One mistake. One proud, elite goalie with something to prove. One post. One crossbar. For the Dallas Stars, that all added up to zero Thursday night: zero goals and zero desperately-needed points.
The Stars fell, 2-0, to the visiting New York Rangers. In what was a very entertaining contest, goalies Henrik Lundqvist and Antti Niemi dueled all night long, trading save after save in a game full of back-and-forth action.
“We played one of our best games and lost,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff after the game. He acknowledged that the one mistake which led to the deciding goal cost his team, but added, “There was so much good in the game, it’s hard to spend time on that one play, because there (were) ten other plays that could’ve made a difference in the game.”
The Stars had their chances. They did, indeed, play well. Against Henrik Lundqvist, though, it simply wasn’t enough.
The Rangers came out flying, spending their first couple of shifts almost entirely in the Stars’ zone. Dallas defended well, though, denying New York a good look at the net.
The home team drew the first penalty of the game just under six minutes in. Though the Stars’ power play moved the puck well and generated a couple of good chances, they couldn’t put one past Lundqvist.
Shortly after the Stars’ power play ended, Jason Spezza skated to the box for tripping. 1:09 into Spezza’s penalty, Cody Eakin took his forecheck too far.
Eakin gets a major penalty+misconduct pic.twitter.com/EMgqf8YDgn
— Stephanie (@myregularface) December 16, 2016
The Stars successfully killed 51 seconds of five-on-three, then another 4:09 of five-on-four, as the home fans roared their approval. Lundqvist, who left the game following Eakin’s hit, returned following the extended power play. With momentum from its penalty kill, Dallas generated several shots late in the period. Due mostly to its long man-advantage, New York led, 11-6, in shots at the end of the period.
The goalies continued their duel in the middle frame, though both were tested much more so than in the first period. Early in the second, Lundqvist saved a Klingberg point shot, then Niemi forced Chris Kreider to backhand the puck wide on a breakaway.
Dallas moved the puck well and generated several shots early, closing the New York shot lead to 13-11 seven minutes in. At the midpoint of the period, the Stars went on the power play. Though they failed to score, the home team forced Lundqvist to be both good and lucky.
Three great chances for the Stars on the Power Play… Unlucky as Eaves and Benn hit the post & crossbar in a 3 second span.
— Owen Newkirk (@OwenNewkirk) December 16, 2016
Following the power play, the pace of the game picked up considerably, with end-to-end rushes, scoring chances and saves galore. With 5.4 seconds remaining, New York captain Ryan McDonagh sent the puck over the glass to give Dallas a power play at the beginning of the final period. The Stars out-shot the visitors 18-9 in the period to take an overall 24-20 lead.
The Stars began the period with 1:54 of power play time, but were unable to generate a shot on goal. With Lundqvist down and out after a scramble in front of his net, New York defenseman Dan Girardi blocked a shot from the low slot to keep Dallas off the board.
Five minutes in, Stephen Johns stepped into a rolling puck at the point, slapping it at the Rangers’ net. The puck hit teammate Tyler Seguin between elbow and glove, sending the Stars’ centerman to the locker room briefly.
Seguin returned 90 seconds later for another Stars power play. This one proved to be the game-breaker, though not in the way Dallas would’ve hoped: Rangers winger Rick Nash anticipated and intercepted a point-to-point pass from Jamie Benn, raced in on a breakaway and beat Niemi to score the game’s first goal.
The marker would prove to be the game-winner, as the Stars couldn’t muster an answer. Mats Zuccarello added an empty-netter with just over a minute remaining, and the Rangers skated away with two points.
NYR – Rick Nash (12) (SHG) unassisted
NYR – Mats Zuccarello (8) (ENG) assisted by Michael Grabner (5) and Kevin Hayes (11)
THW Three Stars
First: Henrik Lundqvist (27 saves on 27 shots)
Second: Rick Nash (1 goal)
Third: Antti Niemi (28 saves on 29 shots)
Philadelphia Flyers at Dallas Stars
American Airlines Center – 1:00 p.m. CST on Saturday, Dec. 17
Broadcast channels: FS-SW+, CSN-PH
2016-17 Season Series: December 10 – Flyers 4, Stars 2
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.