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Burnside: Five takeaways from Stars 'greasy' blanking of Golden Knights

Dallas ends its road woes in style, getting a hat trick from Radek Faksa to down Vegas

by Scott Burnside @OvertimeScottB / DallasStars.com

LAS VEGAS -- The Dallas Stars rode a natural hat-trick from Radek Faksa to a 3-0 victory over the Vegas Golden Knights on Tuesday night, ending a four-game road winless streak.

Here are some ponderings and pontifications on a night that saw the Stars banish at least some of their road demons as they prepare now to head to Chicago to face a surging Blackhawks team on Thursday night.

 Video: "We're going to ride the yellow laces"

 

1. Demon be gone (for a night anyway)

Maybe it's the dads and mentors who are on this road trip. Maybe it was just time that the Stars stopped crumbling like pieces of fine china when things don't go their way on the road.

Regardless, this was something altogether different, starting with solid goaltending from Ben Bishop that kept the game scoreless, before the Stars broke the game open with some opportunistic scoring from Faksa, who tallied three goals in the last 7:05 of the second period, including two just 8.6 seconds apart in the final minute to stake the Stars to a 3-0 lead.

Frankly, those are the kinds of soul-suckers that have happened to the Stars, not by the Stars, as they had stumbled their way to a 3-8-1 road record heading into Tuesday's game. But this outing was the complete package against a team that had won five in a row and was dominant at home, going 9-1-0 prior to Tuesday's game.

The Stars allowed the Golden Knights just one full power-play opportunity (and a partial one after Tyler Seguin had taken a penalty early in a Dallas man-advantage) in spite of a high emotional content from both teams.

They didn't turn the puck over and they handled the surges without cracking. After giving up 15 shots in the first period, the Stars held Vegas to 19 shots rest of the way.

"It's big," said Dallas captain Jamie Benn. "Obviously, we haven't had the most success on the road, but we got a gritty effort tonight, had some big performances from a couple of guys and found a way to beat a good team in their barn."

Video: DAL@VGK: Faska extends lead with two in eight seconds

 

2. Radek's big night

It's been a curious season for Faksa, who signed a three-year contract worth $6.6 million with the Stars in the offseason.

Coming off a nice 12-goal campaign and strong 2016 playoff performance, it seemed that Faksa might be looking to jump up the depth chart. But when the Stars signed veteran two-way center Martin Hanzal to a three-year, $14.25 million deal in the summer, it seemed as though the potential to maximize Faksa's skill set might be blunted.

But whether he's felt stifled or not, Faksa, along with usual linemates Antoine Roussel and Tyler Pitlick, have provided consistent hard-working performances and head coach Ken Hitchcock has in turn challenged them to do more and given the ice time to do it.

"We challenged the line two days ago to start playing against heavier groups," Hitchcock said. "So rather than match third line on third line, we want to push them up and play against top players, and they took the challenge head on. We've asked them to take on added responsibility and added minutes."

Now, they're not going to pour three goals in 7:05 every night. They might not do it again this season. Or, heck, ever. But Tuesday was a reminder of why Faksa earned the new deal and his potential import to this Dallas team as they try and reassert themselves as a legitimate playoff contender.

"For sure, it was huge goals for us," Faksa said. "For sure, I'm happy for the goals, I'm very emotional when I score. But the most important is the team win. I'm glad we had greasy win on the road. We need it."

There's also the bigger picture reward for the rest of the team to see what happens when some of the most diligent players on the team get rewarded.

"It's pretty neat to see a player like that who works so hard, plays the game the right way and for him to go get some success and find a way to get three goals," Benn said.

Added Bishop: "They put them out there for a reason in the last minute of the period, and they came through for us. They didn't stop after they got the first one, they hung in there and got another one. So obviously, Faksa was great tonight. That line was good for us."

Video: DAL@VGK: Bishop quickly snatches Nosek's wrist shot

 

3. Back to Bish mode

Speaking of the Stars' starting netminder, there has been more than a little up and down to Bishop's first season with the Stars, and not unlike his teammates, many of the 'downs' have taken place away from American Airlines Center.

Bishop was riding a four-game road losing streak coming into one of the hardest places to play on the road in the NHL thus far this season. He'd allowed 18 goals over that stretch.

For Dallas to become the team many had envisioned at the start of the season, they will clearly have to be better on the road. Ain order for them to get better on the road, they'll need to have more nights like this from Bishop, who earned his second shutout as a Star and first on the road.

This isn't about Bishop stealing this game or really any other game. Not to say he wasn't good. He was plenty good, especially in the first period when he turned aside 15 shots. But it's the calmness with which Bishop went about his business in a very fast game in a very raucous building.

Slowing down play when it needed to be slowed down and cruising around the Stars zone, firing pucks up the ice when the opportunity presented itself.

"You want to be better on the road. I've felt good on the road, but obviously, not getting the results we want to have," said Bishop, who stopped 34 shots for his 21st-career shutout.

"Obviously, the first period was important just kind of to keep the team in there and then the second period we kind of found our way there and kind of took over."

Hitchcock said a team like the Golden Knights presents a special challenge that Bishop met full on.

"Look, Vegas is a helluva hockey club," Hitchcock said. "They're the fastest team we've played all year -- their quickness on pucks, their quickness on attack. So it's a hard game for a goalie because there's a constant changing of angles. I thought he read the angles really well. I thought he read the play really well."

Video: Hitch speaks with media after shutout win in Vegas

 

4. Good night, or is that good Knights?

That's sort of a play on words, but there were lots of players who may not have ended up on the score sheet but whose play helped propel the Stars to a pretty important one.

Brett Ritchie used his speed and size effectively, and playing with Gemel Smith and Hanzal, the trio was, according to Hitchcock, one of the team's best lines against Vegas.

Rookie defenseman Julius Honka, in the lineup for a second consecutive game, seemed much more confident in handling the puck and in his defensive assignments.

John Klingberg, the Stars go-to guy on the blue line when it comes to points (he has 21), was much more composed than he has been recently on the road. 

Also thought Smith, who had a couple of iffy moments in the first half of the game, bounced back with strong play in the second half of the contest.

"As a coach, you have a feeling it's coming," Hitchcock said. "We could see this in the last two road games that we were starting to put good minutes (in). And I also think it's the verbal message on the bench from the players themselves. The players are starting to say the right things on the bench that you need to say if you're going to win on the road, and they're helping each other through the difficult periods, and they're correcting themselves on the bench without us doing the work."

Video: Stars grab a big win in Vegas

 

5. Dad's karma

Hey, we hypothesized earlier in the day that, maybe, having the dad's on the trip might provide some more impetus for strong, committed play.

Guess it worked out.

But just so you know, the last time a Stars player recorded an in-period hat-trick, it was Patrick Eaves, who scored three on Feb. 11, 2016 in Chicago. And guess who was watching? The dads.

Just saying.

"Maybe we just need our dads along to figure it out," Bishop said. "But it's a big win."

The Stars are now 6-1-2 on dad trips since Jim Nill took over as GM. Sporting nice new green (victory green, of course) Stars tops, the dads sat in on the morning video meeting with the players and then joined them in the locker room to celebrate the victory.

This story was not subject to approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. You can follow Scott on Twitter @OvertimeScottB, and listen to his Burnside Chats podcast here.

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