A Welcomed Change (Reaching for the Stars; 01.19.19)

Ross James/ALOST


akoiki-passport2 – by Adesina O. Koiki
A Lot of Sports Talk editor-in-chief


DALLAS — Knowing that another defeat would guarantee they would go at least three whole weeks without experiencing the taste of victory, the Dallas Stars changed their line combinations on Saturday night and successfully changed their fortunes.

For one night at least.

Left wing and team captain Jamie Benn was dropped from the first to the second line and his new line mates, Blake Comeau and Radek Faksa, each scored in the second period as the Stars defeated the Winnipeg Jets 4-2 and snapped a four-game losing streak in the team’s last game before the All-Star Break.

Brett Ritchie and Tyler Seguin, the latter being one of Benn’s usual line mates during this season, each scored power-play goals while goalkeeper Ben Bishop made 27 saves to pick up the victory.

“We played fast because we were simple and almost predictable out there,” said Benn, who had an assist on Comeau’s goal. “I think that’s the way we have to play. We don’t have all of the skill in the world, but we have enough skill to make plays once we get it in.”

Dallas scored only three goals combined during their four-game skid but scored three times in the first 40 minutes tonight to allay the nerves of the home fans inside the American Airlines Center. Ritchie converted on the power play at 7:53 of the first period after redirecting a shot from the left point by defenseman John Klingberg to open the scoring. Benn also played a big part in the goal, screening Jets goalkeeper Connor Hellebuyck in front as the shot came on goal.

The second period was dominated from the outset by that newly-formed line of Benn, Faska and Comeau, and Comeau tallied for the Stars just 22 seconds in, slamming home a rebound in front after Benn set up a shot from the blue line by Esa Lindell to double the lead. At 13:36, it was Faksa taking a drop pass from defenseman Roman Polak, who came onto the ice just seconds after he finished serving a tripping penalty, before firing a wrist shot past the glove of Hellebuyck.

Dallas outshot the Jets 28-12 combined in the first two periods.

“They were desperate, and we weren’t able to match that through the first two [periods],” Jets captain Blake Wheeler said.

Winnipeg, who came into the game winning 18 of their last 24 games, struck twice in a 21-second span early in the third period to quickly make it a game. Brendan Lemieux scored after a powerful drive toward the net at 3:25 to put Winnipeg on the board before Kyle Connor fired a one-timed slap shot past Bishop to cut Dallas’ lead to one. Wheeler’s assist on Connor’s goal was his 52nd helper on the year, trailing only Tampa’s Nikita Kucherov (56) for the league lead in assists.

Bishop held firm for the rest of the period in the Stars’ goal, making 17 saves total in the period. The Stars scored their second power-play goal of the game with under two minutes remaining the game, as Seguin deflected a shot from Klingberg that bounced along the ice before beating an outstretched Hellebuyck.

“We had a meeting on Monday and the players said, ‘We’re a good hockey team. We’re skating. We’re forechecking. We’re reloading. Our shifts are short,'” said Stars head coach Jim Montgomery. “They know what our identity is when we play to it.”

*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Saturday’s game, with all photos taken by Dallas-area photographer Ross James. After clicking on the first photo to enlarge the picture, make sure to press the left and right arrow buttons to scroll through the rest of the pictures. There are 33 pictures in total.

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