Dallas Stars: Final Thoughts On A Thrilling 4-3 Win Over Nashville

DALLAS, TX - DECEMBER 23: Jason Spezza
DALLAS, TX - DECEMBER 23: Jason Spezza /

It was a game filled with highs and lows, but the highs took precedent for the Dallas Stars. They outlasted the Nashville Predators in a shootout and claimed an important two points before the holiday break.

The Dallas Stars are starting to once again look like a dangerous team. That’s a scary thought for the rest of the NHL.

Tonight, the Stars did what they had to and secured a critical and emotional 4-3 victory in the shootout over the Nashville Predators. Nashville currently sits in first place in the Central Division with 47 points. With the win tonight, the Stars extended their points streak to four games and bumped themselves up to 43 points on the year.

It was quite the game to behold.

Game recap

The first period started out about as horribly as it possibly could for the Dallas Stars. After about 20 seconds of pressure in the offensive zone, the Stars turned the puck over. Nashville quickly transitioned to the Stars’ zone and Alexei Emelin put the Preds first shot of the game into the back of the net. Calle Jarnkrok followed that goal up a few minutes later with a shorthanded tally to make it 2-0 Nashville.

The Stars had four power play opportunities in the first period and Tyler Seguin tallied on the third to cut the lead in half and make it a 2-1 game by the end of the first.

Dallas Stars
Dallas Stars /

Dallas Stars

The Dallas Stars came out in the second period and looked like a completely different club. Two different lines got involved on offense and six different Stars tallied points on goals by Antoine Roussel and Martin Hanzal. The Stars outshot and outworked the Predators in the middle frame and took a 3-2 lead into the intermission.

The third period started off with a Ryan Johansen power play goal on Nashville’s second PP of the night. Besides the one goal, there wasn’t much action or chances throughout the rest of the frame and the two teams entered overtime at a 3-3 tie.

The two teams entered overtime, and it’s a Festivus miracle that the Predators didn’t win the game in the extra frame. Though they had over three minutes of power play time, Nashville could not cash in and find the crucial goal. The game ended up in a shootout, where Alexander Radulov and Tyler Seguin scored and Ben Bishop stopped everything he faced to give the Stars a much-needed 4-3 victory.

Thoughts and Observations

Power play woes

The Stars’ power play connected on one of four opportunities tonight, so that was good. But the way they went about their early power plays was not too pretty.

Dallas had all four power play chances in the first period, but the first two meant little to nothing. The Stars could not coordinate any structured zone time or generate chances and even had a shorthanded goal scored on them for the second straight game against Nashville.

Nashville Predators
Nashville Predators /

Nashville Predators

Though the Stars picked it up as the period went along and finally found the back of the net, it was a rough go in the early going that put Dallas in a hole they could have easily avoided.

But great PK work

Man, that was some stellar penalty killing tonight. The Dallas Stars had four penalties called on them tonight and allowed one power play goal. So 75 percent doesn’t sound too pretty. But it looks much better when you realize what the Stars’ PK endured.

Dallas took two different minor penalties in overtime that resulted in a heavy amount of 5-on-3, 5-on-4, and 4-on-3 playing time for the Predators. Nashville entered the game with the second-ranked power play unit in the NHL, so they know how to score often.

But the Stars stood tall, especially Martin Hanzal and Tyler Pitlick. And who could forget Ben Bishop, who stopped all five shots faced in the extra frame while shorthanded.

“It’s really hard playing four-on-three and then you get another penalty and have to deal with five-on-three,” said Hanzal following the game. “It was hard but we stuck together today and got the win at the end so it was very lucky for us.”

Second period becoming strong suit

That’s two straight games where the Stars have come alive in the second period and used it to gain the momentum.

Against Chicago, the Stars pinned three unanswered goals on the board in the middle frame to lead them to help cushion what became a 4-0 victory. Tonight, Dallas scored two goals to turn a 2-1 deficit into a 3-2 advantage over the Predators.

