Defeating Detroit was an important baby step on Stars’ path back to respectability
For the Stars, the road back to respectability will be littered with baby steps.
Consider Tuesday night’s 5-2 win over the Red Wings the latest one.
Dallas won its second straight game in regulation after going the first 12 games of the season without one. Jason Robertson scored twice, while Ryan Suter, Jamie Benn and Roope Hintz also scored, and Jake Oettinger made 28 saves to earn his first NHL win of the season.
The win marked the second time this season that the Stars have won consecutive games and, at 6-6-2, brought Dallas back to .500. Filip Zadina and Dylan Larkin scored for the Red Wings.
After beating the Flyers on Saturday night following a players-only meeting on Wednesday, the Stars needed to build on their momentum. A loss on Tuesday to the rebuilding Red Wings would have stunted that heading to first-place Minnesota on Thursday night. Instead, a win gives Dallas confidence that a turnaround could be around the corner.
“We just want to get this thing rolling,” Robertson said. “We showed against Philadelphia that we could kind of take the game over. Alternatively, we showed today that we could get a lead. Even though they push back, we can hold onto it and continue to get the win. Two different types of wins, and it’s good to learn how to do both.”
Of course, there are qualifiers for Tuesday’s win. It’s the second straight Stars opponent playing on the second night of a back-to-back. Detroit is expected to be at the bottom of the Atlantic Division standings this season. The Red Wings have played four more games than the Stars this season.
But circumstances nonetheless require responses to garner results.
The Stars played one of their best games of the season, controlling the first period, withstanding a Detroit push in the second after opening a 3-0 lead, and adding Robertson’s insurance tally in the third period. Oettinger made big saves on Lucas Raymond twice to preserve the then-one-goal lead.
Dallas’ top line of Robertson, Hintz and Joe Pavelski was the best on the ice.
Robertson created Suter’s goal with a nifty move in the neutral zone to retain possession and help the Stars enter the offensive zone with speed. Hintz scored for the third straight game, whipping a puck past Alex Nedeljkovic after Esa Lindell disrupted a zone exit.
Robertson scored from below the goal line on a wraparound in the third period to give Dallas a two-goal lead. He added an empty-net goal as well.
That doesn’t even count the numerous shots from the slot the line created that Nedeljkovic saved — or the Hintz one Tyler Bertuzzi stopped with his chest.
“Even when we chipped it in, we had the speed to go get it,” Pavelski said. “The forecheck was good. As we were in the O-zone, you’re able to play with it and hold on to it, and wear them down a little bit. We finished a little bit, we got a couple goals out of it. We’ve had good looks where they haven’t gone in. Seems like every night, we stay with it, they’re starting to go in a little bit.”
With the poor play by the Stars through the season’s first month, it’s tough to remember that there are still 68 games remaining in the NHL season. Dallas entered Tuesday night six points back of a playoff spot in the Western Conference, which pales in comparison to the 15-point deficit it faced last year during the shortened 56-game season in the spring.
Baby steps will help close the gap for the Stars, and Tuesday was one of them.
“Listen, at this point, we battled back to get to .500,” Stars coach Rick Bowness said. “We’ve got to keep getting better, where we can play better than we did tonight, and we’re going to have to going into Minnesota on Thursday.”
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