Three Takeaways From the Stars Win Against the Panthers

DALLAS, TX - DECEMBER 14: Dallas Stars right wing Denis Gurianov (34) looks for the puck during the game between the Dallas Stars and the St. Louis Blues on December 14, 2021 at American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas. (Photo by Matthew Pearce/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Braden Holtby stood tall when he swiped away the shootout try from the Florida Panthers winger Anton Lundell to give the Dallas Stars their first win in 18 days. Both teams looked sloppy in the 6-5 Dallas win. Six total goals were scored in the second period, including a powerplay goal by Denis Gurianov. The Stars clung to a 5-4 lead late in the third when Jonathan Huberdeau scored with 29 seconds left in the game. After a scoreless overtime, Joe Pavelski and Jason Robertson scored on their shootout attempts to seal the win. Here are three takeaways from the Stars win:

Braden Holtby is still the 1B Goalie

Holby came up huge in the shootout stopping shots from Lundell and Huberdeau. He made 37 saves against 42 shots after near 20 days without game action. The Stars trusted him over Oettinger to start the first game since the NHL took a pause in mid-December due to covid.

It was an up and down night for Holtby as he made tons of saves but allowed five goals. Holtby made a seemingly game-winning save with the Stars up 5-4 with 35 seconds remaining on the clock. He sprawled out to stop Carter Verhaeghe’s shot, who was alone in front of the net. That would have been the highlight of the night if not for Holtby letting in the game-tying goal seconds later.

“We kept losing faceoffs on that side of the net and eventually ended up at the back of the net, but it was a good shot by a good hockey player,” Bowness said of the goal.

Considering the bigger picture, Oettinger should be the typical starter in net for the Stars. While both the Panthers and Stars needed to shake off some cobwebs during this game, Holtby didn’t help his case for the sole position as starting netminder. Holtby will be a great backup from now on, which is likely not going to change.

Stars Offense Looks Stellar

Any night that a team scores six goals is a job well done on the offensive side. Gurianov scored a powerplay goal and then assisted on the score that put the Stars up 5-4 early in the third period. Panthers goalie Sergei Bobrovsky left his net to field a puck close to the left faceoff dot. Gurianov stole the puck away, then dangled his way behind the net. He centered a pass to the front of the net and found Jamie Benn, who rifled a shot past Bobrovsky.

“That’s being a good pro and preparing yourself the same every day,” Bowness said of Gurianov’s recent play. “Games like that just don’t happen. You’ve got to prepare yourself to make things happen.”

Tyler Seguin, Martin Raffl, and Jason Roberson also tallied goals. The Stars have scored six or more goals in four different games this season, and they only eclipsed six goals in a single game three times through all of last season.

The outpouring of goals over the past few games is a promising sign for the Stars. They have outscored opponents 17-12 over their last three games, all of them wins. They have a -3 point differential between goals for and against this season. The booming offense is winning games for the team at this point and will need to stay hot until Oettinger and Holtby can register quality starts.

The Stars currently have 34 points through 30 games. They sit in sixth in the Central Divison, eight points out of third place and twelve points out of first. Looking at the playoff wild card, the Stars are four points out of the second spot but will have to leapfrog multiple teams in front of them.

Inability to Close Out Late

A significant contributing factor to last year’s losing season was the Stars’ inability to close out games. That negative trait has followed the team into this season, as they have struggled to finish games in regulation. The Stars didn’t have a lead until Benn’s goal in the third period. The Panthers had their goalie pulled for the last two and a half minutes of the game, and the Stars eventually crumbled late.

Dallas iced the puck multiple times with the Panthers’ net empty and failed to win critical faceoffs. To Holtby’s credit, he hung on as long as he could, but fatigue from a long high-scoring game cost the Stars a win in regulation. This season, the Stars are 6-2 in overtime games, a considerable uptick from their 6-14 record last season.

“The first couple shifts was a little bit tough because when you don’t play for two weeks, it feels like the first game of the season,” Gurianov said of the NHL’s extended break.

“We did some good things. There were times we made the game a lot harder on ourselves than we should have, but that comes without playing,” Bowness said. “Was it going to be a Picasso tonight? No, but we got the two points.”

The Stars will take on the Pittsburg Penguins at home on Saturday, looking to keep the three-game win streak alive.

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