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Go Out with a Bang — For Now (Seeing Stars; 12.20.21)

Ross James/ALOST

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

DALLAS — Before what appears to be a lengthy ceasing of operations across the National Hockey League, the Dallas Stars decided to treat their fans to one of the more exciting regular-season games in recent memory on Monday evening, a game that decisively punctuated the dominant home form that has allowed them to stay in the Western Conference playoff race. 

Joe Pavelski scored just 91 seconds in to the game, the first of seven tallies in the Stars’ 7-4 victory over the Central Division leaders, the Minnesota Wild, at American Airlines Center. Four players — Jamie Benn, Denis Gurianov, Miro Heiskanen and Jason Robertson — all had two-point nights as the seven goals came from seven different goal scorers. After losing five in a row, including four of the games on the road, Dallas won its second consecutive game.

The contest came almost one month to the day when the Wild put seven past the Stars in a 7-2 victory at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul on Nov. 18, the only defeat suffered by Dallas during a stretch when it won nine out of 10 games from mid November to Dec. 6.

“We wanted to pay them back for the game we had in Minnesota and we wanted to come out hard, and we did that.,” Stars head coach Rick Bowness said. “We wanted to come out hard in the third period. It was a one-goal game, and we were going after them. We did and I was happy with that. I don’t like giving up four goals, but they’re a very good hockey team over there. It was a hell of a hockey game.”

Five goals were scored in a topsy-turvy first period, with Esa Lindell’s goal shorthanded goal at the 3:24 mark doubling the Stars’ advantage early on. Ryan Hartman and Kevin Fiala scored for Minnesota to level the contest before Tyler Seguin’s goal at 16:43 — just 61 after Fiala’s game-tying goal — gave the Stars a 3-2 lead going into the intermission.

Dallas’ Roope Hintz and the Wild’s Kirill Kaprizov exchanged goals in the second period before the Stars once again pounced on the Wild with two quick goals to start a period, this time in the third. Jacob Peterson scored his fifth of the season at 2:06 before Heiskanen tallied exactly one minute later to provide the Stars a 6-3 cushion.

Minnesota pulled its goalkeeper, Cam Talbot, with over nine minutes remaining in the contest, and did score a goal on the power play, from Kevin Fiala, at 15:06, before Benn scored an empty-net goal with 1:32 remaining to close the scoring.

“What I really liked was the start, going after them. The start of the third, going after them. That’s our approach, we talked about this in training camp,” Bowness said. “You’ve got to become a better team at the start of games and a better home team. It’s taken a couple of games but that’s the approach we want to take regardless of who comes in. Seven goals is good to see. I didn’t like giving up that power play goal at the end, but it’s a 6-on-4, kind of a fluky play. But overall, that’s a great win for this team.”

Earlier in the day, the NHL announced that play across the league would be suspended until after the Christmas Break upon the completion of Tuesday’s games amid the worldwide spike of COVID-19 cases. This announcement came on the heels of the league postponing games involving cross-border travel. There is no word as of yet about NHL participation in the Olympic Games this February, as the league has a built-in break in operations for the winter games.

“There’s nothing we can do about it. I think the most important thing is the health and safety of the players and coaches and everyone involved within the organizations around the league,” Benn said. “Just taking it day-by-day and hopefully the numbers go down and we can get back to normal after Christmas here.”

*Editor’s note: Above the byline is the photo gallery from Monday 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 17 pictures in total.

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