The victory extended the Sens’ win streak to four and moved them to within four points of first place in the Atlantic. They also maintained their four-point lead over the Boston Bruins, who also won Wednesday night.
Though his team won, Senators coach Guy Boucher wasn’t thrilled with the way they got there.
“I don’t think we played our best game to be honest with you,” said Boucher. “I think we were slow to start; our goalie was good in the first minutes…Some players had good games, but in general, too many turnovers and too many shots on our goaltender. When you win games that you don’t love, it’s not necessarily a bad sign either, but we’ve got to make sure that we clean up a few things for tomorrow.”
For Stars bench boss Lindy Ruff, the game was one of missed chances and youthful mistakes.
“We missed an empty net. Spezza missed an empty net that would’ve given us a great start. We came out really skating well,” said Ruff. “I thought after they scored we got down a little bit and then we got going again and all of a sudden we give them a power-play goal. There were times our young defensemen struggled on a couple of coverage plays even when we made it 4-2 and we left our man and all of a sudden the puck is in our own net again.”
The loss further dimmed the Stars’ already-faded playoff hopes. Trailing the St. Louis Blues by seven points in the race for the second wild card in the West, the Stars would likely need to win at least 12 of their remaining 15 games to claim the spot.
The Stars came over the boards shooting to start the game, but Anderson was on his toes from the opening faceoff. The Senators’ goalie turned aside shots from Jason Spezza and Stephen Johns, among others, in the first few minutes.
Just 4:44 into the period, Senators defender Mark Borowiecki put a hard-but-clean hit on Stars pivot Radek Faksa and was immediately challenged by big Jamie Oleksiak. The defensemen dropped the gloves, but quickly joined their mitts on the ice before any real damage could be done.
Two minutes later, Marc Methot joined his teammate in the penalty box, convicted of holding the stick. At the same time, Senators alternate captain Dion Phaneuf limped off the ice and down the runway after apparently catching Ales Hemsky’s skate blade above the knee.
Facing an opponent down (temporarily) to three defensemen, the Stars had a golden opportunity on the power play. Though they moved the puck well, the home team couldn’t put it past Anderson and the penalty was killed. Methot emerged from the box and Phaneuf returned a few minutes later.
After weathering the Stars’ early storm, the Senators struck first. Chris Wideman finished off a nifty tic-tac-toe play on the man-advantage at 13:41 to give his team a 1-0 lead.
Less than two minutes later, the Stars lost a defensive-zone draw and Sens rookie blueliner Fredrik Claesson made them pay, slapping home a rolling puck from the top of the slot for his first NHL goal.
The Senators gained traction after a slow start and took a 14-7 shot lead into the break.
The Senators picked up in the second period right where they left off in the first. Just over three minutes in, they won another offensive-zone draw and Jean-Gabriel Pageau turned it into another goal, giving the visitors a 3-0 lead. That was enough to end Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen’s night, as Ruff sent Antti Niemi to the net in relief.
A minute later, rookie Remi Elie won a puck battle along the boards and sent it to Spezza behind the Senators’ net. Spezza then dished the puck to Tyler Seguin, who buried it to put the Stars on the board at last.
The secondary assist was Elie’s first NHL point. After the game, Spezza complimented his young linemate.
“Remi has played great; I’ve really liked his game,” said Spezza. “He is a guy that opens up ice, has great speed and is tenacious on the puck, so I think he is going to be a great piece for us.”
Though the Stars turned the tables in the second period, outshooting the visitors 13-7, the Senators got another puck through on a late power play. Phaneuf lofted a wrister toward the net and Viktor Stalberg redirected it past Niemi to give the Sens a 4-1 lead after 40 minutes.
Niemi made a save on a 2-on-1 in the opening minute of the third period to preserve a measure of suspense. Seven minutes later, Spezza banked one in off a Sens defender for a power-play goal to pull the Stars to within two.
The game remained close for 57 seconds before Senators defenseman Cody Ceci put it away with a point shot that rattled off Dan Hamhuis’ shin pad, Stephen Johns’ stick and Niemi’s right pad on its journey to the net.
Though deflated by Ceci’s goal, the Stars continued to attack, out-shooting the Senators 17-2 in the final period. Despite the shot volume and a late power play, Anderson and the visiting Sens stymied the home Stars the rest of the way.
OTT – Chris Wideman (5) (PP) assisted by Viktor Stalberg (4) and Cody Ceci (11)
OTT – Fredrik Claesson (1) assisted by Zack Smith (16)
OTT – Jean-Gabriel Pageau (8) assisted by Tommy Wingels (5) and Fredrik Claesson (6)
DAL – Tyler Seguin (23) assisted by Jason Spezza (28) and Remi Elie (1)
OTT – Viktor Stalberg (11) (PP) assisted by Dion Phaneuf (20) and Mike Hoffman (25)
DAL – Jason Spezza (12) (PP) assisted by Ales Hemsky (1) and Esa Lindell (7)
OTT – Cody Ceci (2) assisted by Mike Hoffman (26) and Mark Stone (28)
THW Three Stars
First: Craig Anderson (35 saves)
Second: Viktor Stalberg (1 goal, 1 assist)
Third: Jason Spezza (1 goal, 1 assist)
Dallas Stars at San Jose Sharks
SAP Center – 9:00 p.m. CST on Sunday, March 12
Broadcast channels: FS-SW, CSN-CA
2016-17 Season Series: First Meeting of the Season
Ottawa Senators at Arizona Coyotes
Gila River Arena – 9:00 p.m. EST on Thursday, March 9
Broadcast channels: RDS2, TSN5, FS-A
2016-17 Season Series: Oct. 18 – Senators 7, Coyotes 4
Matt blogged about all things hockey at On Goal Analysis/The OGA Blogs from 2008-2014 and has written several travel articles for The Dallas Morning News. He began covering the Dallas Stars and Florida Panthers for The Hockey Writers in August 2015. Matt is also writing a biography of “Tex” Rickard, the Texas cowboy who founded the New York Rangers and the Madison Square Garden Corporation.