In Strait (Blue) Jackets — Stars Struck, 03.04.21

Ross James/ALOST

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

DALLAS — It is important to focus on the positives, no matter how small, when one feels that it is going through a rough patch, and the Dallas Stars right now are no exception. As trivial as this is going to sound, the Stars did find the back of their opponents’ net on Thursday night, something that gave them momentum toward the late stages of their game against the Columbus Blue Jackets. But Dallas gave away another two points, largely because of a costly giveaway by one of their young talents.

Boone Jenner had a goal and an assist while Joonas Korpisalo made 22 saves for the Blue Jackets in their 3-2 victory over the Stars at American Airlines Center, sending the defending Western Conference champions to its 10th loss in its last 11 outings.

Clinging onto a 1-0 lead heading into the third, the Blue Jackets were able to double their lead as Oliver Bjorkstrand, standing all alone in front of the Stars’ crease, was gifted a perfect feed on a defensive zone turnover by Stars center Joel Kiviranta before beating goalkeeper Anton Khudobin at the 2:23 mark of the period. Statistically, it went down as an unassisted goal, but Kiviranta’s ill-advised back pass became the crucial giveaway in another deflating defeat where Dallas struggled to generate offense for large parts of the game.

“Well, [Kiviranta] is a kid, and he made a mistake,” said Stars head coach Rick Bowness. “That’s what comes with it when you play a lot of young players. They are going to make some mistakes, and they have to know that if they make a mistake they are going to go right back out. If they continue to make the mistake they may lose ice time, but, listen, it’s frustrating, but when you play young players they are going to make some mistakes.”

Whether young or a grizzled veteran, no Dallas player had scored in almost three full games when the Jackets opened a 3-0 lead at the 4:05 mark of the third on Eric Robinson’s deflection off a point shot from Boone Jenner at 4:05 of the third.

Dallas’ response was swift, with Miro Heiskanen scoring on a point shot just 3:30 after Robinson’s goal to give the Stars, shut out in each of the last two games in Tampa against the Lightning, their first goal in 189 minutes and 46 seconds. Just 3:13 after Heiskanen’s tally, youngster Jason Robertson scored in front to cut Columbus’ lead to 3-2 and give the Stars the impetus it needed to earn what would have been an improbable point. 

However, with 3:18 remaining in the contest, Dallas defenseman Andrej Sekera was called for an interference penalty, and the Blue Jackets’ subsequent power play did the job in stifling the Stars momentum, having to kill off the penalty and only having a minute of even-strength hockey to try and get the game-tying goal.

“We were a little tight to start. You could see the puck bouncing of sticks, but then we found our legs and everything in the third period,” Bowness said. “So, we are just going to try to build off of that third period. I know they got two, but we will build off that third period. That’s what we will do.”

The win continues one of the more odd statistics in head-to-head matchups in the league, as the Blue Jackets are 15-3-1 against the Stars since the start of the 2012-13 season and are 8-1-0 in their last nine visits to the American Airlines Center. Despite the win, the final 12 minutes was one where the Jackets were hanging on to what they could to stave off Dallas’ late-game surge.

“When they scored two quick ones, I contemplated calling a timeout. I knew we had a TV timeout coming pretty soon,” Columbus head coach John Tortorella said. “Just let them play. There was one little rush, a pretty scary rush, then we settled in. I think that’s a really important few minutes as we keep pushing forward in the season here and staying within ourselves.”

*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Thursday night’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 30 pictures in total.

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