The battle for the Pacific Division between the Dallas Stars and the Phoenix Coyotes began with a band courtesy of Loui Eriksson. 2:12 into the game, Eriksson took the pack down the boards and sent the puck over Mike Smith’s shoulder, giving the Stars and early, and important, 1-0 lead. The desert dogs would answer a few minutes later, Lauri Korpikosi was left open in the slot and put a slapper past Kari Lehtonen. The 1-1 score would be enough for the first period, but all hell would break loose in the middle frame. After a power play goal from Michael Ryder to give the Stars a 2-1 lead at 5:26 of the second period, Shane Doan came down the ice and clocked Jamie Benn with an illegal elbow (the hit can be viewed here). The following melee would result in 13 separate penalties, combining for 24 penalty minutes, including two fighting majors. The kicker? Doan was given just a two minute minor for the elbow, which will likely end up resulting in a suspension. The Stars would hold their own, and Michael Ryder would add his second of the game at 14:42 of the middle frame to give the Stars a 3-1 lead into the final frame. Everyone should know by now that no lead is safe against the Coyotes, and they proved it. Turnovers would end up killing the Stars, first allowing a shorthanded goal from Oliver Ekman-Larsson at 8:51, and then a power play goal from the wizard Ray Whitney just a few minutes later. The Stars would not be able to answer, and both teams earned a point heading into overtime tied at 3-3. After a chaotic OT period (where Ryder came inches away from a hat trick) the game would head to the shootout. Mike Ribeiro would score the only goal, giving the Stars a 4-3 victory and first place in the Pacific Division.
What It Means:
They might have allowed the come back with ugly turnovers, they might have allowed Phoenix a point they shouldn’t have gotten otherwise, and they might not have gotten a ROW, but the Stars got two points and the Stars kept themselves on top of the Pacific Division. It was not a happy win, the third period meltdown had every Stars fans nervous and not sure what to think. They were fortunate to have Kari Lehtonen and net, and they were fortunate for the full two points. The Stars’ tenuous hold on the Pacific might not last forever, but it’s still secure as of now. The positives from this game is how the Stars responded to the disgusting and illegal hit from Doan, sticking up for each other and adding a goal, but the defensive play and the turnovers were just brutal. That is something Gulutzan addressed after the game, and it most assuredly will be something that will be worked on before the next game. It has to be, the Stars cannot afford to make those kinds of mistakes. Each and every game becomes more important than the last, and all eyes are set on Thursday night. Games notes:
- Michael Ryder set a new career high in goals tonight, with his 31st and 32nd of the year. He’s still six points from tying his career high in points (63, currently has 57).
- Mark Fistric was injured in the chaos after the Doan hit and did not return to the game.
- All three goals were scored from the line of Eriksson-Ribeiro-Ryder. Ribeiro also had the only shootout goal.
The Stars face the Canucks for the third time on Thursday night. The Stars have a surprising 2-0 record against the Canucks this year, and will look to pick up another huge two points in front of what will hopefully be another huge crowd. There are nine games left for these Stars. They control their destiny. If they want that #3 seed they can get it. Pack the AAC and be there to cheer on your Dallas Stars.