After coming off an opening night loss against the Florida Panthers, the Stars welcomed the Washington Capitals to the AAC for the first time in 3 years, and the Stars needed to make a statement. There might not be a more offensively stacked team in the NHL as the Caps boast the reigning Hart Trophy winner, Alex Ovechkin, Niklas Backstrom and newly acquired center, Mikhail Grabovski who had his contract bought out by the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Between the three, they have 14 points in the Caps’ first two games, but Dallas was up to the task of shutting down Washington in front of 17,200 on Saturday night, winning 2-1.
At the 3:25 mark of the first period, the Stars did what they simply had to avoid by putting the Caps on the power play. Heading into Saturday, the Caps were 5 for 9 (55.6%) on the man advantage, and they quickly added to that as Ovechkin added to his hot start as he whipped a one-timer from the right circle to give Washington an early 1-0 lead.
Just 3 ½ minutes later, Jamie Benn fed the puck around the end boards to Tyler Seguin who had a nifty behind the back, no look pass to the slot where Erik Cole snapped the shot low to the blocker side of Braden Holtby. What doesn’t appear in any box score was the rush that was created by the puck movement by the Stars defensemen, Brenden Dillon and Stephane Robidas. The two made very quick, deliberate passes which forced the Washington forecheckers to spread out and allowed for a great outlet pass to Benn on the half wall.
The second period saw the Stars dodge a bullet as Markstrom got behind Stars defenseman, Alex Goligoski and was planted in the Stars crease. As the puck caromed off the post, it went up and as Backstrom was going to “bunt” the puck into the open net, not only did the puck appear to go off his glove which would have disallowed the goal, Markstrom caught too much of Kari Lehtonen with his stick, forcing the big Finn to fall back into his net. The goal was reviewed and disallowed on the basis of goalie interference.
The Stars were dictating the pace from that moment. They continually brought the puck into the Washington zone and were getting clean shots on Holtby along with physical presence, often crashing into the net and knocking the Caps netminder off his game. At 12:07, Alex Chiasson fed his center, Cody Eakin who fired the puck off Holtby and like he has done in his previous 8 games, Chiasson was there to jump on the rebound and gave the Stars the lead which they would hold on to for the rest of the night. Chiasson’s goal was his 8th goal in 9 NHL games.
“He just finds the right place,” head coach, Lindy Ruff said about Chiasson.
“Guys just showed up nervous for game one. You work through that. I thought we tried to be aggressive on their PP. Ovechkin does what he does. In the 3rd, I don’t think they were sitting on it, but I think we had some good zone time. We missed on some great opportunities, but we didn’t allow them that shot to get back into the game.”
Chiasson said after the game, which he was named the number one Star, “I just play my game and that’s my main focus, as long as the team wins. I try to go a game at a time and get better each time. I think the atmosphere was great, you could see guys wanted to win. “
The Stars will be off until next Friday night when they embark on their first road trip of the year, which will take them to Winnipeg then to Minnesota and ending in Denver to face the Avalanche to cap off an early Central Division roadtrip.
The Stars still gave the puck up 7 times (8 times vs. Florida), but doubled their takeaways from Thursday from 3 to 6.
Stars only had 6 penalty minutes which was vital against the power play of Washington. The PK unit only gave up the one PP goal in the first and held off a delay of game penalty which was 6-on-4 after Holtby was pulled from net.
Kari Lehtonen only faced 26 shots, allowing just the one power play goal. Kari was saved by at least 4 posts.