Waking up with the Kings: March 8
-The Kings’ 60 minute efforts hadn’t been a consistent part of the tail end of their home winning streak, and that finally caught up with them against a new-look Dallas team that won the special teams battle, won the goaltending battle, stifled L.A.’s momentum after Jeff Carter’s go-ahead goal (and Doughty’s hipcheck of Alex Goligoski), and received better performances by its top players. This should be read as “The Stars did the right things to win a divisional road game.”
-A goalless Drew Doughty walked the goal line like a tightrope, put the puck on a string and had his high-chance wraparound denied by Kari Lehtonen, yet Carter flung the puck from the half boards off Jordie Benn’s skate and into the back of the net for his 12th goal in 12 games. They’re not all going to be works of art when that type of scoring pace is maintained. Dustin Penner – the game’s third star – continues to deserve recognition for his strong possession play and ability to open up space in the offensive zone for Carter and Mike Richards.
-How about Slava Voynov’s slick stickhandling move to change directions away from trouble behind his own net before quickly finding his top speed and leading a rush in the other direction? Yeah, you know the play I’m talking about.
-On Dallas: Cody Eakin’s game-tying goal set the wheels of momentum rolling for the team’s surge in the third. Carter’s goal was a reflection of the team’s acceptable five-on-five play to that point and appeared to set up the team’s poise heading into the final 20 minutes, where they had outscored their opponents 18-2 since February 15. Instead, Goligoski advanced the puck from behind his own net without being impeded and found Eakin on the left wing. Eakin used his right skate to kick the puck in front of him into an area where he’d be able to handle it, but the touch wasn’t perfect. The puck bounced towards Alec Martinez, whose swipe at it deflected it into a dangerous area in the high slot, directly into Eakin’s path. The puck was rolling end-over-end, making Eakin’s precise backhand past Jonathan Quick’s glove hand all the more impressive. The Stars are a faster and more skilled team than a season ago, and Jamie Benn is one of the more exciting young players that the casual east coast fan might not be particularly aware of. Hooray for realignment and every team visiting every National Hockey League building so fans of Eastern Conference teams can take in what Pacific Division fans have learned over the course of the last several years: Jamie Benn is phenomenally talented.