The Dallas Stars extended their win streak to four and pulled ahead in the points race in their 3-2 victory over the Washington Capitals.
Though the contest was rather rocky and gave some of us minor heart attacks, the Stars pulled through to beat the Caps despite allowing Alex Ovechkin a record-breaking goal. But on a scale of one to earning sole first place in the NHL, that's not really that important, anyway.
It was slow going starting off for the Stars and Caps both, with shots remaining low. Halfway through the period, though Tyler Seguin broke away on an odd man rush resulting in a goal 9:28 into the first period, assisted by Jamie Benn and John Klingberg. Barry Trotz challenged the goal on the grounds that he felt Patrick Sharpgot a little too familiar with Grubauer, but the refs decided that there had been no interference and the goal stood. The Stars did get a power play opportunity several minutes later when Nicklas Backstrom went off for hooking, but the Caps killed the penalty efficiently. Then, during a late period push for the Caps, Backstrom redeemed his penalty with a shot that deflected off Jordie Benn's shoulder, leaving the game tied up 1-1 (and also 12-12 SOG) when the buzzer sounded to end the period.
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The second period began much like the first, with play flowing molasses slow. 2:16 in, and Tom Wilson went to the box after getting a bit rough with Antoine Roussel. This power play opportunity passed the Stars by and faded into more messy and sluggish attempts from both sides. A little more than halfway through, and the Caps led in shots 17-15 with nothing more to show for it. The period came to a close scoreless with the Stars struggling to capitalize on offensive opportunities, but also keeping the Capitals at bay after taking the lead in SOG, with 23 to the Caps' 20.
The Stars started the period putting in extra work to shut down lanes in front of their own net, and it paid off beyond their blue line. At 4:45 in, Cody Eakin tipped it in with assists from John Klingberg and Val Nichushkin to put the Stars up 2-1. Three minutes later, due to some shoddy defensive coverage, Alex Ovechkin answered with a record-breaking goal, making him the highest scoring Russian player in the NHL, to tie up the game again. Eleven minutes in, Jason Spezza rained on the Ovechkin parade with an unassisted wrist shot, putting the Stars ahead one more time 3-2. This score held even through the Capitals leading in shots on goal 31:29, and even through a nail-biting last few minutes in which the Caps emptied their net but to no avail.
Thoughts and Observations
What felt like a sluggish, off game for the Stars still ended in victory, and a victory is a victory no matter how small. The Stars' patches of competent defending were miraculously enough to keep them in the game, but Kari Lehtonen was the real MVP tonight.
Speaking of stars, John Klingberg recorded points for assists on two of the Stars' three goals. The first of the game, scored by Tyler Seguin, marks the 8th goal this season that was a product of that special Benn/Seguin/ Klingberg magic.
It was definitely a special night for Alex Ovechkin too, who broke a record tonight but couldn't break the Stars. He netted his 484th career goal, pushing him to the very top of the list of Russian goal scorers in the NHL.
With this win, the Stars go 10-3 against Eastern Conference opponents and find themselves occupying the sole spot at the top of the NHL standings with 32 points. They say it's lonely at the top, but... Nah, it feels pretty good to us.
The Stars return home to the AAC to hopefully repeat their last performance against the Buffalo Sabres at 7 PM CT.