The Dallas Stars pulled out a big Central division win, making wise choices in goal and on the blue line to defeat Nashville 2-1.
After their loss to Colorado, there were some concerns as the Stars took their next Central game to Nashville. However, the Stars stuck with it a full sixty minutes to get a favorable result not only against a division opponent, but in an away situation.
From the onset of this one, it was obvious that the Stars and Preds were pretty well matched and that one of the teams would have to make a slip-up in order for the other to get the upper hand. Still, the Stars came out energized and hungry.
The Predators met this with pressure in the offensive zone. The Stars missed some good opportunities in the first period, leaving Pekka Rinne‘s rebounds unaccounted for.
However, the on-fire fourth line finally broke the pattern early in the second with a deflection from a Johnny Oduya shot given to Adam Cracknell. A few soft calls changed the momentum, though, and the Stars allowed a power play goal from Mike Fisher to tie it up.
Nashville struggled with remaining composed at their own net and the Stars continued to struggle with timing the perfect shot, until Jason Spezza took advantage of one of Rinne’s rebounds and drove it home up close and personal.
Although the last few minutes were of course filled with madness as the Predators clamored to recover, the Stars held their own and emerged the victors with a 2-1 score.
The Stars’ offseason moves and final roster choices have been solidified as wise. There will be no more doubting them after this. New players continue to prove themselves leaders on the team, and tonight was more of the same. The fourth line, consisting of Curtis McKenzie, Adam Cracknell, and Lori Korpikoski, was the most effective and dangerous line for the Stars tonight, in my opinion. The Stars only began to get dangerous offensively when the other lines started to adopt the speed, intensity, and flow of these guys.
The defense was also immaculate, by comparison to what it’s been before. Stephen Johns and Dan Hamhuis were standout players, and I get the feeling that they will be cornerstones for this defense as the season continues. There is a great balance here between substance on the blue line and two-way thinking, and fresh eyes and approaches have helped make that balance.
Who’s your wingman?
Many were feeling like Spezza’s move to wing signaled something out of sorts for the usual center, but now we can all see that the magic won’t stop because he’s moved over a few feet on the ice. Spezza really made a difference with that last goal, and his ability to put in hard work at the crease and catch Rinne off guard was key. I think we’re going to see a lot of similar, clutch goals from Spezza while he’s on the wing.
He’s a brick house
Lehtonen tonight earned a start on Thursday. He remained composed, calm, and completely unflappable, even through some rigorous penalty kills in which the Predators seemed to be mainly in charge of the show. With 27 saves in tonight’s game, Lehtonen proved his own and did not let the hype of this game, or the scrappy quality of it at times, change his mental perception of his netminding abilities.
From the looks of his performance tonight, it’s Lehtonen’s world, we’re all just living in it. And with a win like this one, that’s perfectly alright.
Special team struggle
Although the Stars did pull out the win, their power play did not look too hot. They failed on both their attempts to capitalize on a power play. This could have something to do with the style of the personnel.
While the depth players are where it’s hot right now, the veterans of the game are being somewhat silent. Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin both had rather boring nights; there is too much passing and setting up in order to achieve the perfect shot possible.
The Stars have to be willing to get whatever shot they can take, and not be willing to lose the puck on passes. The Predators proved they were good at clearing the puck late in their penalty kill to keep the Stars from being productive. Is it perhaps time to inject a power play unit with some new blood, or should Ruff get the guys to simply take a page out of the new kids’ book?
In all, this was a reassuring and confidence-boosting victory for the Stars, and especially for Kari Lehtonen. Hopefully, they’ll be able to build on it Thursday as they host the L.A. Kings and return to some Pacific division competition.