That one was tough to watch on a couple of levels.
One, the game was a chess match. Two, the Stars probably deserved a better fate.
Dallas pushed that game to the edge, and then fell off when a broken stick led to a bouncing puck, which led to a ``lucky'' goal and a 1-0 loss. The Devils, who are cruising, won their eighth straight and move to an amazing 16-1-2 in their last 19 games. The Stars, who are dying, lost their fifth straight and fall to 2-10-1 in the last 13 games.
It hardly looked like the hottest team in the league beating the coldest team, but that's what it was. A hot team caught a break. A cold team didn't.
"I thought we did a lot of good things tonight,'' Stars coach Marc Crawford said. ``We really limited what New Jersey got tonight. I thought that they basically didn't get one `A' chance in the whole game. You watch most of their games they've been on this 10-game streak and there've been breakaways, one-on-ones, all sorts of things like that. They got a couple of opportunities on the power play. Kari made some good saves and they got a lucky break on the goal. But if we keep playing with that type of intensity and that type of commitment, things will change for us. That's always the way it happens.''
It's true, and the Stars have to believe that things will turn around. They wake up this morning in 11th place because of all the tie-breakers, but they could just as easily be in eighth place on Friday with a win in Detroit (no small task, I know).
But what 11th place underscores is they are in the swamp now, and they will have to battle to get out. On the good side, they play a lot of games in March against these same teams in the swamp. That means their destiny is in their own hands going forward.
On the bad side, they have to win these upcoming games for it to make a difference.
Jamie Benn was great. He had energy and truculence, and all things that come with being Jamie Benn. In coming back from a shoulder injury that kept him out 10 games, he showed that he can be a difference-maker.
"For a guy to miss a month of play and come back and arguably be your best player, that speaks volumes of Jamie,'' Crawford said. ``His speed is just so apparent. He was authoritative all night long. I'm sure he'll be a little bit sore tomorrow. But on the other side of it, I think he'll continue to get even better and better as we move forward this week, and that's a real good sign for us as well."
In addition, Alex Goligoski flew today to get from Pittsburgh and still played 23:43 (second only to the 27:54 of Stephane Robidas). He showed signs of some of the things the Stars were hoping they would see.
"I can see where he's really going to help,'' Crawford said. ``He's an effortless skater, and it looks like he doesn't get tired, so we'll be able to ramp up minutes for him and give him lots of opportunity. We're still missing Nick Grossman right now. Nick Grossman's a big part of our defensive core, so with that in mind, I'm not ultimately sure where he'll shake out, whether he'll continue to play with Robidas, which looked really good tonight and give us a solid player that plays big, big minutes or whether or not we play him with one of our other defensemen. He's got the ability to play both the left side and the right side. He showed us tonight when he didn't take the penalties that he can kill penalties quite well too. That's one of his first forays into that. Lots of good things from him and we're pretty pleased with what we saw tonight."
So, add Benn, add Goligoski, maybe add Adam Burish on Thursday and hope that Brad Richards can return soon from his concussion-like symptoms, and maybe this team does have a fighting chance in March. That's all they can hope for right now.
``I loved our commitment tonight, and I loved the way that the guys battled,'' Crawford said. ``It is disheartening that we end up losing in that fashion, but you have to take the good here right now. The good is there was a lot of pretty good tonight. We've got to move forward with that."