and nobody had him covered. That goal is one that head coach Ken Hitchcock referenced in his post game press conference (which lasted about 40 seconds) when he implied that the team beat themselves tonight.

Dallas takes a point tonight against one of the hottest teams in the league right now, as Burakovsky picked the corner of Bishop again in overtime. This is the second time in a row the Capitals have beaten the Stars on home ice in overtime.

But it’s still now 8,100 days (and counting) since they’ve beaten them in regulation. At least the streak is still alive.