The Dallas Stars have been struggling to put it all together this season, but they were able to pull off a hard-working, complete 60-minute effort Saturday night in a win over the Montreal Canadiens. The 4-1 win ended the Stars’ four-game losing. Sure, Montreal was on the second night of a back-to-back, but there are plenty of positives for the Stars to take out of this game and one overshadows them all.
Yes, ending the losing streak is great. Keeping yourself in the battle for the final wild card spot is crucial. Having Tyler Seguin take over as top goal-scorer and point-producer in the league is beyond wonderful. Giving up less than 20 shots for the first time this season and allowing fewer than two goals for the first time in 8 games is a big step in the right direction, defensively. Scoring two power plays in a single game for the first time since November 22 is encouraging. Despite all the positives, there is one takeaway that trumps them all.
The Biggest Positive for the Dallas Stars
The best part of the Stars win was that they finally looked like the team they were last season and more like the team they could and should be this season. The Stars sped up and down the ice with lots of puck support. Just that alone has been elusive for Dallas this season. The Stars power play got on the board twice and looked dangerous most of their six opportunities, even though they nearly gave up a short-handed goal again.
In the defensive zone, the Stars seemed eager and invigorated to play as a unit. When defensemen pinched into the offensive zone, forwards purposefully covered the appropriate open ice. There was little gliding or watching. The Stars were collapsing into front of the net and diving in front of shots to help their goaltender out, finishing the game with 18 blocks. They finished with 10 takeaways and 23 hits.
Kari Lehtonen did not have a necessarily busy night, but he did make several outstanding saves to keep the Stars ahead including stopping a breakaway for his first save of the game and making a calf save with his back to the shooter later on.
As good a 20 minutes as we have seen from the @DallasStars at home this year. the theory of Forecheck, Backcheck, PAYCHECK at it’s best
— Bruce LeVine (@BruceLeVinePuck) December 7, 2014
A Complete Effort
The Stars threw everything they had at the Canadiens in the first period. They put 23 shots in the first two periods and dominated play for the first 30 minutes of the game. When Sven Andrighetto put Montreal on the board 2:21 into the third period, the Stars and their fans probably got a bad gut feeling, especially considering Dallas’ third-period collapses at home this season. “Here we go again” probably snuck into most minds, but the Stars clamped down. They did not let Montreal dictate the period. They did not crumble away and undo what they had built in the first two periods. The Stars were responsible and smart with and without the puck. They took as many shots as they allowed (six) and sealed the deal with an empty net goal with over a minute left.
Overall, the Stars seemed more determined, more energetic and more efficient. There was something different about them. Despite a slight lull in the second period and giving up an early third period goal, the Stars had energy and tenacity throughout the game. For much of this season so far, the Stars have not been able to put together a complete team effort for 60 minutes. This game was exactly what they needed and what everyone has expected.
It’s a strong reminder of what the Stars are capable of, and it is a glimmer of hope in troubling times.