The Dallas Stars have been one of the major stories of the NHL season so far. The team, laden with young talent and poised for a breakout year, has not disappointed through the first two and a half weeks of the season. They jumped out to a 6-1 start, sitting tied with the Nashville Predators with 12 points coming into the game. Things had started a little slower for the Florida Panthers, who came in with seven points at 3-3-1. But they were in the groove tonight as they rolled in this one 6-2.
Al Montoya saved 33 of 35 shots. Both of Dallas' goals came from Jamie Benn, but it was the play in the other net that was the story tonight.
Things looked good to begin with for the Stars as Benn scored his first goal less than two minutes into the game on the power play. Just eight seconds into the man advantage the captain put it in, assisted by Tyler Seguin and John Klingberg.
About ten minutes later, the ageless wonder Jaromir Jagr, a former Star himself, got the Panthers on the board. It was his sixth goal of the season, assisted by Jonathan Huberdeau and Willie Mitchell. Huberdeau was not done as he assisted on the second Panthers goal, off the stick of Nick Bjugstad, his third of the year. The Panthers took that 2-1 lead into the first intermission.
The second period started quickly as Aaron Ekblad scored his first goal of the season, assisted by Jagr and Bjugstad. Dallas coach Lindy Ruff decided that was enough for starting goalie Kari Lehtonen, and replaced him with backup Antti Niemi after Lehtonen allowed three goals and stopped just eight shots. With a 3-1 lead, the Panthers really broke the game open with a controversial goal by Dave Bolland, who looked initially like he had his stick above the crossbar. The play stood and it was a good goal, giving the Panthers a 4-1 lead, which they took into the second intermission.
Just over four minutes into the third, Benn picked up his second goal of the game, which momentarily got the Stars back in it at 4-2. Seguin and Alex Goligoski assisted. But just 1:31 later, Reilly Smith answered for the Panthers with his third goal of the season to restore the three goal advantage. Quinton Howden put the icing on the cake for Florida with a late goal to make it a 6-2 game. Niemi faced 19 shots during his time on the ice, but also allowed three goals.
It was the second time in the first eight games of the season that the Stars have allowed half a dozen goals. The Avalanche also did it to the Stars in Denver earlier this month.
After the Montreal Canadiens and Tampa Bay Lightning, there is open space in the Atlantic. Florida now sits in third after the win, and they will return home to face the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday. The Stars will stay at home and face the Anaheim Ducks on Tuesday night, and they have been awful to start the season. Anaheim is averaging under a goal a game and has just three points so far.