As a Blue Norther rolled through North Texas Saturday afternoon, sending temperatures plummeting, the Dallas Stars stopped the Philadelphia Flyers cold. Dallas’ 3-1 victory ended the visitors’ win streak at 10 games.
Despite allowing the first goal (the Flyers were 9-1-2 when scoring first this season) and being forced onto the penalty kill while nursing a one-goal lead with 2:58 remaining in the game, the Stars skated away with two hard-earned points. Afterward, Dallas center Jason Spezza said discipline was key in the win.
“That’s what sunk us last time against them,” Spezza said. “I think probably with the games being so close together, it reminds you that they have a great power play and some great players so we did a great job of staying out of the box.”
Stars coach Lindy Ruff echoed that sentiment, saying “The discipline to make sure we weren’t putting ourselves in a bad place in the game was really important. I thought we did a great job of that today.”
These are not last season’s Stars. The team is evolving, as injuries and personnel changes have forced Ruff to alter the way Dallas does hockey.
“The team we have now is different than the team we had last year,” said the coach. “The way we were trying to play wasn’t working. Since that point [the Colorado game] we look like a team that could win every night. I think the buy-in is good now and moving forward I think it will be good for us.”
It certainly was good for the Stars Saturday. The next challenge is to win two in a row. They’ll attempt that feat Tuesday night.
The Stars had a tentative start to the game, their performance in part reflecting the trepidation of the crowd at the American Airlines Center. Though shots and scoring chances stayed fairly close, the Flyers struck first when rookie Taylor Leier outmaneuvered John Klingberg to tally his first NHL goal at 16:44.
Leier goal pic.twitter.com/K64JGygwjZ
— Stephanie (@myregularface) December 17, 2016
Dallas neither surged nor sagged after allowing the goal; they simply chugged along to finish out the period.
The home team clearly needed a spark, which Spezza provided just 1:53 into the second period. The veteran, who last fought in March of 2009, dropped the gloves with Flyers defenseman Brandon Manning.
“I think it was huge. It’s an out of character moment,” said Ruff of Spezza’s effort. “When you’re dealing with adversity which we’ve dealt with, it’s out of character moments that spur the team on.” The coach added, “It made a statement that said I’m going to bring some desperation so you guys follow. We need more of that frankly and it has to come from everybody. It has to start with our top players and I thought what he did probably, almost single-handedly, helped us win that game.”
Less than three minutes after Spezza’s fight, Radek Faksa achieved the desired result.
The Stars dominated play in the middle frame, out-shooting the Flyers, 14-6.
The Stars’ momentum carried over to the third period. Their efforts were rewarded less than three minutes in when Adam Cracknell potted what would turn out to be the game-winning goal from just outside the paint.
The home team maintained their discipline until the 17:02 mark when Jordie Benn was sent off for hooking. The Flyers’ vaunted power play met with an entirely different penalty kill than the one they torched for three goals just last week, however, and their “puck luck” finally ran out. His time served, the elder Benn brother emerged from the sin bin to sand-wedge the puck into the empty Philadelphia net from his own blue line, sealing the deal for Dallas.
PHI – Taylor Leier (1) assisted by Nick Cousins (6)
DAL – Radek Faksa (4) assisted by Antoine Roussel (12) and Brett Ritchie (3)
DAL – Adam Cracknell (4) assisted by John Klingberg (13) and Tyler Seguin (22)
DAL – Jordie Benn – (2) (ENG) assisted by Jamie Benn (19) and Radek Faksa (8)
THW Three Stars
First: Antti Niemi (31 saves)
Second: Radek Faksa (1 goal, 1 assist)
Third: Adam Cracknell (1 goal)
St. Louis Blues at Dallas Stars
American Airlines Center – 7:30 p.m. CST on Tuesday, Dec. 20
Broadcast channels: FS-SW, FS-MW
2016-17 Season Series: November 3 – Stars 6, Blues 2
November 28 – Blues 4, Stars 3 (OT)
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.