These aren’t last season’s Dallas Stars, but that’s not a bad thing. The new-look Stars, featuring a newfound commitment to defense, subdued the Colorado Avalanche in a 4-2 win Thursday night.
The victory pushed Dallas’ win streak to a season-high three games. They’re now 4-0-1 in their last five, and have allowed two or fewer goals in nine of their last 12 games.
Colorado, on the other hand, came into the game in last place in the NHL. Give the Avs full credit, though, as they never quit against the Stars, even after falling behind, 2-0, early in the game. The visitors battled back to within one goal – twice – and kept the outcome in question until the Stars potted an empty-net goal with 25.2 seconds left.
On Thursday night, the better team won. For much of October and November, the Stars didn’t look like the better team. As December comes to a close, though, it’s clear Dallas is heading in the right direction. That’s a welcome change, and it comes not a moment too soon.
The Stars came out flying in the first period, as if determined to eliminate all hope for Colorado in the opening 20 minutes. They nearly succeeded.
Just over five minutes in, Devin Shore scored from the doorstep to put Dallas on the board. Soon after Shore’s goal, Jiri Hudler was boxed for hooking. Not until after the penalty was killed did the Avs manage their first shot on goal of the night, around the eight-minute mark.
Dallas’ top line threatened Colorado from the first shift and found the back of the net at 11:26, when Tyler Seguin one-timed a Jamie Benn pass off the rush to beat Avalanche goalie Calvin Pickard.
seguin goal pic.twitter.com/NscO28TN1T
— Stephanie (@myregularface) December 30, 2016
The Avs struck back just over four minutes later, as Matt Duchene tucked in a loose puck while standing in the crease. With Colorado pressing to tie late in the period, Jarome Iginla hi-sticked Dan Hamhuis, earning a two-minute minor. When Jamie Oleksiak rushed in to defend his teammate, he and Iginla each earned two minutes for roughing.
— Stephanie (@myregularface) December 30, 2016
The Stars’ power play proved futile once again, keeping the score 2-1. Shots for the period were 10-6 Dallas.
Dallas withstood an early push from Colorado, and Jamie Benn’s shot off the post four and a half minutes in signaled a momentum shift back to the home team. Less than a minute after Benn’s post, Oleksiak beat Pickard short-side high to push the Stars’ lead back to two goals.
The two teams traded power plays throughout the middle frame, but a Nathan MacKinnon shot off the post was the closest either club came to scoring with the man-advantage. Late in the frame, Curtis McKenzie backchecked to break up a great scoring chance for Mikko Rantanen. Shots were 23-13 Stars after two.
Colorado began the final period seemingly determined to physically intimidate Kari Lehtonen. 85 seconds in, Tyson Barrie skated to the box after skating over the Stars’ goalie. Less than four minutes later, Iginla went hard to the Dallas net before turning his back and running into Lehtonen. The Avs’ forward went to the box, while the Stars’ goalie went to the dressing room to be examined, per the NHL’s concussion protocol.
Antti Niemi entered the game as Dallas went on the power play yet again. The man-advantage didn’t last long, as John Klingberg was whistled for hi-sticking 30 seconds in. Esa Lindell found iron during the four-on-four, but the Avs’ Mikhail Grigorenko found the back of the net as his club’s truncated power play expired, pulling Colorado within one.
Grigorenko’s goal gave Colorado a boost. The game had largely been dominated by Dallas to that point, but it evened out as the Avs pushed for the equalizer. The Stars hit a couple more posts in the final seven minutes, but couldn’t put the game away until the Avalanche pulled Pickard for an extra attacker. After Klingberg and Lindell both missed the empty net, Seguin found it on a shot from between Dallas’ faceoff circles, giving his team a 4-2 victory.
Lehtonen returned to the Dallas bench late in the period but didn’t re-enter the game. Afterward, Stars coach Lindy Ruff said his goalie was fine after going through the concussion protocol.
DAL – Devin Shore (6) assisted by Lauri Korpikoski (7) and Patrick Eaves (9)
DAL – Tyler Seguin (12) assisted by Jamie Benn (21) and Jason Spezza (14)
COL – Matt Duchene (13) assisted by Mikko Rantanen (11) and Tyson Barrie (15)
DAL – Jamie Oleksiak (4) assisted by Tyler Seguin (24) and Jamie Benn (22)
COL – Mikhail Grigorenko (4) assisted by Tyson Barrie (16) and Matt Duchene (11)
DAL – Tyler Seguin (13) (ENG) assisted by Jason Spezza (15)
THW Three Stars
First: Tyler Seguin (2 goals, 1 assist)
Second: Matt Duchene (1 goal, 1 assist)
Third: Jason Spezza (2 assists)
Florida Panthers at Dallas Stars
American Airlines Center – 7:00 p.m. CST on Saturday, Dec. 31
Broadcast channels: FS-SW, FS-F
2016-17 Season Series: First Meeting of the Season