The Dallas Stars hosted the San Jose Sharks in a battle of former Pacific Division leaders. In their only visit to Texas in the 2013-14 NHL season, a once-unbeaten team went down just five minutes sooner than the Colorado Avalanche Thursday, October 17.
In hindsight there seems little doubt that the tough road contest and emotional strain of seeing their teammate go down (even wondering if he would walk again) predictably wore on the Sharks. They lacked the speed they have played with so far in 2013-14 for most of the game.
Things did not look that way for the first shifts. Nine seconds into the game, Tyler Kennedy whipped a partially-screened shot over the shoulder of Dan Ellis for the 1-0 lead. The next line to take the ice had three hits in 10 seconds.
Then the Stars out-shot the Sharks 22-16 over the next 39 minutes. Eventually this led to a Stephane Robidas shot from the point that caromed off Jamie Benn to Tyler Seguin, who put it past Antti Niemi to tie the game with 3:16 to go in the first period.
Only about a minute went by before Tommy Wingels advanced the puck to Joe Pavelski, who laid a perfect backhand flip off the boards for Matt Nieto. His new line-mate had been promoted in another of coach Todd McLellan's line shake-ups to ignite the team because he was playing with jump, and he bolted past two defenders to get a short-range slap-shot past Ellis.
A couple minutes after the first intermission, Dallas got the kind of "puck luck" that teams playing better often get. Cody Eakin got the puck from the only remaining original Shark in the NHL, Ray Whitney. His shot from the circle to Niemi's glove side caromed off the skate of Matt Irwin right to Trevor Daley in the slot for the easy goal.
Niemi helped San Jose get that goal back about 10 minutes later when he advanced the puck to Marc-Edouard Vlasic, who got it to the fast skates and skilled stick of Patrick Marleau heading into the attacking zone. His first shot was weak but went off to the stick-side of Ellis, leaving the goalie vulnerable to his follow-up, wrap-around goal—especially with the shallower cages approved for the 2013-14 NHL season.
Whitney began the next scoring on the very next shift, getting the puck to Alex Chiasson. The resulting shot's rebound was put home by Eakin to once again tie the game at three with over 27 minutes left.
Then as rivals often do, both teams played tighter defense down the stretch. A more urgent third period allowed the Sharks to out-shoot the Stars 12-11 for the remainder of regulation, but neither team scored.
None of San Jose's six overtime shots went either, despite Dallas having just three skaters for the final 62 seconds thanks to a cross-checking penalty for Sergei Gonchar.
For the game, the Stars made up for possession deficits (34-33 in faceoffs but 11-8 in giveaways and 6-9 in takeaways) with physical play, with six more hits (19-13) and blocks (24-18), and killed the two extra penalties they committed. The Sharks still held a 35-31 edge in shots on goal and were 86-65 in attempts.
In the shootout, only Chiasson scored to lift his team to .500 and give the Sharks their first loss. He was just one of the game's three stars:
- Eakin seemed to have another gear other players did not down the stretch. His goal and assist resulted from two of his four shot attempts, and he played well in his own end—one giveaway but two blocks, nine of 16 faceoffs won and no goals surrendered in the 21:40 he was on the ice.
- Chiasson not only netted the unofficial game-winner in the skills competition, but got a big assist on one of his six shots (seven attempts) and was also on the ice for two goals scored and none against. He lost two of three faceoffs, but registered two hits and two blocked shots.
- Benn was hard for the Sharks to contain even though he only finished with one assist. The captain led his team with eight shot attempts (four got through) and five hits, won five of nine faceoffs and added a takeaway.