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Burnside: Five takeaways from Stars' needed victory over Colorado

Tyler Seguin leads Dallas to a 3-1 win on an eventful night at American Airlines Center

by Scott Burnside @OvertimeScottB / DallasStars.com

The Dallas Stars continued their up-and-down start to the National Hockey League season with a step up Saturday night, dumping the surprising Colorado Avalanche 3-1 to move their season record to 2-3-0.

Here are some thoughts on an eventful night at the American Airlines Center that saw head coach Ken Hitchcock move into third place all-time in wins, surpassing Hall-of-Famer Al Arbour.

Video: COL@DAL: Seguin sweeps home Shore's dish for PPG

 

1. Same but different

This game felt much the same as pretty much all of the Stars' games have this season.

They've looked good for long stretches -- they had 51 shot attempts through two periods to 25 for the Avs on Saturday -- but have struggled to put teams away. When Colorado's Matt Duchene scored just 1:26 into the third period to halve the Dallas lead to 2-1, pretty sure folks were thinking about opening night when the Stars couldn't hold a third-period lead and ended up losing 2-1 to expansion Las Vegas.

Hitchcock said he feels that his team might have played as consistently well as any team in the NHL to date, but haven't gotten the results to show for it. So it would have been very disappointing had they not closed the deal on an Avs team playing on back-to-back nights after being the better team for so much of the night.

But there was a definite change of attitude from the Stars, even as the Avs played their best period of the night in the third.

"I think the step today for me was how we played when it went 2-1," Hitchcock said. "We dug in and played and played really hard, and that's the part that's the next step for me."

Captain Jamie Benn, critical of his own play after a disappointing loss in Nashville Thursday, agreed.

"It feels good," he said. "They're a good team. They were coming on pretty good in the third there. I like how we got the job done tonight and closed it out."

Video: Seguin records Gordie Howe hat trick

 

2. Fight Club

The first rule of Fight Club ... oh, never mind.

We can count on one finger the NHL fights we've seen that may have had a bearing on the outcome of a game. Check out Max Talbot fighting Daniel Carcillo in the 2009 playoffs. Tyler Seguin fighting former teammate Patrik Nemeth Saturday night doesn't count. In fact it's a bit of a stretch to say it was even a fight. But it was instructional to see how Seguin's teammates responded in such a positive manner to the incident, even if Devin Shore gave it an eight or nine on the shock meter.

"I mean, that's hockey, obviously," Shore said. "It's two guys going at it on opposite teams, and both of them really want to win. I think both of them got their teams excited. That's the beauty of our sport. There's a ton of passion in the game. Definitely I know on our bench we were fired up to see Seggy do that."

Captain Jamie Benn told Seguin that it's a pretty good feeling to have your teammates congratulating you for doing something that he wouldn't normally -- ever? -- do like dropping the gloves in a close, emotional game.

"I like when he steps up and does something like that," said Benn, who scored his first even-strength goal of the season off a Seguin pass in the first minute of the second period.

"I told him after the game that it feels good when all his teammates are coming up to him and tapping on the kneepads and the shoulders."

Seguin seemed a bit bemused at the attention focused on the fight -- he earned a "Gordie Howe hat trick" having scored, got an assist and had a fight -- but maybe it's more about what the fight seemed to signify in terms of the bigger picture.

"That's the kind of culture we're trying to guild in here," Shore said. "Guys who really care about each other and would go through the wall for each other and that was an example and I think we benefitted from it."

Video: Hitch moves to third all time in wins

 

3. The real story

Probably the real story of Seguin's contributions to the team aren't in mauling (or being mauled by) Patrik Nemeth, but in his complete game.

He scored what would be the winning goal with less than a second to play in the second period, thanks to a terrific pass from Shore. And he did headman the puck to Benn for the first goal, which was also pretty important given that it broke a scoreless tie in a game they'd been dominating.

Seguin led all players with seven shots on goal and entered Saturday's game tied for the league lead with Alex Ovechkin. But for us, it's the penalty killing that has added a whole new chapter to Seguin's resume.

The Stars killed all four man-advantage chances by the Avalanche Saturday, and Seguin takes a regular shift on the penalty kill usually with linemate Benn.

"I've just never really been a guy looked at to penalty kill," Seguin admitted. "I've always thought in the back of my mind I thought I'd be good at it and with more time out there I feel more confident. I 'm enjoying it and coaches have been real good with me extra video learning everything."

Hitchcock said this is simply the process of becoming a true number one center in the NHL.

"The big thing for me was he did all of those things, but he did it against the other team's best players," Hitchcock said. "He was a plus player in the game, he stood up and fought, he did everything we wanted him to do and the big thing for me he skated with the puck. He wanted the puck in the middle of the ice he wanted to transport it which is the next step for a one."

Video: COL@DAL: Benn picks the corner on Varlamov

 

4. Still, where's the beef?

Yes, the power play did deliver, as noted, making it five straight games with a power-play marker, even if the power play looked more disjointed Saturday than it has all season -- going 1-for-6, including a squandered 5-on-3 in the second period.

This continues to be a team that still isn't getting the kind of production it needs from a lineup that has the talent to do more. Maybe it was all the special teams play that disrupted a free flow of the forward units. The two teams combined for 17:37 in man advantage time. That saw guys that don't play special teams like Remi Elie and Brett Ritchie limited to 8:36 and 9:41 in ice time respectively. Jason Spezza played just 12:41. And so on.

Shore represents the one player who is breaking through having set up the game-winner and then enjoying a couple of quality chances including a shorthanded breakaway, although he has yet to score.

"We have a lot of players like Shoresy, who I really like their games right now," Hitchcock said. "For them, I wish they could score. I wish we could get secondary scoring so they would feel like all the work they're putting in is worth it because they've had great scoring chances wonderful opportunities and it hasn't gone in. So, for them and for us later on we're going to need those guys to score.

"But as far as doing the things right, and doing them with conviction, we got a lot of guys like Devin who are doing a heck of a job and for me he's the most versatile player on the team so he's a guy that can play on any three positions and any in any situation. He's on the power play he kills penalties he plays on a top line. He's doing all the things but for him I'd like to see him have success because you want to see a guy get rewarded for all the work he's put in."

Video: COL@DAL: Bishop denies Landeskog's chance in close

 

5. Be Bishop aware

Saturday marked the most active netminder Ben Bishop has been in terms of handling the puck. In part, that's a function of the power-play time, as he, as a rule, tries to jump out and cut off pucks dumped into the Dallas zone by opposing penalty killers and quickly turn the puck back the other way.

During the second period, Bishop several times looked to spring forwards on odd-man rushes most notably Alexander Radulov moving down the right side. Unfortunately, sometimes Bishop - who stopped 22 of 23 Colorado shots to secure the win - is more ready for these stretch passes than his teammates, at one point having a potential breakaway pass whistled down offside because the Stars were trying to execute a change.

"We've got to be better," Hitchcock said. "Not Ben. We weren't ready for that. We had a breakaway and a 2-on-1 off of it and we weren't ready for it. We were lollygagging at the bench diving in the wrong gate, diving in the offside gate.

"We've not practiced that and none of us including me, I wasn't ready for it. I was looking to get other guys on the ice next thing you know you're looking on 2-0 breakaway."

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

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