Dallas Stars' Niemi Shines in Shutout Loss to Rangers
The Dallas Stars fell to the New York Rangers in a shutout loss, 2-0, Thursday night. Although they fought hard and had a number of high quality scoring chances, the Stars could not beat Henrik Lundqvist and left American Airlines Center empty-handed.
The first period had no scoring, but saw Cody Eakin exit the game due to a game misconduct. When on the penalty kill Eakin was skating behind the net where the Lundqvist was about to play the puck. The Rangers goaltender hesitated and Eakin continued skating at full speed, ultimately causing a collision. Lundqvist fell to the ice and Eakin was given a five-minute major penalty and a game misconduct.
The Stars, however, were able to kill the five-minute major and the two teams went into the first intermission 0-0.
The second period saw a number of good chances, but no goals were scored.
Rick Nash opened the scoring for the game at 7:08 of the third period while shorthanded. Jamie Benn mishandled the puck at the Rangers’ blue line while on the power play and Nash easily took the soft pass for a clean breakaway. He then scored top shelf against Antti Niemi to give New York a 1-0 lead.
The Rangers added an empty net goal with just over a minute remaining to take a 2-0 lead. New York held on and earned the shutout to beat the Stars 2-0.
Thoughts and Observations
The Dallas Stars are an offensively skilled team, despite having struggled with scoring this season. They have an extensive list of players that can put the puck in the net, but somehow are managing to ruin nearly all of their chances in the offensive zone.
Tonight that trend continued. They were opting to pass the puck while in prime shooting areas and often benefited the Rangers with their less than confident play.
It is never going to be a good thing to continuously pass the puck in the NHL simply because the game moves so quickly. Plays need to develop, which requires passing, but when it is extensive to the point that quality scoring chances disappear, it is a cause for concern.
Best Players Struggled
While the Rangers benefited from Nash’s third period goal to go up 1-0, the Stars saw their best players at the other end of the spectrum.
Jamie Benn missed a point blank shot into an open net and turned the puck over at the blue line while on the power play, which led to a goal against. John Klingberg was unable to do the simplest tasks such as skating or completing passes without making it look very difficult.
Tyler Seguin was electing to pass the puck instead of shooting. A number of defenders were gingerly passing pucks along the boards or to the center of the Stars’ zone, which led to fantastic scoring chances for New York.
Dallas’ best players were everything but tonight and although the effort was there, the NHL is about execution. It does not matter if the team puts everything they have on the ice, it is whether or not they put more pucks in the net than their opposition. Tonight the Stars could not get anything past Lundqvist and it cost them two points.
Niemi was Great
On the bright side, Antti Niemi was unbelievable tonight. He made a number of saves that left the fans at the American Airlines Center in shock and he kept his team in the game until the end.
Niemi was able to use his pads, glove and blocker to make some point-blank stops that were of the highest quality to keep the game tied. No. 31 stood tall on a breakaway in the second period and he continued to make incredible saves even after surrendering the game’s first goal.
It is an accomplishment for the Stars to have faith in one goaltender and to be getting such solid performances. It is also, however, a shame that his hard work is going to waste because his teammates are falling apart in front of him.
Tonight Niemi was great and he deserved better from the guys playing in front of him. This is not new information for the Stars’ skaters and they will hopefully right the ship sooner rather than later.
The Stars will have another shot at a home victory Saturday afternoon as they host the Philadelphia Flyers. Puck drop is set for 1pm and the game will be followed by an alumni match-up between former Stars players and Dallas Police.
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