The Stars’ largest positive goal deficit is now in the second period at a +9. There’s just something about the middle frame that is helping the Stars click. It makes you wonder if that success will ever translate to the third period.

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“After the first period we kind of just regrouped and then obviously had a good second period,” said Stars goaltender Ben Bishop.

Use those claws

The Dallas Stars aren’t the number one team in the league in terms of points right now. But they might just be the most resilient team of the 31-group pool.

The Stars have made a name for themselves this season when it comes to rallying from early deficits. They missed out on an opportunity last time they faced Nashville. However, that was not the case tonight.

After giving up two goals in the first eight minutes of play, it seemed as though it was set to be another one of “those games” for Dallas. They have struggled immensely with the top teams in the Central this year and it looked as though it would be another one of those games.

And what happened then? Well, in Big D they say, the Dallas Stars’ goal deficit grew from a -2 to a +1 in one period of play. The Stars came alive at the end of the first period and it translated to the second. Dallas outscored the Predators 3-0 over a 21:05 span and took control of the game. And though they slipped a little in the third period, they found a way to seize the two points in the end.

“It’s exciting,” said Stars captain Jamie Benn. “It was a smash mouth of a victory and I thought our fans were the all stars in overtime.”

(Disclaimer: the Stars’ music crew played an unordinary amount of “All Star” by Smash Mouth tonight, including multiple versions and remixes to mock Nashville’s nickname “Smashville.” When questioned, Benn said that he came up with the joke off the top of his head.)

It’s an incredible strength for any team to have, and the Stars are using it to their advantage. When the going gets tough, they know how to get going. Battling back can get you very far in this league.

Great night for John Klingberg

The Dallas Stars seem to be getting stellar performances from all of their defenders with each passing game. Over the past two games, there has been one defenseman that has stood out among the rest. Last game, it was Dan Hamhuis.

Tonight, it was John Klingberg. The first-pairing defender led the way on the Dallas blue line. He led the team in ice time with 25:34 on the ice (which is ridiculous) and also tallied two assists on the Stars’ three regulation goals. He finished the night at a +1 and skated heavy minutes on the power play and penalty kill. What a night for the Swede.

More structure, more success

At Saturday morning’s skate, Ken Hitchcock said he believed that the Dallas Stars were a different team than the one that had lost 5-2 to Nashville three weeks prior. Boy, was he right.

The Stars played tonight’s game with structure, composure, and plenty of poise. They were focused on defense, made the most of their opportunities on offense, and had a terrific bounce back effort from Ben Bishop. It looked like an entirely new Dallas Stars team.

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When Dallas focuses and plays with composure, they play like a playoff-caliber team. They showed that tonight against the Predators.

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“I look at it from how did their top guys play, how did our top guys play, what did we learn, and how can we keep up,” said Stars head coach Ken Hitchcock. “Nashville is a heck of a hockey club and we still have a ways to go, for me from a play standpoint, to get to that level. But we’re getting closer and anytime we can get a bite into it, that’s good for us.”

Better watch out, better not cry, the Stars are coming to town

The Dallas Stars are now 20-14-3 on the season with 43 points. What do you think about them?

You may say good or average, but you might also be thinking “inconsistent.”

Regardless of what you may think, the Dallas Stars now find themselves just four points out of the top spot in the Central Division going into the holiday break.

Nashville currently sits at the top of the division with 47 points, followed closely by St. Louis and Winnipeg who each boast 46. The Stars, who are in sole control of the first wild card spot, sit two wins back of being top dog. And if they know how to beat the top dogs like they proved tonight, these next two games against Central opponents will be huge in determining where the Stars stand.

It was a gritty effort tonight, and that’s what it is going to take for the Stars if they want to be the best. There is still a ways to go, but they are getting there.

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The team is 4-1-2 in their last seven games and looks to be finding consistency. Let’s hope it translates through the Christmas holidays and onto Minnesota. But a determined win tonight against Nashville is a big step in the right direction.

What a way to close out the Festivus holiday. This is so much better than the feats of strength (for all my Seinfeld followers out there).