This year I have had the opportunity to meet some fabulous people via the online world – Twitter, Facebook and events planned and advertised through the use of social media. On October 28th, I went to Dallas to meet up for a girl’s hockey weekend to celebrate the birthday of one such friend named Kris. Despite the Stars loss to the Kings that Thursday (more on this later), the trip was tons of fun and Kris even got to get her Joe Nieuwendyk jersey signed after years of being a huge fan. At the beginning of the season this year, the Dallas Stars burst out of the gates with four straight wins. During this hot streak (and likely after a few glasses of wine), Kris said she would get a tattoo (her first!) if the Dallas Stars won 5 in a row. Alas, the Stars lost their fifth game of the year to the Tampa Bay Lightning and the streak was broken.
Fast forward to December 2nd. I had been waiting for months to see the matchup between my #1 team, the Dallas Stars and the Washington Capitals, the team I adopted living in DC from 2006-2010. I was lucky enough to have been sent a free ticket to the game by one of my Twitter followers and had been counting down the days forever! Early in the day I had heard that Stars coach Marc Crawford had announced that Andrew Raycroft had earned the start in the net for the Stars. Yikes! Kari Lehtonen had been on a hot streak, winning the last three straight and only allowing 4 goals total in the wins. I was nervous. Not to mention…the first thing I saw in the game notes when I got to American Airlines Center was the statistic that Kari Lehtonen had not lost a game in regulation at home since October 28th…yep, I remember…I was there.
The game got off to a shaky start for the Stars with the Capitals dominating the shots on goal battle. However, Raycroft was solid and stopped all 14 shots in the first period, making some amazing saves in the process. The Capitals seemed to be controlling the game in the first though and again, I was nervous. During the second, the Stars really started playing a trap defense that changed the momentum of the game in my opinion. Rather than hanging back and letting the Caps set up plays, the Stars were swarming and going after the puck before it even crossed the blue line, many times getting the takeaway and pushing the play back into their own offensive zone.
At 13:29 in the second, Mike Ribeiro scored what I thought might end up being the game winning goal. Both teams were fighting so hard, scrambling to make something happen and shots on goal were low and fairly even in the second with the Capitals leading 10-8. In the third period, the Capitals came out slinging again, logging another 14 shots on goal, but it wasn’t until halfway through the final period that one slipped past Raycroft. Mike Knuble scored off a sweet pass by Mike Green to even up the score. I feared overtime. I feared shootout. However, just 20 seconds later, Brandon Segal said, “Fear not…we got this,” and launched a long shot right past Caps goalie Michal Neuvirth to put the Stars up 2-1.
In the final minutes of the game came a very controversial call that disallowed a Capitals goal. I will say honestly that I was at the other end of the ice and with the bends in the glass, was not able to really see what happened, so I can not make a call. However, in reading all of the recaps, it appears that even the Capitals weren’t sure what happened except that they were robbed. At AAC, it was announced that the goal was disallowed because the player was in the crease. According to Russian Machine Never Breaks, the infraction was caused by Stephane Robidas skating into Raycroft. TPP says it was Karlis Skrastins. Others that were at the game said they thought Skrastins was already heading into Raycroft, but Ovechkin helped him along. Either way, I think it was ruled that Ovechkin is just a beast and his manhandling of our players made it appear to the officials that some sort of goalie interference occurred.
For the record, I wish this would not have happened. No matter the outcome, I hate for a game to be tainted by what is deemed bad officiating because it gives the losing teams an opportunity to say that they “would have won if.” Honestly, the Capitals would have won this game long before that call if they had played their game. Throughout the night they looked sloppy, missing passes, falling all over the place (Ovi!! I’m sure it was the ice) and just failing to take advantage of opportunities. The Stars may have looked rather scrappy last night, but they fought hard for this win and I don’t think you can take that away from them. Andrew Raycroft stepped in and played a near flawless game and was rewarded for it.
I also must say that Brad Richards deserves to be the MVP of this team. His puck-handling ability and calmness on the ice is amazing to watch in person and I sure hope the Dallas Stars do everything in their power to keep him in the Lone Star state. It is likely this team would fall apart without him.
So, the Stars win, albeit an ugly and controversial one. It was a fantastic game to see live and I am so thankful for the opportunity to do so. And Kris must get her tattoo!! Especially now that the Dallas Stars know about it since they re-tweeted her pledge yesterday! I certainly hope she makes a trip out of it and comes down to Texas for the big event. Congrats Stars and good luck Kris!!