What Happened: The first period started with a bit of a sluggish pace, with neither team generating many shots or scoring opportunities. The New Jersey Devils got the first break of the night when Jamie Benn was called for a hooking penalty, but the Devils didn’t get a single shot on goal, living up to their label as one of the worst power plays in the NHL (27th, to be exact). The Stars took advantage of the Devils and Michael Ryder buried the puck into the open net after picking up the rebound from Loui Eriksson’s shot. Dallas earned another penalty, this time a sloppy too many men on the ice minor, and the Devils picked up the pace, sending shots towards Richard Bachman, but the rookie stopped them all. Unfortunately, the Devils’ momentum carried over from the power play and David Clarkson score his tenth goal of the season on an ugly shot from the half-wall, a goal Bachman would probably like back. The Stars got on the power play one more time before the end of the period, but were unable to convert, sending the game into the middle frame tied at 1-1. The second period started a lot prettier than it ended. Brenden Morrow scored just 1:38 into the period to give the Stars the 2-1 lead, but the Devils made sure that didn’t last long. The mistakes started when Stephane Robidas made a bad turnover on the blue line on the Stars second power play of the night, leading to a two on one opportunity that Adam Henrique cashed in on, tying the game 2-2. The game remained even for much of the next ten minutes, but for some reason, Robidas decided to give sniper Ilya Kovalchuk an open shot, leading to a wicked corner wrist shot, putting the Devils up 3-2. Then, to cap the ugliest period we’ve seen in some time, Petr Sykora crashed the net and put in a rebound to end the period with a 4-2 New Jersey lead. The Stars needed to come out strong in the third period to have a chance at a comeback, and they did, producing numerous scoring chances but failing to score. Nine minutes into the third period, Zach Parise scored his first goal and fourth point of the night, giving the Devils a commanding 5-2 lead. Dallas showed they had some fight left when Toby Petersen tipped Sheldon Souray’s rocket to make it 5-3, but the Devils answered back just 20 seconds later courtesy of a Patrick Elias goal to put the Devil’s lead at 6-3, and that would be enough to end the game.
What It Means: The Richard Bachman magic grinded to a halt, but it was no fault of his own. Poor decisions and ugly plays led to a Devils lead, and the Stars could not take advantage of the numerous scoring chances they had. The power play went 0 for 4 tonight, continuing a disappointing trend that needs to be fixed. Overall, the road trip should be seen as a success and a nice coming out party for Bachman, who showed that he can hold down the back up job in Dallas when the time comes, and with more development and time, could become part of a top-tier tandem with Kari Lehtonen. The loss to end the trip hurts, but the Stars are now 0-6-0 in the second night of a back-to-back, showing that maybe this team isn’t quite pesky enough to play successfully two nights in a row. The marathon, cross-country road trip didn’t help, but the Stars need to show more resilience when playing two nights in a row, there’s no excuse, and Glen Gulutzan has the same sentiment. The Stars retain first place in the Pacific, but the team is still a work in progress. Also of note, both Philip Larsen and Tomas Vincour are now injured, a disappointing end to an impressive road trip from the two rookies. With Mark Fistric’s suspension up and Adam Burish ready to return from injury, playing time will be at a premium. The competition will be beneficial, and we hope Vincour and Larsen aren’t out long, because they’ve earned their spots.
What’s Next: The Stars return home on Monday, December 19th to face the new Bruce Boudreau-led Anaheim Ducks. The not-so-mighty Ducks may have fallen out of the race for the Pacific, and as of this writing are 14 points behind the Stars for the Pacific Division lead, but it is by no means a lost season. They have a new coach, and are still a dangerous team with some of the most talented players in the NHL, not to mention every other player is playing to keep their job with new leadership behind the bench. The Ducks are going to try and scrape out wins every night, and are never to be taken lightly. A divisional win will boost the Stars after a rough end to a road trip, and they could use it. Tune in, or better yet, head out to Dallas to catch the game in person.
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