The first 40 minutes weren’t pretty, but the Dallas Stars found a way to right the ship in the final 21 minutes on Tuesday against the Washington Capitals. As a result, they picked up their first win of the 2019-20 season. And while the two points provide hope, there’s still room for improvement.
“There are some games where you think you should’ve won and you don’t, and I think tonight was one of them,” Bishop said. “There will be some games where we shouldn’t win but we do throughout the season.”
It was a fair point to assess at the time. After all, the Stars had just dropped a 2-1 decision to open their 2019-20 season despite being the better team for the final 40 minutes of the game. But it’s also a testament to the unpredictability of the NHL.
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A team can dominate a game and walk away empty-handed just as often as they get the two points. On the other hand, a team can be thoroughly outplayed for the majority of a game and still squeak out two points as often as they get blown out and finish with no points.
The Stars experienced that lesson firsthand on Tuesday in Washington, D.C. as they wrapped up a three-game road trip against the Capitals. After starting the year with three consecutive losses and a lack of consistent effort, Dallas desperately needed a win to turn their fortunes around. And though it didn’t look as though they deserved to get two points by the time the horn sounded for second intermission, they found a way to get it done.
It was by no means an ideal start to the game for the Dallas Stars as the Capitals poured it on early. They looked crisper, cleaner, and more fine-tuned while the Stars simply tried to hold the line throughout the opening frame. Washington finished the first period with a 14-5 advantage in shots on goal and a 1-0 lead, while the Stars were simply lucky that the deficit wasn’t more severe.
The second period was much of the same. Washington continued to generate scoring chances and dominate possession while the Stars searched for a way to counter. Roope Hintz scored a goal in transition early in the period to tie the score at 1-1, but John Carlson reclaimed the lead for the Capitals later in the frame.
As second intermission began, there was a certain sense of urgency and frustration lingering for Dallas. They were down 2-1, had been thoroughly outplayed in the first two periods, and looked to be in danger of dropping their fourth consecutive loss and tie their worst start to a season in franchise history at 0-4-0.
Fortunately for the Stars, that’s where everything turned around. Dallas came out swinging in the third period, firing the first 11 shots on net and notching the tying goal via an Alexander Radulov shot on the doorstep.
"“I turned to Jamie Benn and said, ‘Coaches aren’t going in. It’s your locker room. If we’re going to do something, you’ve got to will these guys out of this.’ I don’t know what he said, but credit to those guys because our third period was our best period.” –Jim Montgomery on what changed in second intermission"
The hype took another step forward a little more than four minutes later when Nick Caamano made a pretty move in front of Braden Holtby and beat the Capitals goaltender with a backhand. It was the first NHL goal of Caamano’s young career and pushed the Stars out to their first lead of the night at 3-2.
The Dallas Stars continued to generate momentum and looked as though they just might have enough in the tank to rebound from a slow start and pick up two important points. But with 30 seconds to go in the game, Nicklas Backstrom tallied his first goal of the season during a 6-on-5 effort to tie the game at 3-3.
That goal gave way to overtime, but the Stars weren’t folding. After two early shots on goal in the first 30 seconds of the extra period, Tyler Seguin had a takeaway in the defensive zone and turned up ice with Alexander Radulov. The two top-line forwards generated a quick offensive rush in transition and found themselves in a 2-on-1 situation. Just before reaching the net, Radulov dished it cleanly to Seguin, and No. 91 finished the rush and the game with his second goal of the season.
Dallas picked up its first win of the season, salvaged two important points from a three-game road trip, and defeated a quality opponent despite a sloppy first two periods.
It was a much-needed win for many reasons. An 0-3-0 start is bad, but an 0-4-0 start with no wins in the first week of the season brings another heap of stress and frustration with it. On top of that, the Stars needed to show that they could run with a skilled team and come out with a win.
And while this very much feels like a season-altering victory, there is still work to be done.
“It was great to see us rally,” Montgomery said following the game. “It’s funny how games work, right? That was our worst game of the year and we got a result. It’s funny how results don’t often reflect how your team is playing in the regular season, but it was good to get the result.”
As great as this win is in restoring the hope and confidence in the 2019-20 Dallas Stars, there’s still a need for fixing and improvement to certain areas of the game. For starters, their efforts in the first period could still use an upgrade. The Capitals dominated the opening 20 minutes on Tuesday and made life difficult on Ben Bishop while the Stars were left searching for an answer.
“First period we had zero possession, zero physicality, and zero emotion in the game,” Montgomery said.
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On another hand, the penalties are still a cause for concern. The Stars took five penalties on Tuesday against Washington just two days after taking eight in Detroit and continue to lack discipline in certain areas of the game.
But there were bright spots, too. Bishop had a strong bounce-back performance and weathered the storm early after turning in uncharacteristic showings against Boston and St. Louis. The Stars’ top threats shone as Benn (one assist), Radulov (one goal, one assist), and Seguin (one goal, one assist) all made their mark on the scoresheet. Roope Hintz added to his red-hot start by scoring his fourth goal of the season.
They also showed a certain resilience and determination in the final 21 minutes that hadn’t been visible through the first two periods but ultimately helped them win the game.
And all of that is important to point out.
So, while the Dallas Stars return home for a brief two-game homestand against Calgary and Washington before hitting the road again, there’s a re-established sense of hope and excitement surrounding this team. Overtime wins (especially when they serve as the first win of the season) will do that.
But there’s also a realization that there is still work to be done as the Dallas Stars try and get back on track. Every team faces early season kinks, and those kinks led the Stars to a 0-3-0 rut. But now they are in the win column and have a chance to get back to level ground at the American Airlines Center. That will require some further polishing and focus, but Tuesday night served as a good first step in the right direction.
“There’s been a lot of one-goal games so far this season and I think we’ve been putting a lot of pressure on ourselves to get out of this,” Seguin said. “There’s been tense times and there’s been good times. To get the full two points is nice. We can put all of this behind us and get rolling here.”