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Burnside: Five takeaways from Stars' overtime triumph over Vancouver

Dallas takes an important step forward, winning consecutive road games for the first time this season

by Scott Burnside @OvertimeScottB / DallasStars.com

VANCOUVER -- The Dallas Stars won back-to-back road games for the first time this season, coming up with a second straight 2-1 victory -- this one in overtime, thanks to an Alexander Radulov goal against a very-good Vancouver Canucks team Monday night.

Here are some thoughts and contemplations about an important victory that moved the Stars to 7-5-0 on the season.

Video: Radulov wins it in OT

 
1. Mug's game

Sure it's a mug's game, but is this a game a year ago that the Stars lose?

Do they, for instance, give up a goal on a pretty grisly turnover by Jamie Oleksiak late in the second period that turns into a great chance for Vancouver's leading goal-scorer, Derek Dorsett, but on this night, is turned aside by netminder Ben Bishop?

If this is last year, do they lose the game in overtime when Mattias Janmark falls in the opening seconds, allowing Vancouver an odd-man rush?

No way to know. But what we do know is that against a surprisingly-fast, committed Vancouver team that is full measure for their 6-3-2 start, the Stars held firm when they were being outshot 10-2 midway through the third period, got another timely power-play marker from the league's most potent power-play unit, and got stellar goaltending for the second game in a row -- this time from Bishop -- to get an important road victory as they evened their record at 2-2-0 on this five-game road trip with the finale set for Thursday night in Winnipeg.

Video: Hitch reacts to OT win

 

2. Rads on point

Let's be honest, there were a few skeptics when Radulov eschewed the Montreal Canadiens and other suitors and signed a five-year deal with the Stars worth $31.25 million.

Would the security blunt his desire and compete level? Had the Stars over-committed?

We began to ask Tyler Seguin about Radulov's recent play not long after Radulov tore down the right side and beat Vancouver netminder Jacob Markstrom with a hard shot for the game-winner. All we got out was Radulov's name before Seguin chimed in: "is hot."

But what has Seguin's linemate -- and the guy who put a pin-point pass on Seguin's stick during a second-period power play, by the way -- brought to the table recently?

"He's put his teeth in more," Seguin said of Radulov, who plays with a distinctive dental gap. "He's been putting his teeth in more away from the rink. Seems to be working."           

Okay, seriously though. Radulov has three goals and three assists, and two game-winners in the last three games.

"Just work ethic," Seguin said. "It's never an off-day for him. That includes practice. Even after our rookie dinner, he's still the hardest-working player out there the next day. And hard work pays off. He puts in the work before skill, and he gets rewarded as of late, so hopefully, he can keep going."

Head coach Ken Hitchcock said there are things that Radulov gets to try during the game that other players don't get the green light to try.

"He's a very competitive player, and I think he elevates the rest of our competitiveness," Hitchcock said. "The thing I like best about Rads is he's not afraid of the moment. And this is four or five games now where he's not afraid of the moment, and that's why we brought him here."

As per usual, Radulov underplayed his own contributions, saying he was actually thinking about passing on the winning goal and that there's still lots of work for the Stars to do.

Video: Bishop comes up big in Vancouver

 

3. Bishop back, no big deal

To suggest that Monday was a big deal for Bishop is to overstate what happened earlier in this trip when he was pulled early in the second period of last Tuesday's 5-3 loss to Colorado.

Bishop expressed his displeasure with Hitchcock's decision to pull him. Hitchcock explained why he'd made the move. Bishop got the start in Edmonton two days later and took the loss, giving up five goals on 30 shots including a couple of goals that went off teammates' skates.

Was it nice for him to come up with a win in a low-scoring road game? Sure.

But Bishop signed a six-year deal with the Stars in the offseason. He's a two-time Vezina Trophy winner. He's not in make-or-break mode in October.

Still, after Kari Lehtonen was stellar in Friday's 2-1 win over Calgary on Friday to halt a two-game slide to start the trip, to have Bishop follow that up with an equally-impressive performance on Monday to give the team its second straight road win, well, let's just call it a mini-statement game.

At the very least, it makes the Denver incident seem much smaller in the rear-view mirror.

Video: DAL@VAN: Radulov wires home game-winning wrist shot

 

4. Road worthy

The Stars went 12-24-5 road games last season. That's not good. In the ultra-competitive Central Division, and even taking in the rest of the Western Conference, "That's your season right there," said Seguin.

And four games into this current road trip, it's apparent every single night how hard it is to win away from home. It's taxing. It takes commitment. It takes patience because stuff is going to happen.

But getting the job done away from home is imperative. It just is.

"It's been talked about a lot," Seguin said. "Road record's a big talking point for us. And tonight, we played a little bit more simple. We competed -- got greasy -- didn't care how we won, and went to our first overtime, and everyone did their jobs."

And let's be candid: For a time during the third period, it looked like just getting a loser's point by keeping the game tied through regulation would be a moral victory for the Stars on this night, as Vancouver put on a significant push.

"Vancouver plays a really hard game to play against," said Hitchcock, who called the Canucks' game as good a team game as they've played in quite some time.

"They play a great team game. They all work. They all close gaps quickly."

So at the end of the day, to jump on the team charter and head for picturesque Kelowna, B.C. with two points to prepare for the finale in Winnipeg on Thursday, well, that's something.

It might even be more than something.

Video: Condensed Game: Stars @ Canucks

 

5. Let's not overstate things

The Stars shouldn't be planning any parades just yet. The team played without Martin Hanzal on Monday and still managed to kill three of four penalties.

The power-play goal scored by Sam Gagner that tied the game six minutes into the third period was the first power-play goal the Stars had allowed in eight games.

Impressive, to be sure. But the team's reliance on special teams (the power play entered the game No. 1 in the league and the penalty kill at No. 2) is not realistically sustainable.

Until the team can find some balance to its scoring -- and that means getting anyone other than Benn, Seguin or Radulov to score at even strength -- then they can't really be considered an elite team.

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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