The Dallas Stars did a lot of things right in their 4-1 win over the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night. But what stood out most was their play in the defensive end.
Dallas had lost their identity a bit over the last couple of weeks, allowing a lot more goals and giving opponents relatively easy tallies around their own net. The coaching staff had been urging their team to help out their goaltenders.
We’re back: But in the last two games, Dallas has allowed just two goals and the play in their own end has been tremendous.
“We had some good blocked shots. Guys knew their assignments, they were getting to box outs early,” Scott Wedgewood said Tuesday. “When they do that, there were a couple of times the D had the puck on the half wall and it was just me and them looking at each other, trying to throw it off sticks weak side. I can usually catch those before it gets there. Gives us a whistle and gives me a chance to see it. Makes my job a lot easier.”
Wedgewood stopped 35 of 36 shots against the Devils but as he stated, the team made his job a lot easier against a very good team.
— Dallas Stars (@DallasStars) December 14, 2022
Wedgewood was consistently given a clear lane to see the puck and when things did break down, the guys in front of him found a way to at least take away one option and give Wedgewood a much better chance to stop the puck.
“They were confident in me, and I was confident in myself,” Wedgewood added.
Penalty Kill Continues to Shine: The Stars have the third-best penalty kill in the NHL, with an 84.40% success rate through 30 games. Against New Jersey, that unit was put to the test at the most crucial time of the game.
With about six minutes left and the Stars leading 2-1, the Devils got their chance with the man advantage to tie the game. In a game where both teams played the night before, the energy was running low, and the goaltenders were standing on their heads, special teams usually find a way to make the difference.
But rather than a Devils tying goal, it was the Stars that stepped up, blocked shots, cleared pucks, and kept the traffic to a minimum around Wedgewood in order to kill off the full two minutes.
“If we can be patient and kind of take away some of their options, be a little bit more not overpressured, overaggressive, it plays in our favor,” Wedgewood said. “Then it gives me time to either stay on the guy that’s going to shoot or at least play deeper so I can get across and play on the one-timer options.”
After the successful kill, Dallas had to fend off the Devils attack for a few more minutes before eventually finding the dagger into the empty net to put the game away.
"We did what we had to do in the third," DeBoer said. "A couple of huge blocks at the end, Radek Faksa, Glendening, Marchment had a block, and I know all our D blocked shots tonight. It was an important two points for us and we did the important work to get the two points against a real good team."
Faksa goes down: The block by Radek Faksa left the forward laying on the ice and eventually hunched over the bench in obvious pain. Pete DeBoer expects Faksa to be fine moving forward.
Against all odds: There were a lot of factors going against the Stars in this game.
They played the night before and had to travel from Pittsburgh. They lost in heartbreaking and deflating fashion late in the game Monday after playing extremely well for 59.5 minutes. The Devils had not lost three straight games all season (they lost the previous two). New Jersey is a very speedy team, which can be very hard to play against with heavy legs. And the Devils have been one of the best teams all year long.
But the Stars found a way. And that has been the theme all season. They have found ways to win games they shouldn’t, whether it is a huge comeback or a stellar individual performance. And they have found a way to respond to every bit of adversity that has been thrown their way.
It was a very impressive win, and according to the Stars bench boss, one of their best this year.
“Pretty close, considering the circumstances,” DeBoer said when asked if this was their best win of the season. “Back-to-back with how we lost last game, I was really worried, mentally, where we were at. I thought the guys were outstanding. That’s a testament to our leadership.”