The Dallas Stars knew that despite the record, the Columbus Blue Jackets weren’t going to be a pushover, so the Stars made sure to come out fast and furious. 95 seconds into the game, Jamie Benn grabbed the puck in the slot and put a wrister right through Columbus goaltender Curtis Sanford. Without missing a beat, the Stars returned three minutes later and Alex Goligoski buried Tomas Vincour’s rebound to give the Stars an early and commanding 2-0 lead. The Blue Jackets righted the ship, and shut out the Stars the rest of the period, garnering a few quality scoring chances on the way, but Kari Lehtonen held them scoreless into the middle frame. The Stars wasted no time in the second period, putting another goal in the net 1:09 into the frame, this one a blast from the point by Stephane Robidas seconds after a power play had expired. The Stars were rolling, and looked comfortable until 7:26 into the period. That time marked the beginning of three straight Dallas penalties that resulted in two Columbus goals from Vinny Prospal and Rick Nash. Things suddenly looked very different, and the lack of discipline cost Dallas a comfortable lead and instead brought a shaky 3-2 lead into the final period. The Stars knew they had to protect the lead, and they played a defensively oriented game to milk the lead during the 3rd period. The Stars had held the Jackets to just three shots before the extra man onslaught gave the Stars a scare. Fortunately, Jamie Benn made a slick move and buried the empty net puck with less than a second to go to give the Stars a 4-2 victory.
What It Means:
Let’s talk about that five minute stretch at the beginning of the first period. The Stars looked cohesive, deadly, and dangerous. They scored two quick goals and looked like they were on their way to a dominating victory. They held off the Blue Jackets for the rest of the period and picked up where they left off at the beginning of the second, scoring yet another goal for a solid 3-0 lead. Then, the penalties started. Discipline is an important factor in hockey, and the Stars showed little when they got themselves three straight penalties, allowing the Jackets right back in the game. Fortunately, the Stars ended up winning, but it was a worrying look at where that game could have gone. The Stars still have a lot of work in front of them, but they picked up a huge two points in the standings tonight. It was ugly. If it wasn’t for those early goals, we would be talking about another crushing loss. Kari Lehtonen again performed heroically, keeping the Stars in the game despite a defensive effort that left much to be desired. Two points is two points, though. We’ll take it. Other game notes:
- Tomas Vincour was given the opportunity to play on the top line tonight alongside Jamie Benn and Steve Ott and made the most of it. He played solid hockey all night, showing his ability to control the flow of the game with his knack for puck possession. Oh, and he got an assist, his 3rd of the season.
- Alex Goligoski continues to pile up the points, getting a goal (7) and an assist (14) tonight. He started the season at an unbearably slow pace, and was then sidelined by injuries, but Goligoski has shown he’s worth every penny of that contract extension with his recent play during the most important stretch of the season.
- Special teams was all around dreadful tonight. The power play went 0/3 (although that Robidas goal was just a few seconds late) and the penalty let up two huge goals to let the Blue Jackets back into the game, going 2/3 on the night.
The Stars are right back at it tomorrow night against the resurgent Buffalo Sabres. Buffalo, who sunk to the bottom of the Eastern Conference, have begun looking like the team they should have been over the last stretch of games. Ryan Miller is back to form, and the team is coming off a dominant 6-0 victory over the Boston Bruins. The Stars have not won in Buffalo since Brett Hull scored the Stanley Cup-winning goal in 1999. Add that to the Stars winless streak in the second night of a back to back this year and the Stars will have their work cut out for them, but as always, it is two huge points that the Stars need to secure.