Stars Get Blown Out By Caps After Honoring Sergei Zubov

DALLAS, TX - JANUARY 28: Dallas Stars defenseman Miro Heiskanen (4) reacts after the Washington Capitals score a goal during the game between the Dallas Stars and the Washington Capitals on January 28, 2022 at American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

The last three NHL seasons have been weird for the Stars. After reaching historic heights and the 2020 Stanley Cup Final, the Stars have had a multitude of regression and resurgence. Last season was marred by injuries and overtime losses, only to miss the playoffs by four points. This year, the Stars have been a rollercoaster to follow. Dallas will contrast a lengthy losing streak with a long winning streak, then play .500 hockey for the next ten games. On Friday night, the hockey gods were not on the Stars’ side, as a heartfelt honoring of Sergei Zubov was followed by a disheartened effort by the Stars on the ice.

Sergei Zubov Jersey Retirement

The Stars elected to retire Zubov’s number 56 jersey on Friday night, before the game against the Capitals. Zubov was an instrumental piece in the Rangers Cup win in 1994. He was traded to Pittsburgh for Ulf Samuelsson and Luc Robitaille in 1995, then traded from the Penguins to the Stars a year later after feuding with Mario Lemieux. He would remain in Dallas for the next 12 seasons, winning his second Cup in 1999 while earning three trips to the All-Star Game.

Zubov would never replicate his 89-point 1993-94 season with the Rangers while in Dallas, but he leads all Stars defensemen in games, goals, assists, points, plus/minus rating, power-play goals, and shots on goal. During Zubov’s tenure, Dallas had a more defensive mindset, likely capping his offensive production. Zubov was regularly tallying votes in All-Star and Norris Trophy nominations. He was the first, and last, player to wear number 56 for the Stars.

“We really enjoyed playing together and just spending time together,” Zubov said to NHL.com after the ceremony about his time in Dallas. “We all became one big family, and that was big part of success. Just glad that it happened to me and truly enjoyed it.”

“He’s deserving of this,” Mike Modano said. “He’s done everything we’ve ever asked as a player for this organization. He made us a very good team and for a long time. He had a great impact for us, as a person, a player, a teammate. Very deserving.”

Zubov became the 10th Russian-born player inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2019. He joined Modano, Joe Nieuwendyk, Eric Lindros, Brett Hull, Sergei Makarov, Ed Belfour, Bob Gainey, and Guy Carbonneau in the Dallas Stars section.

Holtby Faces Former Team

Braden Holtby let in five goals on 22 shots in his first meeting against the Washington Capitals. He never got comfortable in net, letting up two power-play goals within the first ten minutes of the game. His ugliest goal came with eight minutes left in the second period, with Lars Eller speeding into the Stars zone and holding his shot towards the side of the net.

Holtby misplayed Eller by drifting out of his net to close the angle. He left the net wide open, and the pass from Eller set up Connor McMichael for an easy goal. Holtby would let up a fifth goal towards the end of the second and would be replaced by Jake Oettinger for the rest of the game.

Holtby was drafted by Washington in the fourth round of the 2008 draft. He won the Vezina and Jennings Trophies, along with a Stanley Cup over ten years in Washington. He left for free agency during the 2019-20 offseason, where he signed with the Vancouver Canucks. Holtby posted his worst career numbers with the Canucks, then signed with the Stars during this offseason.

Holtby has been good enough to stay in the starting goalie conversation but not good enough to be the sole starter. This was the sixth time he has allowed more than four goals this season. As the season progresses, he has become less consistent in quality starts. Over his past four games, Holtby has allowed 14 goals. Despite this, he has a 2.74 goals-against average, and a .913 save percentage, his best since the 2018-19 season. Holtby will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season.

5-0 Loss to the Caps

While Holtby certainly wasn’t on his A-game, the rest of the Stars didn’t help him much. Joe Pavelski scored within the first minute of play, but the Capitals challenged, and the goal was overturned due to an offsides. After the overturn, Roope Hintz was sent to the box for tripping, and the Capitals quickly converted on the man advantage. All of this happened within the first two minutes of the game, and the Stars couldn’t recover.

Still in the first period, Miro Heiskanen was given a two-minute minor for holding, and the Capitals quickly converted that power-play chance as well. It was 2-0 within the first eight minutes. Trevor van Riemsdyk all but iced the game by making it 3-0 with seven minutes to play in the first period.

The Stars’ offense lacked any drive to the net. Besides a few lucky bounces, the Stars struggled to get a quality chance on Capitals goalie Vitek Vanecek.

“We had nothing going tonight, nothing,” Stars coach Rick Bowness said via NHL.com. “We played a very experienced, hungry hockey club that had lost two in a row. They came in and took control of the game and didn’t let up. We just had nothing going tonight.”

The defense was just as bad. When Holtby left the net during the McMichael goal, the defense was caught puck-watching and was equally accountable for that score. Niklas Backstrom practically walked into the slot before sniping a goal over Holtby’s shoulder to make it 5-0 in the second.

“Listen, when the whole team was bad in front of him, we aren’t going to point our fingers at anybody,” Bowness said about Holtby’s disappointing night via NHL.com. “The whole team was bad. Goalie, defense, forwards. The whole team. We aren’t pointing fingers at anybody.”

In eight of their last ten games, the Stars have let up a power-play goal. They have the seventh-worst penalty kill percentage in the NHL this year. The Flyers, Kraken, and Sabres all have better penalty kill percentages and are considerably worse teams.

“We got exposed today,” defenseman John Klingberg said. “Mistakes got costly. They’re a really good hockey team over there, so they punished us.”

Klingberg was moved to the third defensive pairing after missing one game due to an upper-body injury.

What’s Next?

The Stars will look to regain momentum against the Boston Bruins on Sunday night. They will face the Calgary Flames on Tuesday before taking a week off for the All-Star break. The Stars lost 3-1 to Boston in their second game of the season in October. Holtby was in net, and Luke Glendening was the only scorer for Dallas.

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