Dallas entered tonight the same team that they were before the trade deadline. They were riding a four game winning streak, playing with a renewed sense of purpose, and looking every bit as impressive as they did at the beginning of the year. The American Airlines Center was packed with Stars and Penguins fan alike, and the building was alive with anticipation. The puck dropped and the game never seemed to slow down from then on. Eric Nystrom and Evgeni Malkin got into a bit of a tussle with each other halfway through the first period, setting the tone between the teams as emotions began to run high. Jamie Benn, in his first game back since taking a skate to the thigh, returned in style, scoring the opening goal 15:25 into the game, giving the Stars a 1-0 lead that would last until just over a minute left in the period, when Alex Goligoski got caught flat footed and let Steve Sullivan get around him and pull a nice move to put a puck past Kari Lehtonen. The Stars took a 1-1 tie into the second period, but were lucky that it didn’t get much worse. The Stars gave the Penguins three straight power plays that were all killed. With :13 second remaining in the period, Sheldon Souray took a pass from the slot and wristed the shot past Marc-Andre Fleury, giving the Stars a huge 2-1 lead into the final frame. The Penguins struck quickly to tie the game, as Craig Adams redirected a Jordan Staal pass past Lehtonen. Less than a minute later the Penguins struck again, this time Chris Kunitz tipping a Paul Martin slap shot past Lehtonen once again. Just like that the Penguins were leading 3-2. Michael Ryder and the Stars would have none of it though, and quickly regained the momentum with Ryder’s 26th goal of the year three minutes later. The Stars controlled much of the ice from then on, but were unable to convert on any chances, and the game went into the extra time. The game has been hailed as one of the best of the year, and it is truly a shame it had to come down to the shoot out to decide the contest. The Penguins and Stars dueled into the fourth round, but Michael Ryder couldn’t convert to save the game, and the Penguins took a 4-3 victory.
What It Means:
If you were at the game tonight, you know what I mean when I say: Whoa, what a game. It was truly one of the most intense and exhilarating experiences I’ve personally had as a Stars fan. This game lived up to every standard I had and then some. It is truly a shame this game had to finish with a skills competition, but the Stars fought and earned a point from one of the best teams in the NHL, an extremely valuable point as the Stars still hold that elusive #8 seed in the Western Conference. It was for all intents and purposes a playoff game, or at least it sure felt like one. You could feel the emotion in the crowd, although that was probably magnified by the heavy presence of Penguins fans in the building. At the end of the night, the Stars took a loss, but they played one of their best games of the year. Each and every line contributed in their own way and it is truly exciting to see what this team is capable of when every piece is performing the way it should be. Game notes:
- Michael Ryder keeps scoring, and now has 26 goals on the year.
- Loui Eriksson had two assists tonight, stretching his team leading point total to 57.
- There was a fair bit of controversy over Eric Nystrom‘s hard hit on Kris Letang (who was unable to return to the game). Mike Milbury and Jeremy Roenick had a heated argument over it and despite the hit hurting Letang, Nystrom clearly did not make contact with Letang’s head, and therefore should not be suspended.
- The Stars picked up a point, giving them 71 on the season, good to keep them in 8th place in the Western Conference with Colorado and Los Angeles on their tails with 70 points each.
The Stars head to Alberta to face the Edmonton Oilers on Friday night. The Oilers are still struggling to win, and find themselves near the bottom of the Western Conference. Not to take the Oilers for granted, but the Stars simply cannot afford to lose to a team like that at this point of the season. The Stars will be looking to carry the momentum into Friday’s game and to pick up another huge two points. Puck drop is scheduled for 8:30pm. Tune in.