‘You can look at a lot of different situations and stay frustrated or you can move ahead to the next game or the next challenge, and try to build off what you’ve done’
The Stars’ 3-2 overtime victory against Los Angeles Friday was the best Christmas present possible. First of all, it broke a run of going 1-of-12 in overtimes. Secondly, it brought the Stars a little closer to a playoff spot. And thirdly, it gives Dallas a 3-1-1 record so far on a nine-game run where eight games are being played at American Airlines Center.
The Stars get three days off for Christmas and return to play the two worst teams in the Western Conference – at Arizona and home against Colorado – so they have taken a very important opportunity and embraced it.
For now, anyway.
That’s how the Stars’ season has gone. They win, they lose, they win, they lose. It’s how they have forged a 14-14-7 record after 35 games. Building on this victory will be the next challenge, but that’s a whole lot better than unwrapping the pair of socks that would have been another overtime loss.
“I think the only thing you can do is focus on the next game,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said before the game. “You can look at a lot of different situations and stay frustrated or you can move ahead to the next game or the next challenge, and try to build off what you’ve done in the past, capitalise on some of the efforts inside of the game. Sometimes, just a little bit of puck luck would have changed some of those games, but you have to stay determined to make a difference inside the game.”
The Stars did that Friday.
The puck luck still wasn’t going the way of Dallas, as Jamie Benn had several nice chances and couldn’t convert. Likewise, Johnny Oduya had a prime chance and couldn’t settle the puck down, and Patrick Eaves couldn’t get off a strong shot with a seemingly open net.
The Stars had an excellent effort, considering the challenges. Antoine Roussel (upper body) and Stephen Johns (lower body) both were unable to play. Because the Stars carry just 13 forwards and Cody Eakin was serving the third game of a four-game suspension, Dallas had just 11 healthy forwards. Ruff used seven defensemen and relied on the rusty legs of defensemen Patrik Nemeth (coming off six scratches) and Jamie Oleksiak (returning afterfive missed games) to help lift the boat.
Oleksiak played 12:38 and Nemeth 7:05 as they combined to fill one spot, and the defense was pretty solid as a whole.
Also rusty was goalie Kari Lehtonen, who had played the role of back-up for four straight games. He quickly got up to game speed and finished with 29 saves in the win.
Tyler Seguin scored on a one-timer and Radek Faksa punched in his own rebound to create a 2-1 lead, but the Kings came back to tie it upon Jeff Carter’s second goal of the game (and 19th of the season), and there was that confounding three-on-three overtime session taunting the Stars once again.
On Tuesday, rookie defenseman Esa Lindell made a bad read, was overpowered, and gave up the overtime game-winner to the St. Louis Blues. But Ruff tossed Lindell right back out in a pressure situation Friday, and this time the big Finn read the play perfectly.
He skated the puck out of the defensive zone, fed Jamie Benn and drove toward the net. Benn made a calm pass back, and Lindell tapped it past Kings goalie Jeff Zatkoff for the overtime game-winner.
He might as well have just tucked it into the stockings of Stars fans.
It was the gift they all have been asking for.
Devils 1 Penguins 4
Wild 7 Rangers 4
Canadiens 1 Blue Jackets 2
Sabres 1 Islanders 5
Lightning 0 Capitals 4
Red Wings 4 Panthers 3
Bruins 2 Hurricanes 3
Avalanche 2 Blackhawks 1
Kings 2 Stars 3
Maple Leafs 4 Coyotes 1
Canucks 1 Flames 4
Oilers 2 Sharks 3
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