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Burnside: Five takeaways from Stars' 2-1 win over Anaheim

Dallas flips the switch late, leading to an important victory before its lengthy road trip

by Scott Burnside @OvertimeScottB / DallasStars.com

The Dallas Stars came from behind yet again in the third period Friday night, this time nipping Anaheim 2-1 in a crucial Western Conference clash.

Here are some mutterings and meanderings on a game that felt like more of the same (a bad thing) and turned out, in the end, to be something much different (a good thing) on the eve of a critical six-game road trip.

Video: "Our leaders came through for us"

 

1. Let us count the ways this could have gone sideways

This one had "uh oh" written all over it.

Let's start with the lineup. Ken Hitchcock and his coaching staff showed up at the rink Friday night only to find that versatile forward Mattias Janmark was out with the flu. That meant rejigging the forward lines and the special-teams roster.

Then, after the pregame warmups, Marc Methot reported that his surgically-repaired knee was too sore to play, so that meant inserting Julius Honka into the lineup.

"It was the suddenness," Hitchcock said. "I thought our guys calmed it down and settled down and focused on playing, but when you pull two guys, basically from 5 p.m. on, you pull two guys out of your lineup that are big parts of it.

"It's a pretty emotional drawback. So, I thought we did a good job calming things down and just getting a normal first period."

And then, once the game began, it looked very much like the Stars' first game against Anaheim when they'd fallen behind and then dominated possession time, but couldn't beat netminder Ryan Miller, who earned a 41-save shutout in that first meeting last month.

Factor in being shut out Tuesday in Nashville and it wouldn't have been that surprising if some frustration crept into the proceedings as the Stars struggled to get on even footing in this one. But even though the Stars trailed 1-0 heading into the third, they didn't get out of sync, didn't try to force the issue and give up odd-man rushes.

"(Miller is) a good goalie. He made a lot of saves once again for the second game in a row that we've seen him, but I don't think we were really frustrated out there," said Stars captain Jamie Benn, whose deflection of a John Klingberg shot on the team's second power play of the third turned out to be the winner.

"We stuck with it and got the job done."

Video: ANA@DAL: Benn tips in PPG to put Stars ahead in 3rd

 

2. Oh, yes, the power play

First, it took the Stars almost until the midpoint of the third period to earn their first power play of the night. By that time they had once established themselves as the more dominant of the two teams, outshooting Anaheim 17-5 in the second period.

But still, they trailed 1-0, thanks to a wicked Ryan Getzlaf shot on a 2-on-1 late in the first period. The first power play, which came with Corey Perry closing his hand over the puck in the Anaheim zone 6:52 into the third period, loomed large. And for the first 1:58, that Dallas power play was a hot mess. Pucks were jumping over sticks, players seemed uncertain as to what the plan should be.

And as time wound down, there was a sense of angst in the sellout American Airlines Center crowd that time and opportunity were sliding away. But with two seconds left in the minor, Tyler Seguin found Devin Shore in the slot and Shore's redirection found the back of the net to tie the game.

"It wasn't going well for probably for probably 1:57 of that, but once again, we stuck with it. It was nice to get that one," said Benn, who drew the secondary assist on the goal.

"We heard the boo birds coming out there from our fans, but I think we put a smile on their faces and got them pretty excited, which was great."

When Benn scored the second power-play marker less than six minutes later, it marked the first time in 15 games the Stars had managed more than one power-play goal in a single game. Over that span, they had failed to score with the man-advantage nine times.

"I think you just have to trust our game plan," Shore said. "We know what works, we've kind of forged an identity throughout the season and we know what makes our team successful. And I think when you're playing well, like I thought we were throughout that game, but not getting the end result, I think the worst thing you can do is get frustrated and stray away from the game plan.

"All you can do is stick to it and trust it. If you stick to it, it'll pay off. and it took the power play to do that tonight. I thought we could have scored 5-on-5, but I thought both goalies were really good.

"So, at the end of the day, we got the result."

Video: ANA@DAL: Lehtonen blockers away Henrique's wrister

 

3. Another solid night for Lehtonen

For the second game in a row -- and really in keeping with his season-long pattern -- Dallas netminder Kari Lehtonen was quietly very good.

