By Pat Hauldren
In their first game Saturday night, the Stars had fresh legs and a point to make with a home game and a stadium full of hockey-hungry fans. Kari Lehtonen sat in goal and the new guys stepped up—Jaromir Jagr scoring in the first and second periods of the first game and two assists, Ray Whitney scoring in the 3rd period and an assist, et al—as well as the old (old as in Stars years, not age), Loui Eriksson with a goal in the third period and an assist on Jagr’s first period goal.
The Coyotes fought back well with Lauri Korpikoski scoring early in the second period and Radim Vrbata scoring twice, once in the second period and once in the third. But it wasn’t enough to break through the sheer determination the Stars had in their gut for the the home game win.
Not so much Sunday night. A back-to-back travel game from Dallas to Minnesota (might as well be the Arctic Circle) sapped the Stars energy for a 0-1 loss against the Wild.
Even though the Wild had more penalty minutes and fewer power play opportunities, they had more shots on goal, usually a telltale sign of hitting the net eventually, and won more faceoffs, something the Stars have been working on – and by the looks of Sunday night’s game, need to work on it more.
Although the Wild were playing at home, both were coming off the road and both had a four-goal game on their first game of the season. Sunday night saw some sluggish play by both teams as neither seemed to find their sweet spot.
And those nasty pucks in the mouth. Reilly Smith got a puck in the mouth Saturday night and needed dental work, but he still played Sunday’s game. And poor Brenden Morrow after giving Radim Vrbata a stick in the face Saturday night, he gets a puck in the face Sunday and had to leave the game late in the second period. But he like the warrior he is, returned in the third period.
The goalies were good. Both Kari Lehtonen in Saturday night’s game and Stars backup goalie Cristopher Nilstorp, the former Texas Stars goalie who stopped 31 out of 32 shots on goal Sunday night. Nilstorp did an excellent job and someone needs to score a goal or three.
Zach Parise capitalized on a pass from Pierre-Marc Bouchard in the first period Sunday night, but there were no more goals by the Wild. Unfortunately, there were zero goals by the Stars.
That is a bit of a sore point with the Stars. Last season, Lehtonen had a stellar performance, stopping pucks like mad, yet the defense was often weak and the goal scoring wasn’t enough. The Stars did their wheeling and dealing over the summer and during the lockout and now we have the right number of people, one or two big names on the roster, and still, we are waiting to see if the Stars can deliver in the net.
Perhaps Lehtonen should skate down to the other end and drop a puck or two in the net and show them how it’s done. If it were Turco or Belfour, I might think we’d see it, but not with Lehtonen, who is a good goalie but not as aggressive on the ice as some of our (sometimes crazy) netminders of the past.