There was a lot to hate about Thursday's game.
The Stars were outshot 43-19. They handed out seven power plays. And Kari Lehtonen showed moments of rust.
However, Dallas also fought through a tough game, Lehtonen finished with some spectacular saves, including stopping 17 in the third period, and the Stars once again showed a ton of heart and determination.
It's a long season, and you have to pick up points whenever you can. You also have to find good things wherever you can. The Stars keep finding good things every game.
``We went through stretches where we weren't too good on the PK or the PP and we end up winning games. Tonight we score two goals on the power play and the PK is pretty good and we end up losing. That's just the way it is and sometimes you've got to battle through it," said defenseman Stephane Robidas.
You can talk all you want about numbers, but Dallas' penalty killing has been greatly improved, and that's a great sign that this team is smart enough and determined enough to tackle important problems. That was the fifth best power play in the league that San Jose came in with yesterday (22.2 percent) and the Stars shut it down until a 4-on-3 in overtime. The 5-on-3 kill to start the game was a thing of beauty, especially when you mix in the fact it never should have been a 5-on-3. Toby Petersen was called for a delay of game for shooting the puck into the stands. But replays showed that his clearing shot glanced of the helmet of a Sharks' player, and that the penalty was indeed a wrong call.
The Stars easily could have let that get to them, but they instead showed a lot of heart and courage in shutting it down. Yes, they had some problems at times, but they also faced those problems head on.
``Our power play was really good tonight, our penalty kill was really good tonight, so it seemed like our focus on those times in the game when we had our special teams out there was excellent,''' Stars coach Marc Crawford said. ``We paid attention to the details, we won face-offs, we were sharp on the kills, we blocked shots, we got in lanes, we closed down, we helped one another out. On the power play, we worked hard to recover loose pucks, we worked hard to get our scoring chances. It just seems that we didn't translate that into 5-on-5 play. The one that's really disappointing is the one they scored right after our power play. We made a couple of mistakes, our defense backed off big time, we usually have a much better gap than that, and our forward chased to a position he shouldn't have. As it goes, we'll take the point and move forward.''
The Stars have to focus on details. That's what they missed last season, and that's the reason they struggled at times and never were able to string together wins. So, yes, it is important to break down every goal against and see what went wrong. But at times like this, it's also good to look at the big picture. Dallas is 8-2-2 in its last 12 games. The Stars are 11-3-2 at home this season.
A team many predicted to be in the bottom 10 in the league is somehow in the top 10. That's impressive, and something to keep in mind.
As for Kari Lehtonen, he was rusty at times and he was sharp at times. He appears to have handled his back pain pretty well, and he responded well to a heavy workload in his first game back. Would he love to have a few of those goals back? Sure. But, at the same time, if James Neal's late shot would have gone in instead of clanging off the post, we would have been talking about Lehtonen as one of the heroes of the game.
``I was excited and maybe the first two periods, I made some questionable reads,'' Lehtonen said. ``I made some mistakes that I wasn't happy about and maybe a couple of goals there, but it was good to get a lot of shots. As things went on, I got more comfortable and the third period and overtime, it felt awesome. It was good to come back and get the one point.''
Crawford on Lehtonen:
``I thought Kari played real well. Early in the penalty kill, it was a pretty important time in the game and he was big, he stood tall. Talking with them, I know he'd like to have one of them back. He didn't like the rebound he gave out on that first goal, but we also made a mistake on that. Again, we had a poor gap, and our backchecking forward went to the wrong guy. It's so simple to eliminate those mistakes. I think there's plenty to build on. For Kari, for being his first outing after being out for a week, he played pretty well.''
And last, but not least, Brenden Morrow keeps showing why hockey is such a great game. He keeps saying the broken nose is no big deal. It doesn't affect his hands or his legs, he says. But to have your nose broken, get it reset and come out and throw 11 hits in a game...that is a big deal. It shows your teammates that you are willing to do whatever it takes to help your team win. It shows everyone in the arena how important this game is.
Morrow has been in a bit of a scoring slump, but he tallied a goal on Thursday that broke a 10-game drought. Maybe this is a sign that he's going to start finding his touch again. If he does, he definitely deserves it.