There is an old proverb that goes, “Be careful what you wish for, you may just get it.” That was the case for both goaltenders yesterday when the Stars hosted the Wild.
A native of Lakeville, MN, Jake Oettinger grew up a fan of the Minnesota Wild. As a freshman, Jake played in the pinnacle of schoolboy athletics in the state—the Minnesota State High School League hockey tournament. Just your average 15-year-old, playing goalie in front of 19,000 fans in the Xcel Center, home of the Wild. Otter wants to play against his hometown team and beat them, every chance he gets.
Marc-Andre Fleury didn’t have to start this game, he WANTED to start. With Wild playing back-to-back games with travel in less than 24 hours, the veteran goalie usually gets to pick the game he wants to play. Fleury has enough skins on the wall (Stanley Cups, All-star Appearances, Olympic Gold Medal) that no one would have blamed him for taking what appeared to be the easier of the two games, taking the net on Saturday against a struggling Anaheim Ducks team at home. The First overall pick in the 2003 draft has a reputation for wanting the biggest challenge on the biggest stage, and chose to play the Stars.
Oettinger was the first to find out the proverb can be true and at times painful. His teammates did him no favors in the first period taking three minor penalties. As seems to be the norm with the Stars this season, instead of getting off on the front foot, penalty kills slow down momentum from excellent 5v5 play. Kirill Kaprizov gladly made the Stars pay for their transgressions, extending his point streak to 12 games with a power play goal ripped by the ear of Oettinger, short side for the only goal of the period.
The second period was a disaster. Three goals by the Wild in 1:50, the last two coming in a span of 15 seconds. By the time the third period began, Oettinger had been replaced by Scott Wedgewood and his hopes of getting his third win against his former favorite team were gone as well.
Fleury, on the other hand, was poised to be the hero. Choosing to take the more difficult path, the 38-year-old netminder had stopped 24 of 25 Dallas offerings, many spectacularly, as the Wild had grabbed a 4-goal lead in the 3rd period. But the hockey gods had a reminder as to how humble this game can make a player, even on the best of hot streaks.
As usual the Avengers Line began the comeback. Pavelski to Hintz made it 5-2. Jason Robertson, who extended his point streak to 18 games, grabbed his own rebound and deked Fleury for a slam-dunk tap-in just 38 seconds later. Pavelski to Marchment for a top-shelf wrister made it 5-4. Then with Wedegwood pulled for extra attacker, Pavelski sets the puck up on a platter for a Hintz one-timer and a tie game. The decibel level on the final Hintz goal had to be at the level of a 747 taking off and for the second time this week, hats were thrown on the ice to celebrate a three-goal performance.
Fleury had allowed 4 goals on 12 shots and not one game altering save to be found in the final 20 minutes. Be careful what you wish for…backstopping fatigued team trying to protect a lead on the road.
In what may have been the ultimate irony, neither goaltender made a save in the shootout. In round three, Hintz’s backhander beat Fleury and missed the far post by a quarter of an inch. Wedgewood could not stop any Wild offerings as the Stars fell yet again after 60 minutes. After dominating in extra time last year, Dallas is now 0-4 on OT/SO games.
Be careful what you wish for… exciting hockey. After two years of defense-first hockey, Stars fans are delirious with the high scoring, high wire act their team is performing right now. The Stars are 2-0-3 in their last five home games, saving the most heroic efforts for the AAC faithful. There was one five-goal third period comeback vs. Chicago, one four-goal last frame charge vs. Minnesota, two goals with an empty net vs. Winnipeg and a late tying goal with an extra attacker vs. Colorado. Exciting? Yes. A long-term plan for success? Absolutely not.
“Be careful what you wish for” makes for some intriguing hockey watching, but also some serious downside. The Stars are pulling points where none should be had, but not getting the full two points despite the dramatic late game responses. Is the glass half full or half empty? Maybe we should wait until later in the season to decide that one.