The first thing the Stars did right was keep the Rampage off the scoresheet for the first 5 minutes of the game. As I said in the preview, they'd allowed a goal in the first five minutes in five of their last six. Tonight, they didn't allow a goal for 60 minutes.
Just after the six minute mark, Francis Wathier and Stu Bickel traded punches at center ice, with Wathier ending up on top of his man and drawing a raucous round of applause from the crowd. At 9:43 of the first, the Rampage took a roughing minor. The Texas Stars needed to capitalize on this opportunity. The Rampage were the 3rd best penalty kill in the league on the road coming into the game today. As I said in the preview, scoring on the power play would be a huge signal of a good game. With Ray Sawada planted in front of the net, bugging the heck out of Justin Pogge, Ivan Vishnevskiy bombed one from the point that beat Pogge. Score 1-0 Texas. They bested a strong PK with lots of shots and a man in front of the net.
But the toughest stretch of the night was killing a 5-on-3 that lasted for 1:06 late in the 1st. The Stars got physical, getting sticks in lanes and taking the body on shots. This was the defensive team that I knew from October and November.
The Stars added another on a deft 2-on-1 play from Aaron Gagnon to Sergei Korostin. Bearing down on Pogge, Gagnon tapped the puck across the crease to Korostin who redirected it through Pogge's legs to make it 2-0. The Stars locked it down the rest of the way, including not allowing a goal for an extended two minutes 6-on-5 empty net session to end the game.
This is what the Stars needed. They played defense; they scored on the PP. They got a really good game out of the goaltender and didn't allow a power play goal or any other type of goal. If we can keep this up, can we climb back into the first seed in the West Conference? I think we can.
Also, did Todd Ford play out of his mind tonight or is he a better goalie right now than Matt Climie? I know that a lot of folks, myself (and the wife) included, have a soft spot for him, but he's been letting in easy goals and having difficulty. Ford tracked the puck well tonight and really shut down the opposing attack, which laid 36 shots on him. I think Ford and Climie should share duties like Krahn and Climie shared in the early season. Matt played a lot better when he was sharing the load, and Ford has proven that he can help carry a heavy burden.
Lines for tonight:
Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Wilson and Krahn (injured)
Gazdic and Shelast (scratched)
Lukowich, Fortunus, and Peters (NHL call ups)
Stafford was back to wearing his usual number, 5, tonight. Francis Wathier wore some sort of brace on his left arm after the fight for about half a period. The Rampage had a goal waved off late which resulted in a game misconduct for San Antonio. There was a broken stick in the crease after the play, so I'm guessing it was related to that. I'll update if I find out.