Dallas Stars Show Solid D, Beat Rangers In OT


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The Dallas Stars (24-21-8) pulled off a desperate win on Sunday night in New York City, as they beat the New York Rangers (30-16-5) in OT on the back of a surprising defensive effort. Ales Hemsky scored the game winner with a wicked wrister. The win pulls Dallas within five points of the final Wild Card spot in the Western Conference.

Game Recap

The Stars needed a quick start to cleanse themselves of last night’s loss at Buffalo, and they got it… sort of. They started the game with an impressive new concept: playing defense. Blocked shots aplenty from both sides (13 combined in the first, compared to ten combined shots), the Stars were mostly successful and didn’t allow the Rangers to register a shot until 7:35 left in the frame. The pace was quite frantic, however, and coast-to-coast hockey was prevalent throughout. Each team got a power play opportunity during the first, but neither managed to register a shot on goal in their respective chances. Antoine Roussel, however, managed a shorthanded shot but was stopped by Rangers goalie Cam Talbot, starting in place of the injured Henrik Lundqvist. D-man Jyrki Jokipakka, looking to lock down a permanent roster spot, looked quite polished and his technique aided in keeping the Rangers’ chances to a minimum. He was credited with four blocked shots in the first period. Shots on goal in the first were split, five apiece.

The Stars were the first to get on the board in the second period, as Jason Spezza cut through the slot and tapped in a beauty of a pass from Tyler Seguin for a power play goal. The goal came on a 5-on-3 sequence, with Marc Staal and Dan Boyle both hemmed up for New York. Offense in general picked up for both teams, and the Stars were persistent in challenging Talbot. The Rangers’ Carl Hagelin found a yawning net with less than five minutes in the period, and the scored was tied at one, although the lead would not last. With just less than two minutes left in the second, Hemsky anticipated a move by Kevin Hayes and converted the turnover by dishing to Spezza, who found Erik Cole for the wrister. A tense moment followed soon after, as Chris Kreider barreled into goalie Kari Lehtonen. Although the puck slipped past Lehtonen during the sequence, and he was slow to get up, the goal was no good and Lehtoen remained in net. After two periods, the Stars held a 22-16 advantage in shots.

The defensive effort from Dallas continued into the third. Trevor Daley took what can be considered a “good penalty” as he wrapped up league-leading goal scorer Rick Nash, who was looking for an easy tap-in. On the ensuing penalty kill, Alex Goligoski and Vernon Fiddler both laid out for blocked shots. For all the effort, the regulation win would still slip away for Dallas. John Klingberg was sent away for a questionable delay of game call, as the puck appeared to touch glass on it’s way out of play. On the penalty kill, Lehtonen left the crease to paddle away a loose puck, and it would cost them as Kreider snapped the twine before the big Finn could get back in position.

The Stars would win a minute into overtime, with the nasty wrister from Hemsky. Coming onto the ice while the play was in transition, Hemsky took a nice dish from Jokipakka and buried it into the top corner.

Thoughts and Observations

What a turnaround on the defensive side of things. While the Stars played possum and allowed 20 shots in the third period, they were still all over the place and throwing their bodies in front of pucks. They recorded 18 blocked shots, and if the defense can keep that tenacity while the offense scores at its current rate, this team might gel in time to make a serious run towards a playoff spot.

Aside from misplaying the puck and allowing a PPG that almost cost the game (yes, except for that big fat error), Lehtonen looked sharp and seems to be returning to form after a tough month. It’s good to see the poor decision didn’t ruin an otherwise great night.

I can barely remember the days in Novemeber when we Stars fans were wondering what exactly we had in Ales Hemsky. The man is impressive. Tremendous vision, and 100% effort every night.

It looks like the Stars might be able to get a little help from two younger contributors in March. Although it’s hard to see where exactly Patrik Nemeth might fit in, the return of Valeri Nichushkin could only further bolster the imposing forward group.

The Dallas Stars head to TD Garden to take on the Boston Bruins on Tuesday night. Check back to Blackout Dallas for more news and updates!