Kari Lehtonen returned to the lineup tonight rustier than a fencepost nail, allowing two terrible goals from bad angles, and the Stars did the rest themselves by taking 38 penalty minutes and giving the Oilers 9 power plays. Devan Dubnyk, on the other hand, was on his game after a week-long layoff and he prevented everything from reaching the net until the game was out of reach.
Taylor Hall's return boosted the sagging Hopkins-Eberle combination, and pushed them to a team lead in shot differential:
Dallas wins shot attempt battle 51 to 34, 18 to 13 in 3rd. Eberle +6, Hall +5. Fistric juuust misses season worst at -17, Petry -14, 20 -13— Michael Parkatti (@mparkatti) March 1, 2013
Sam Gagner scored the opening goal of the game from what seemed like the first row below the goal line and rather than use the blocker on it, Lehtonen treated the puck like an apparition, letting it go through him and into the net. The Oilers also picked up a Taylor Hall-created goal in the first and a late second period backhand goal from the goal line by Jeff Petry in the second. In reality this one was much closer than it looked at even strength, but the Stars insisted on playing the game short-handed and Lehtonen insisted on giving the Oilers gifts.
Possession Report via Boys on the Bus
Staged fights are a ridiculous part of hockey and should be banned. Fighting itself is borderline - I wouldn't care if it was banned tomorrow. But if you are going to celebrate fighting, you should be happy to see Sam Gagner sticking up for himself by dropping the gloves with Brenden Dillon after Dillon boarded Gagner (uncalled) in the second period. Gagner also played 3:02 short handed and I counted just three shot attempts on goal by the Stars during that time. Throw in a bad angle goal and a run at Lehtonen and Gagner looked like Pat Verbeek tonight.
Justin Schultz may have scored the goal and Jordan Eberle may have made the pass, but the entire thing was made possible by a fantastic shift by Taylor Hall. He was relentless in pursuing the puck and viscious once he got on the puck. The highlight package only shows the last battle of the shift, but Hall defined the words "tough to play against" during that shift. His effort had nothing to do with his first-round pick talent - it was Hall refusing to give ground until the puck was his and his alone.
Three different times the 4th line was on the ice as the Stars charged through the neutral zone and all three times ended with the forwrads, specifically Ben Eager, coasting along, watching the Stars' forwards run in and over the Oilers defense.
One more mention of Ben Eager tonight. After Ladislav Smid's face collided with Brenden Morrow's butt, causing a contusion to Smid face (presumably from the visor), Ben Eager got on the ice with Brenden Morrow and ... gingerly high-sticked him, then pushed him a few times. This brought a certain segment of the Twitter fanbase out of their seats as Eager was "protecting Smid" or "letting Morrow know he can't get away with it", it being backing into a defenseman that stupidly goes to one knee to block shots all of the time. But Eager was doing none of that. He took a dumb penalty with a 2-0 lead, delivered no message and made no one feel safe because of his actions.
Kari Lehtonen was terrible in this one. The goals by Gagner and Jeff Petry are saves that every goalie has to make, yet Lehtonen seemed befuddled by everything about those two shots.
Ryan Jones Tubthumped his way over top of Gagner tonight, knocking Gagner to the ice where he was still for awhile. Jones has trouble controlling himself on the ice, hitting the ice surface more often than anyone since the days of the Colorado Divealanche, but if he's going to start injuring his teammates, again, put him on IR again.
I counted four different even strength shifts in the first two periods where Ben Eager - Chris VandeVele - Lennart Petrell were out against Brenden Morrow - Jamie Benn - Jaromir Jagr. This can't happen. Ralph Krueger can tell the press that the Oilers are a four line team, but no person possessing all of their senses looks at this matchup and thinks it's a winning strategy long-term. Krueger also refused to put Nail Yakupov out on the 5-on-3 power plays the Stars gave the Oilers. Yakupov is the best shooter on the team and it's not close. There's no excuse not to have him out there, even if it means putting Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or Taylor Hall on the bench. Yakupov is still trying to learn the NHL game, but his natural shooting talent is something the Oilers can utilize now. Kruger didn't do so. Add on Krueger's decision to scratch Magnus Paajarvi and move Ryan Jones up to the second line the game after Paajarvi impressed everyone with his play against the best team in the league and this wasn't a good day for the Oilers coach.
The Stars lack discipline and if they want to get into the playoffs they're going to have to stop taking penalties. Through 20 games, there were 18 power play opportunities in the hole and now that number is 22. Keep this up through the season and they're essentially giving away 10 goals just in taken/drawn differentials for the year. That almost two wins is going to be very meaningful in a season when the difference between 6th and 11th is six points.
Corey Potter was attempting to keep the puck in at the point by crouching to block the attempted exit. Just as he crouched to block the puck, Eric Nystrom came crashing into Potter and boarded him headfirst. I think Nystrom is a trash player as it is (dating back to the Taylor Fedun broken leg) and this just adds to his garbage pile. What made the play worse was Nystrom sticking around to trash talk with the Oilers bench, while Potter struggled to get to his feet, rather than skating to the penalty box and serving the deserved punishment. He's just a trash player.
The Copper & Blue Three Stars:
★★★ - Taylor Hall
★★ - Sam Gagner
★ - Devan Dubnyk