Some thoughts and observations after the Dallas Stars beat the Florida Panthers 4-1 Thursday night.
A good bounce back effort by the Stars, who cleaned up a lot of the problems that plagued them in Monday night’s loss at Tampa Bay. They obviously worked on some things and the work paid dividends.
The penalty kill, a problem area at times so far this season, came up big early in the game. It killed off two Florida power plays in the first and ended up 3-3 on the night.
The second PK was due to an instigator penalty to Adam Burish, who went after Dennis Wideman after he got his elbow up on a hit on Mike Ribeiro. That was a turning point in the game on a couple of fronts. One was it’s the kind of play that can give a team a lift.
On another front, with Burish in the penalty box for extended time it led to some line juggling, which led to Tom Wandell being moved to a line with Steve Ott and Jamie Benn. That trio produced two late goals in the first period to give the Stars the lead and produced three of the team’s four goals in the game. That line looks like a good one.
Benn, returning to action after missing three games with concussion-like symptoms, was excellent. He had three assists and a plus-two rating in 15:48 of ice time.
Wandell, who suffered a shoulder injury on the second day of training camp and missed all of the preseason, seems to be finding his stride.
Kari Lehtonen was excellent again. He continues to excel by being in the right place at the right time and making things look almost routine. But he’s coming up with some great saves. He had three great stops in the third before Stephen Weiss ended his shutout bid with a little more than three minutes left in the game.
Lehtonen wasn’t under siege in this game. The Stars, who had allowed more than 40 shots in three of their first five games, allowed only 28 in this one. And for the first time this season – thanks to their 29 shots on goal – they outshot an opponent.
The Stars, who are now 5-1-0 on the season, have their next six games at American Airlines Center. It’s an excellent opportunity to build on what is already a great start in the points collection department.