You had to know the kind of night that the Stars were in by just looking at the first period stats on Thursday night. After the first 20 minutes, Dallas had outshot the New York Rangers 23-6 but trailed 1-0 when Ryan Callahan found Rick Nash streaking all alone in the slot on the power play.
It was mainly back and forth through most of the first 40 minutes, with Stephane Robidas getting the game tied on, wait for it, the power play with a blast from the point. Perhaps it seemed like the Stars hard work was going to pay off, especially when luck came their way when a New York goal was negated when it was ruled deflected in with the glove. Then, the Dallas defense of the first 20 games showed up and within 37 seconds, the Rangers were up 3-1. A gorgeous feed from Cody Eakin to Alex Chaisson coming up the right wing brought the Stars within one, but that was as close as there were going to get.
But it was that first period that I knew the Stars weren’t going to come out on top. Not because of their play; their play was nearly flawless in the first. They had 6 shots on their 2 power plays, which for Dallas, that’s quite an accomplishment. They were getting great looks on their initial shots, but just as Craig Ludwig mentioned in the first intermission, Dallas was getting pushed out of the goal area after Lundqvist would make the initial save, not allowing for 2nd and 3rd opportunities. Even now, the only part of the first that has me still shaking my head is how does anyone let Rick Nash get that open on the man advantage, let alone in Dallas where he just absolutely destroys the Stars.
Despite the lapse of coverage in the first 2 minutes of the 3rd period, the Stars played a great game. How often has Kari Lehtonen stolen a game for Dallas with his stellar play? Well, that’s exactly what Henrick Lundqvist did tonight. Even though he didn’t have to make 2nd and 3rd saves all that often, he came up huge when he had to, which for the former Vezina Trophy winner, actually made it look very easy.
It would be easy for the casual fan to look at the score and assume that the Stars, who just came off a 6-game road winning streak, with a home loss to the defending Stanley Cup champions in the middle, can’t “hang with the top teams.” Well, the casual fan would be dead wrong. The 5-2 loss to the Blackhawks is very misleading and they definitely outplayed the Rangers tonight. Don’t forget that the first three games of the 6 road wins in a row were in very difficult locations (Ottawa, Boston and Detroit) and the Stars had to show some incredible character to get those victories.
The Stars showed incredible character Thursday night. After a lengthy lay-off, they came out of the gates on fire. Dallas could have curled up in the fetal position after the 2 goals in the 3rd but they didn’t. They kept with their game plan of getting pucks to the net. When you can be proud of a team even after a loss, then there are far too many positives that outweigh the negatives. The Stars have their negatives, but right now, the Dallas Stars are right where they want to be: improving with each game.