The Dallas Stars spent much of the first 40 minutes of Tuesday night’s tilt with the Anaheim Ducks in survival mode. Anaheim’s forecheck repeatedly pressured Stars defensemen into turning the puck over behind the Dallas net, which resulted in several scoring chances. Were it not for the stellar play of Antti Niemi, the game probably would’ve been out of reach by the third period.
The Finnish netminder stood tall in net from start to finish, however, and saw his efforts rewarded by the team in front of him, in the form of a five-goal third period. Going into Tuesday’s game, the Stars had only scored 15 third-period goals all season long, so they were as surprised as the Ducks.
Though Dallas allowed one power play goal on the night, the much-maligned penalty kill disarmed two dangerous five-on-threes en route to stopping four of five Anaheim power plays. The Stars went one-for-four on their own man-advantages, so it was a good night for special teams.
Overall, the Stars leaned on their goalie early, then rewarded him late. They got into penalty trouble, but the PK bailed them out. Dallas got scoring from every line. It was a true team effort, and they earned two desperately-needed points. Thursday night, they’ll go for two again and try to create some momentum.
If the first period were a made-for-TV movie, it would be titled, “The Antti Niemi Story.” Niemi turned aside all 11 shots Anaheim sent his way, including two huge saves in the final minute.
The Stars got into penalty trouble just past the midpoint of the period. With Adam Cracknell already in the box for hooking, defenseman Esa Lindell was whistled for slashing. The penalty kill bent, but didn’t break, and kept the Ducks off the board.
Anaheim netminder John Gibson wasn’t tested as much as Niemi, but he struggled a bit to control rebounds. Stars forwards crashed the net, but the loose pucks didn’t bounce their way. The Ducks killed off a Ryan Kesler holding penalty late, and both teams headed to their respective rooms in search of a goal.
The Ducks came out shooting in the middle period, forcing Niemi to make four saves in the first 2:42. Dallas earned an early power play when Ondrej Kase was sent to the sin bin for interference, but failed to put a shot on net.
Continuing the theme, Radek Faksa and Jiri Hudler found themselves on a two-on-one shortly after the power play ended, but Faksa missed the net.
After another fruitless power play midway through the period, Stephen Johns put the Stars on the board with a shot from the right point through traffic, assisted by Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin.
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Anaheim’s forecheck was particularly effective throughout the period, forcing Dallas defensemen to cough up the puck behind the net repeatedly. Just over two minutes after Johns’ goal, Rickard Rakell pressured Johnny Oduya into a turnover along the end boards. The puck slid out to Ryan Getzlaf, who beat Niemi to tie the game.
John Klingberg was whistled for holding with 57 seconds remaining in the period. 45 seconds later, Dallas fans were treated to a rare sight: Jamie Benn was boxed for a face-off violation. Someday, Stars fans, you’ll tell your grandkids you were there the night a face-off violation penalty was called.
Anaheim would start the third period with 1:03 of five-on-three power play time.
Dallas killed off their second five-on-three of the night but couldn’t kill Jamie Benn’s penalty, as Corey Perry gave Anaheim the lead just 1:08 into the period. A couple of minutes later, the Stars took a turn with the man-advantage.
Though the power play got off to a rocky start, with Niemi forced to make a couple of shorthanded saves, the home team righted the ship and Dan Hamhuis scored his first goal as a Dallas Star.
Just 52 seconds later, the arena PA announcer’s call of the Hamhuis tally was interrupted by the goal horn, as Adam Cracknell and Devin Shore drove the Ducks net and the puck went in off Perry’s stick.
On the ensuing faceoff, Perry took the puck behind the Dallas net and sent a wraparound attempt harmlessly through the crease. From that point forward, the Stars took charge of the game, adding goals from Patrick Eaves, Jamie Benn and Radek Faksa to end the night on a high note.
DAL – Stephen Johns (3) assisted by Jamie Benn (17) and Tyler Seguin (20)
ANA – Ryan Getzlaf (3) assisted by Rickard Rakell (6)
ANA – Corey Perry (7) (PPG) assisted by Ryan Getzlaf (22)
DAL – Dan Hamhuis (1) (PPG) assisted by Jamie Benn (18) and Jason Spezza (10)
DAL – Adam Cracknell (3) assisted by Johnny Oduya (5)
DAL – Patrick Eaves (11) assisted by Jiri Hudler (1)
DAL – Jamie Benn (9) assisted by Jordie Benn (6) and Tyler Seguin (21)
DAL – Radek Faksa (3) (ENG) assisted by Jordie Benn (7)
THW Three Stars
First: Antti Niemi (34 saves)
Second: Jamie Benn (1 goal and 2 assists)
Third: Adam Cracknell (1 goal)
New York Rangers at Dallas Stars
American Airlines Center – 7:30 p.m. CST on Thursday, December 15
Broadcast channels: FS-SW+, MSG
2016-17 Season Series: First Meeting of the Season