This column was going to be a tribute to Festivus, the December holiday made famous by Frank Costanza 25 years ago. I had plenty of references to “Airing of Grievances” and “Feats of Strength,” but two things happened that almost prevented the planned essay from being written. The first was absolutely no one in the Stars press box below the age of 35 had a clue what the heck is Festivus. Some had heard about Festivus only today, from older members of the press corp. The rest wondered if this event was even real. Was this reference from ancient history, the time before Netflix?
The other factor was taking place on the ice. Rather than a spirited, exciting last game before the holiday break, this game had no energy. For 40 minutes the game was best described as “meh.” Fans in the stands were acting like they had just finished their third serving of turkey and were in a food coma. If 19,000 smelling salt packets were available, they should have been handed out.
The Stars had energy and pace on Wednesday night against Edmonton. On this Christmas Eve Eve, facing the Montreal Canadiens, one of the marquee names in the NHL, Dallas slept-walked their way through the first 35 minutes. When Michael Pezzetta, who no one will confuse with Maurice Richard, scored to give the Habs a 2-0 lead, you could feel a whole lot of indifference in the AAC.
With a dead building and a two-goal deficit, something needed to be done. In a previous era of hockey, Stars Head Coach Pete DeBoer would have sent someone out to start a fight to liven up the joint. But that tactic is now frowned upon, so the contest continued to slog along.
Physical feats of strength are easy to recognize. Mental toughness is not so prominently displayed, but on nights like this one, is just as important. Even strength, the Stars were not generating any excitement. On the power play, Dallas came to life and brought the crowd with them. Two deflections by Roope Hintz with the man advantage brought the Stars back to even and ramped up the AAC faithful. As good as Jason Robertson and Jamie Benn were in November, Roope Hintz has been this month with a team high of eight goals.
Stars rookie Wyatt Johnston was more than five years away from being born when “The Strike” episode of Seinfeld introduced the world to Festivus. The 19-year-old has no idea what most of that previous sentence means. What he does know is how to make an impact on a hockey game. With five minutes to go, the rookie potted his first game winner in the NHL, depositing a rebound off his own shot for the Stars third power play goal of the night. In the process, Wyatt Johnston (19 years and 223 days) became the youngest player in Dallas Stars history with a goal streak of three consecutive games.
By the end of the night, the crowd was loud, rowdy and on their feet for the last part of the third period. It wasn’t exactly a Festivus miracle, but Dallas had another come-from-behind win and entered the holiday break with 20 wins and the only team in the Western Conference with less than 10 regulation losses.
The Stars finished the game with no five on five goals, but victorious, nonetheless. There are some nights over the course of an 82-game season that finding a way to win is all that matters. Good teams know that not every victory is a masterpiece, but if you cobble together enough “ugly” wins the record at the end of the season will be quite pretty. As for airing of grievances, on this night of Festivus, there are none to be had, at least not about the game or the Stars performance so far this season.
Now where did I put that pole….