If the LA Kings’ idea of taking advantage of a tired team was ragging the puck in the offensive end all period, then they accomplished their mission in frame one with Dallas in town Thursday night. The game began slowly, with only three shots in the first five minutes. It looked like Dallas was going to keep the pace slowed down enough that they might have a reserve of strength left as the game went on.
They didn’t help their cause by taking two penalties in the first period, and by the time they had their second man in the box, Morrow for boarding at 14:36, it was Kings six and Dallas three in shots. At the end of the period, it was Dallas five and LA 12. What happened? The Kings kept the Stars on their heels during the power play. And then with about two minutes left, LA’s Brown took a goalie interference penalty of his own, so that the Stars had a chance to pour it on a little. In fact, the only good chance on the power play came when Kyle Clifford took the puck down shorthanded and, with a guy on him, backhanded a puck toward the net even though he was well covered.
There was a dangerous shot by Dallas’s Derek Roy, but Quick was up to the test, with the glove. The Kings had not done what they’d planned, if statements in the press were any guideline, and jumped on the Stars. The period ended 0-0.
After the game, IH asked the Dallas coach, Glen Gulutzan, whether they been tired out by the Kings’ strategy of ragging the puck in the early going. “It is tiring. They’re big and heavy, and they can wear on you. We had to have three guys in the corner sometimes to get their two pinned, and, no, they’re a big, strong group. It takes its toll, but I thought that structurally, defending-wise, we had a lot of chances against them. They weren’t penetrating as much as one would think.”
Speaking of the game as a whole, the Dallas coach said, “Our goalie saved us in the first 40 [minutes] and then we picked it up in the last 20.” Let’s see what the test of that might be: Period two ended with the shots 30 LA versus 15 Dallas. Why did I rush to the end? Because the whole period was a goaltending duel. Quick in the Kings’ net was challenged by a slam shot early by Tomas Vincour. At the other end, Dwight King came hard to the net as the puck did also. He got a shot off, but Lehtonen got to his right side for the stop.
When IH asked Lehtonen after the game about a moment that he felt was his best, he mentioned a save he made late in period two. “There was a pass from the corner, when their guy was at the other post and it was a quick bang-bang play and I was able to slide there and make a pad save. I think that was the one that felt the best.”
Aside from solid goaltending, period two was saved for Dallas by good defense. You might call it glue, because they were all over the Kings, stick-checking every time LA got the puck. Penner got the puck out of the corner to Carter, but Dallas got a stick on him. Later Brown to Williams. Same result.
Back to those shots, with 5:50 left in frame two, the Kings had 26 and Dallas eight. The best save Quick made all night came with a few minutes to go in the period. The puck went to Dallas’s Cody Eakin in the slot. He was on one knee, and rose to his feet as he slapped the puck. Quick made the save with his left arm. It was shot ten of Dallas’s night. The rest of the shots Dallas fired were non-challenging, so the stat that had them ending the perod with 15 kind of looks like they were more dangerous than they were. On the other hand, had that one gone in, it would have been a different game.
The shame of a goalie matchup as good as this was? That eventually, one guy’s gotta crack. On this night, it was Quick, though the goals that eventually got by him were in no way his fault.
The two teams went to the third tied at zeros. Each team’s fans were saying the same thing, “Sure glad Quick/Lehtonen’s got a shutout going, eh?” as a jinx. It worked for Dallas.
They potted their first goal of the night with 6:34 gone in period three. It was by Jaromir Jagr, and his coach described the goal afterwards by saying, “They [he and Whitney] are stingers, and that’s why they sting you. They don’t need many chances to get a goal. They just need one or two opportunities, and they’ll hurt you.” Whitney scored the other goal for Dallas, at about halfway through the third period.
In fact, Jagr played his goal like this—hold, hold, hold going across the crease through the slot, and finally turn and shoot, backhand. Scores! Funny thing was, it seemed to happen in slow motion, but Jagr is so big and strong, nobody could defend him.
Whitney’s goal, the only other one on the evening, was a three-on-one chance, with the puck coming from the right side (Eriksson) to the middle (Goligoski), and then over to Whitney for a one-timer. He buried it with Voynov back and Scuderi sliding along the ice trying to get there. The Stars had but six shots in the period, the Kings ten. The totals were Stars 21, Kings 40.
The Stars’ Lehtonen, en route to being the game’s first star, was incredibly solid. IH asked him whether there’s a point during a shutout when a goalie just knows he’s not going to be beaten. “Well, when it’s going so well, you just kind of know, but you can’t think about shutouts and things like that. When you start thinking ‘now I have a chance for that’ that bites you and they get a goal. You just go shift after shift, five minutes at a time. That’s how I focus.”
Two nights ago, LA Coach Sutter had said that the Stars had “kicked the ass” of his team the last time they were in town. IH asked Gulutzan whether he thought this time, they had done the same. “No, they probably tanned ours a little bit, but we came out in the end. For us, it was a back to back, and in [those], you need your goalie to be good, and he was tonight.”
Dustin Penner played a solid game, getting chances and holding the puck quite a lot.
Follow me on twitter @growinguphockey