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Burnside: Five takeaways from Stars' thrilling win over Flames

At least in the friendly confines of American Airlines Center, Dallas continues to be a team that doesn't quit

by Scott Burnside @OvertimeScottB / DallasStars.com

The Dallas Stars celebrated Jere Lehtinen's jersey retirement night by playing, well, very un-Lehtinen like. But they still managed to sneak out a 6-4 win over the Calgary Flames in a wild one Friday night to run their home record to 9-2-0.

Here are some ponderings on a game that tested the Stars' mettle and sets up an interesting week ahead with trips to first-place Las Vegas and Central Division foe Chicago.

Video: Hitch on big win over Flames

 

1. Adversity-fest

The Stars continue to be a team that never quits -- at least at home - and Friday showed a significant depth of character.They battled back from deficits of 2-1, 3-2 and 4-3 before Tyler Seguin completed the hat trick with the game-winner off a Calgary turnover with fewer than six minutes to go in regulation, and then, clinched the win it with an empty-netter.

It wasn't just coming from behind. The Stars lost defenseman Stephen Johns after he fell awkwardly into the boards in the second period, leaving them with five defensemen for the critical part of the game. And with limited confidence in rookie Julius Honka, the Stars relied on four defenders for most of the third period.

The team also overcame a rather dubious penalty call on Antoine Roussel that Calgary turned into a power-play goal late in the second period. And the Stars blew a 1:20 of 5-on-3 time in the third period, and trailing by a goal, which could have sapped their resolve. But it didn't.

"I just think coming back and winning a hockey game really builds confidence. That's the most important part," Dallas head coach Ken Hitchcock said. "Wins are wins, but this is one that's going to feel good, and they're going to be able to sit on it for a day or two."

Video: Seguin nets hat trick against Flames

 

2. So, about the road

A number of players noted that the kind of resiliency that was shown on Friday night -- and frankly at home all season -- has been difficult, if not impossible, to deliver on the road.

In fact, in three home games in the past week -- all victories -- the Stars had to come from behind to secure the two points. They've now won four in a row at home.

They are, however, 3-8-1 on the road and 0-4-1 in their last five road games.

Hitchcock insisted it's not home and road so much as powering through adversity, sticking to the plan no matter what.

Hmm, sounds like character to us. Okay, maybe it's semantics, but this coming week, it will be about carrying forward what was on display Friday night, because no matter how good these games feel ,they only have value if they can be replicated away from the American Airlines Center.

"That felt like a playoff game from the first shift," Seguin noted. "I loved our game from goalie out. Now, we just got to figure out how we can play like this at home, and why we can't play like that on the road. So that's what we're going to talk about."

The team will take Saturday off and then practice Sunday and Monday before jetting to Las Vegas, where the surprising Golden Knights are a daunting 9-1-0 at home.

"So we've got time to digest this win and find out what clicked tonight and how we can bring this on the road," Seguin said.

Mattias Janmark shook off a minus-3 game in Denver on Wednesday to have a strong game on Friday. He figures the disparity between home and road is really where the team is at right now.

"It's great that we have the ability that we have at home, and that shows that we can be a great team. But to become that great team, we need to start doing it on the road, too," he said.

Video: CGY@DAL: Seguin leads Stars to victory with hat trick

 

3. Seguin strikes ... and strikes ... and strikes again

Let's be honest, the splitting up of Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin 10 games ago has been a greater challenge, at least offensively, for Seguin than for Benn, who has remained on a line with right wing Alexander Radulov. And Radulov has remained a point machine, scoring his eighth of the season late in the second period to tie Friday's game at 3-3. He's now collected points in 12 of his last 14 games.

Seguin has played with a variety of wingers, although on this night, it was Janmark and Jason Spezza. The idea was to have Benn and Seguin make the players around them better and provide a more difficult task for opposing coaches, but Seguin had managed just one goal in his previous eight games coming into Friday.

Let's be clear: Seguin has been working like a fiend. In fact, his work on the defensive side of the puck has been pretty terrific all season. But on Friday, he delivered the goods offensively.

He drove the net to chip a Janmark pass over Calgary goaltender Mike Smith and then deftly knocked the puck out of mid-air to ensure it crossed the line. Then, he netted a goal-scorer's goal on the winner, intercepting a poor Michael Stone clearing pass and snapping the puck past Smith. 

Hitchcock felt that giving Seguin his own line, he should score more.

"That was the goal," Hitchcock said. "I felt that he could be a productive offensive player if I got him a different match."

As for Seguin's defensive contributions, that's never been an issue.

"He's more than capable against any center in the league from the red line back," Hitchcock said. "We're trying to get him to be one from the red line in. That's why games like today really help."

Seguin admitted that the switch away from playing between Benn and Radulov hasn't been seamless.

"I've kind of been trying to figure out that role a little bit," he said. "Last few games, I haven't been getting to the net."

But tonight was different.

"I thought tonight we worked hard, and we were connecting we were figuring it out, so it was good," he said.

Video: CGY@DAL: Smith finds loose puck, lights the lamp

 

4. Hanzal makes things better

The up-and-down (and largely down) season for Martin Hanzal has been well-documented. Every time the big center -- who was signed as a free agent in the summer -- got close to being in full form, he's suffered another injury.

Friday, he returned after a hand injury sidelined him for two games earlier in the week. And while he's not at 100-percent effectiveness, you can understand why he's so important for Hitchcock's master plan.

Playing with Gemel Smith and Brett Ritchie, Hanzal helped lay the foundation for Smith's game-tying goal with fewer than eight minutes left in regulation. Then, when Benn took a minor penalty with fewer than five minutes to go, Hanzal was part of the penalty-killing team that kept the Flames at bay and helped secure the win.

Moving forward, having Hanzal in the lineup is going to be key if the aforementioned road woes are going to be addressed.

"He was good until he ran out of gas a little bit in the third," Hitchcock said. "He helps. He helps a lot, because he manages the game properly. And it allows other centers to look at him and know how to play the position. He plays the positon so well with and without the puck that you don't have to be quick if you're smart ,and he's a very smart player."

Video: CGY@DAL: Radulov stuffs rebound home to tie the game

 

5. Four solid lines

The trickle-down effect of having Hanzal back in the lineup is that it gives Hitchcock four solid lines that he can turn to. For the most part, the Roussel, Radek Faksa, Tyler Pitlick trio was the team's most effective offensive unit Friday, with Roussel scoring the first goal of the game after some hard work by Faksa and Pitlick on the forecheck.

Indeed of the six goals scored, four came in tight after some hard work on the forecheck -- one for each of the four lines.

Kind of how it's supposed to work.

"The contribution by the role players helped a lot," Hitchcock said.

Seguin suggested the Smith goal might have been the game's most important one.

"It's great. Depth was huge in tonight's game," Seguin said.

Added Radulov: "All of the lines are there, and Hitch is trying to play everybody, because all four lines can score goals and play good defensively."

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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