He was beaten by the rising Getzlaf shot from the right side on an odd-man rush, and he wasn't particularly busy through the middle of the game when the Stars asserted themselves. But he didn't allow the deficit to grow beyond one, and in the final moments, with Anaheim pressing and the Stars shorthanded after a last-minute Stephen Johns delay-of-game penalty, Lehtonen held serve.

In the end, he stopped 26 of 27 shots, including 21 of 22 in the first and third when another goal allowed would have been crucial.

Lehtonen is now 9-3 in his last 12 starts and has allowed fewer than three goals in nine of those games.

With Ben Bishop still recovering from a left knee injury sustained Monday against Ottawa, it's unknown just how long the net will be. But Lehtonen showed again Friday why many consider him to be the surprise of this season for the Stars.

Video: Seguin discusses important win over Ducks

 

4. Goodbye, Texas. Hello, road

One of the reasons this win was so critical is that it marks the final home game before a critical six-game road trip that begins Sunday in Pittsburgh and will keep the Stars away from home until the early morning hours of March 21.

Overall, the Stars have just four home games remaining with 10 on the road. To have come up empty in the points department Friday would have been somewhere between disheartening and crippling. Now, the team leaves with a renewed sense of optimism and belief that it is one that can play playoff-style hockey and be successful because that's exactly how this game against Anaheim felt.

"Obviously, great feeling to get those two points," Seguin said. "This is a long and pretty critical road trip coming up and away from home. I thought our crowd was great, especially in the third, and we had a feeling it was going take all night."

We're not big believers in momentum at any point, especially in the regular season, but there is something to be said for a team that carries with it a big bag of hell yes onto a long road trip as opposed to a bigger bag of are we ever going to score again? onto the road.

Maybe Friday's game means nothing beyond the two points -- not to discount those points, of course -- but we're prepared to accept it could carry something else more meaningful with it.

"For sure," Benn said. "I said this morning it's absolutely amazing playing in front of our fans, and now, we get to go into other buildings and a lot of buildings with good atmospheres, so it's going to be playoff-like. 

"It'll be fun to try and be the enemy, and find a way to get as many points as we can."

Video: Stars cash in with the extra man against Ducks

 

5. On this night, at least, the parts connected

Without question, the big boys came to play in this one.

We noted the Getzlaf goal and Miller's sterling play. And for the Stars, Benn was, especially through the final 40 minutes, an elite presence, as was Seguin, especially when Hitchcock reunited the duo with wingman Alexander Radulov in the second period.

Benn and Seguin combined for 21 shot attempts on the night. Klingberg's deft handling of the puck was critical to the winning goal and he played 25:46 as Hitchcock kept Honka stapled to the bench for most of the third period.

"I thought the table flipped when we flipped the lines a little bit," Hitchcock said. "There was a different energy out there. I thought as the game went on, we showed a lot more offensive determination, tenacity. We drew some penalties because of it. I just thought we looked relentless.

"That's the way we're going to have to play, you know. And then, we've relied all year on our big boys to come through at the right time, and that's exactly what they did today."

Hitchcock referenced it, but this was different than Tuesday's loss and other nights when it seemed the Stars were waiting for something to happen as opposed to making something happen. Friday, there was pretty close to full participation. Like Antoine Roussel driving the net drew the second critical penalty of the game in the third period. And Gemel Smith, Remi Elie and Jason Dickinson providing a tenacious presence pretty much every time they were on the ice.

"I thought Smith was very good -- he was tenacious, he was on top of people, he was using his speed to check. I think that's Gemel's game," Hitchcock said. "He's got to use his speed to check, and that's exactly what he did. That's what we're going to need every night. I think that there's more that they can do offensively, and that's what we want to sit down with them and see if we can figure out how we can help them there. But overall, we had a lot of participants today, and we needed it because so did they (the Ducks).

"They knew what was at stake, and so did we. And when you've got two teams that are this late in the season, tied in points. Both know that there's going to be some critical games come up."

This story was not subject to approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.

Scott Burnside is a senior digital correspondent for DallasStars.com. You can follow him on Twitter @OvertimeScottB, and listen to his podcast.

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