It was a mixed bag for the Dallas Stars in their first game of the preseason. There was plenty of offensive firepower, but keeping the puck out of their net was a different story. The end result was a 6-5 shootout loss to the St. Louis Blues at American Airlines Center Sunday night.
“I thought from the standpoint of making plays and creating good opportunities against what I thought was a pretty good defense they dressed, that part was good,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “We had some breakdowns that cost us. We’d like to clean that up. Our young defense probably hurt us a little bit. But I really liked what our forwards did. They did a really nice job of creating some opportunities.”
Leading the way among the Dallas forwards was 18-year-old Valeri Nichushkin, who scored two goals and registered a game-high nine shots on goal in his first taste of NHL action.
“I was waiting for that all summer, so I was very excited,” Nichushkin said through a translator, which in this case was Stars defenseman Sergei Gonchar.
It was an impressive showing for the 18-year-old Nichushkin, Dallas first round pick (10th overall) in this summer’s NHL Draft.
“He was able to push through and skate well in the game,” Ruff said. “He was responsible for creating a number of really good opportunities, and he obviously scored a couple. You look at his all-around game and he is trying to pay attention to where he is supposed to be defending. He’s got a lot on his plate, and I thought it was a good effort from him.”
Tyler Seguin and Erik Cole each had a goal and an assist for the Stars. Defenseman Kevin Connauton also scored.
It didn’t take long for the Stars to get on the board in Sunday night’s game. They went on a power play 19 seconds into the contest and cashed in to take the early lead. After taking a pass from Seguin, Alex Chiasson sent the puck from the goal line to the slot, where Cole banged it past Blues goaltender Jake Allen 1:17 into the game.
The Stars made it a 2-0 game when Connauton’s snap shot from the left point got past Allen to give the Stars a 2-0 lead at 3:59 of the first.
The Blues bounced back to tie on a couple of goals by Maxim Lapierre, who tipped in a Ryan Reaves shot at 8:48 of the first and then scored a power play goal five minutes later, knocking the puck past Stars goaltender Dan Ellis during a scramble in the Dallas crease.
The Stars took the lead back 5:53 into the second period with their second power play goal of the night. Seguin finished off some slick passing by the Stars, scoring from the left circle to make it a 3-2 game.
“There was a lot of passing going on,” Seguin said. “Just a couple of good passes and when I got the puck back on my stick there wasn’t a goalie in the net anymore.”
The Blues drew even at 13:32 of the second period when the Stars turned over the puck and Sebastian Wannstrom slipped a shot from the bottom of the left circle past Stars goaltender Jack Campbell, who had taken over in net just a few minutes earlier.
Nichushkin scored his first goal of the night with 27.3 seconds left in the second, getting to a puck in the slot and beating Allen with a wrist shot to put the Stars up 4-3.
“It was very emotional,” Nichushkin said of scoring that first goal. “This is really happening”
After Campbell and Allen traded slick saves early in the third period, the Blues drew even at the 4:40 mark on a goal by Adam Cracknell.
Nichushkin put the Stars ahead again, stealing a puck at the defensive blue line, breaking in alone on the St. Louis net and beating Allen with a forehand to backhand move to put the Stars up 5-4 with 12:56 left in the game.
Once again the Blues answered, getting a goal by Reaves four minutes later to tie the game at 5-5.
After a scoreless overtime, St. Louis’ Vladimir Tarasenko scored the lone goal of the shootout. Jamie Benn, Seguin and Nichushkin all failed to beat Allen.
*Dan Ellis got the start in goal, played 30:18 and stopped 16 of 18 shots. Jack Campbell played the rest of the way in net, stopped 14 of 17 shots in regulation and overtime and then two of three in the shootout.
*The Stars outshot the Blues 38-35 in the game.
*Dallas won 38 of 67 (57 percent) of faceoffs in the game. Cody Eakin won 16 of 23 draws and Tyler Seguin won 10 of 17.
*The first fight of the preseason was a spirited bout between Stars forward Antoine Roussel and Blues defenseman Ian Cole early in the second period.
*The hit of the night might have belonged to Stars defenseman Kevin Connauton, who nailed Blues forward Ryan Tesink with a hard hip check late in the second period.
*The Stars have Monday off.
Jamie Benn-Tyler Seguin-Erik Cole
Shawn Horcoff-Cody Eakin-Valeri Nichushkin
Antoine Roussel-Vernon Fiddler-Alex Chiasson
Luke Gazdic-Chris Mueller-Brett Ritchie