Some postgame observations after the Dallas Stars won 4-2 at Chicago Wednesday.
Special teams. It was pretty easy to pinpoint where this game was won. The Stars were 3-3 on the power play and 4-4 on the penalty kill. Put up those numbers in a game and you’ll usually win the game. The Stars got pucks and people to the net on the power play. They got some good bounces, but they did the work to create those bounces. The Stars were shorthanded four times and Chicago got a total of six shots on goal. It was some good work on the PK.
Goaltending. It was another strong showing from Kari Lehtonen, who stopped 35 of 37 shots. He’d probably love to have that Fernando Pisani goal back that made it a 2-1 game, but he had a lot of big stops in this one. The save on Marian Hossa early in the first period was huge. He had a couple of nice saves on Jonathan Toews when Chicago was trying to climb back into the game. Great stop late in the game on Patrick Kane with Chicago on the power play in the final two minutes and the Stars protecting a one-goal lead. Of course, he also got some help from both posts and the crossbar on that Viktor Stalberg penalty shot.
A bounce here, a bounce there. Sometimes the bounces go your way and sometimes they don’t. On this night the big bounces went the Stars’ way. Just 1:10 after Chicago had tied the game in the second period, Blackhawks forward Viktor Stalberg was awarded a penalty shot. He got off a great shot but it hit the right post, the crossbar and then the left post before bouncing out. Mike Ribeiro’s game-winning goal was attempted pass to Brenden Morrow that bounced off Chicago defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson and by Chicago goalie Corey Crawford.
Ott’s goal. Steve Ott’s empty net shorthanded goal that made it a 4-2 game had an interesting twist to it. Ott should have never been on the ice. He should have been in the penalty box because it was his high stick that caught Jordan Hendry with 2:02 left in the game that gave Chicago the power play. But the ref nailed Jamie Benn with the infraction and he ended up sitting in the penalty box instead, leaving Ott available for the penalty kill and the shot at the empty net.
A calamity of errors. That’s what Stars coach Marc Crawford called the situation that led the Stars to playing with just four defensemen in the third period. Karlis Skrastins and Matt Niskanen collided in the third period warm ups, leaving both players out for the rest of the game. Niskanen has a broken nose, chipped teeth and a cut on his hand. Skrastins was dazed after the collision. They’ll get evaluated on Thursday and we’ll see where things stand heading into Friday’s game against the Rangers.
What a difference a year makes. So, the Stars hit the midway point with a 24-13-4 record for 52 points. They are first in the Pacific Division with a five point lead over second place San Jose. And they are third in the Western Conference, five points behind first place Vancouver. At this point last season they were 18-12-11 for 47 points. They were fourth in the division, 14 points behind first place San Jose. They were 10th in the conference, four points out of the final playoff spot and 14 points out of the conference lead, which was held by San Jose at the time.