It has become the typical mantra before a game: playoffs, points, etc. Each and every game is much the same, they are all important, but tonight’s division match up against the Phoenix Coyotes felt like it was just a bit more. The Stars got themselves in penalty trouble early, allowing the Coyotes to pepper Kari Lehtonen with multiple shots, building momentum throughout the first period. After successfully killing two minor penalties, the Stars simply could not hold up against the momentum the Coyotes had gathered and Mikkel Boedker added a goal every one saw coming 13:31 into the frame. The Stars regrouped during the intermission and came out firing. They had multiple scoring chances and even scored an apparent goal that was immediately waved off. Mike Smith was standing on his head and stopping everything the Stars threw at him. The fortunes changed when the Stars were given a 5-on-3 power play. The Coyotes killed the first penalty, but Michael Ryder buried a rebound with 21 seconds remaining in the second penalty to tie the game at 1-1. They took the tie score into the third period where the Stars continued to dominate and control the play. A Coyote power play derailed the Stars momentum, and the ice began to open up for both sides. But, as is custom for the Coyotes, sixty minutes was not enough. Radim Vrbata, the clutch Coyote, ended the game 1:15 into overtime, giving the Coyotes the win and the full two points.
What It Means:
Two points would have been nice, but the Coyotes thrive on taking games into extra time and picking up points night in and night out. It just didn’t happen for the Stars tonight. Lehtonen and Smith dueled all night, making huge saves and keeping each of their respective teams in the game. Smith has now improved to 7-0 over his last seven starts, securing two shutouts over that span, a ridiculously impressive achievement. The Stars need to take points where they can get them, but with tomorrow being the second night of a back to back, the full two points would have been a nice security blanket. It was not a bad game by any means, the Stars rebounded well from that first Coyotes goal, and then controlled the flow of the game throughout the final period, but they could not find an answer to Smith. A turnover at the end of the game led to the Coyotes goal, a problem that continues to plague the Stars. Missed chances, missed communication, a perfect storm of missed opportunities and the Coyotes took advantage of each one. You’ll hear Gulutzan say that he liked the way the team played tonight in the post game interviews, a fair assessment of a team who just could not come through at the right moment.
- Ryan Garbutt played in his first ever NHL game tonight, being called up to add a forward after the loss of Jamie Benn. He didn’t manage to score any points, but he was an effective presence on the ice and was extremely impressive.
- Michael Ryder added his 22nd goal of the season, which leads the Stars. It’s safe to say he’s lived up to the hype.
- The Stars managed to score a power play goal, but still only went 1/5. Meanwhile, the penalty kill went a solid 5/5.
The Stars face the Nashville Predators tomorrow night in the dreaded second night of a back to back, where the Stars are still winless in ten tries this season (0-8-2). The team is returning home for the bout and the game is scheduled for a 6:00pm start. The Predators are buyers at this year’s trade deadline, with the team looking to form themselves into true Stanley Cup contenders, but the Stars have history on their side. They’re 2-0 against the Predators this season, and both have been blowouts. The Stars will look to carry over that past success for tomorrow night’s game.
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