This is why sports are so fun.
Of all the bad things that could have happened to the Stars as they tried to patch up a leaky penalty kill and tried to show Kari Lehtonen they could keep the shots on goals against down, Adam Burish getting an instigator penalty and a misconduct penalty had to be right up there.
Not only did it put the Stars short-handed 9:10 into the first period, it also took Burish (an excellent penalty killer) out of the game for 17 minutes. So with Lehtonen under fire early, and the shaky penalty kill on the ice, there was just a bad vibe for the Stars.
But instead of crumbling, Dallas killed the penalty, reconstructed the lines and ripped the Panthers, 4-1. Not only did the Stars push their record to 5-1-0 and set themselves up for a nice six-game homestand, they also may have discovered a line that could possibly change the season.
That might seem like hyperbole, but if you watched Steve Ott-Tom Wandell-Jamie Benn on Thursday, you might just agree.
When Burish stood up and fought Dennis Wideman, who had just made a big hit on Mike Ribeiro, he was lost for 17 minutes of ice time. To adjust, Marc Crawford moved Brandon Segal off the third line to the second line in Burish's place on the right wing. He then moved Wandell up from the fourth line into the third line center spot and moved Benn onto the right wing.
The result was an amazing instant chemistry. The trio was on the move from the second they were assembled and they finished out a very intense first period by putting two goals past Tomas Vokoun (who had allowed just five in 238 minutes entering the game and had an NHL-best 1.25 GAA). They would later add a third goal, and Vokoun was pulled from the game after allowing four goals in two periods.
``It felt good right from the start,'' said Ott. ``You never know how those things are going to work, but it worked for us tonight.''
The Stars did a lot of things right. They took fewer penalties, went 3-for-3 on the kill and held the shots against to 29. Kari Lehtonen was spectacular again and came within 3:06 of getting his first shutout in a Stars uniform.
But to put together three fairly gifted offensive players on a checking line and then get that kind of result...well, it could be the type of thing that really could become a nice story as the season moves on. Benn returned from missing three games with concussion-like symptoms and really had a lot of energy on his move from center to the wing. Wandell showed his surgically-repaired knee is in good shape, and Ott did his best to get to the net and cause a little mayhem.
Wandell had two goals, Benn had three assists and Ott had a goal. All three were plus-3.
``That takes pressure off the (Brad) Richards line and (Mike) Ribeiro line,'' Stars coach Marc Crawford said. ``When you get a few more elements of your game going and get good goaltending, it just adds to what you need to win.''
If the Stars could add a third line with scoring depth to the top two lines (James Neal had another pretty goal on a nice pass from Loui Eriksson), then the Stars really could be dangerous. And if the penalty kill improves and the shots against stay at a reasonable level, well who knows where this thing can go.
Dallas started the year with four of six games on the road and is 5-1-0 now after being miserable on the road last year. And they clearly responded to a challenge Thursday against a Florida team that was great on defense and playing very well.
``We knew playing four of our first six on the road was one of the tests we had to pass,'' Crawford said. ``We have to be better on the road, we have to be better in our own end, we have to better on the penalty kill...Tonight we took a step in the right direction.''
A couple of tidbits:
Burish's fight was the first of the year for the Stars, and he earned a lot of points among his teammates for standing up for Ribeiro. Crawford said that was a big penalty kill to keep the game scoreless after Burish did what he did.
Lehtonen has been incredible. He stopped 28 of 29 shots and just missed out on his 24th career shutout and first in a Stars uniform.
Wandell tallied first point of the year, while Benn now has a goal and three assists in three games.
Jeff Woywitka played his first game, had 15:46 in time on ice and five hits.
The Stars lost the battle of the faceoff circle (26-29, 47 percent).