Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Dallas Stars Game 20: The Good and the Bad

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Dallas Stars 5-4 OT win at Columbus Blue Jackets
Shots: Dallas 39, Columbus 20
PP: Dallas 0-1, Columbus 0-1


The Good:

Antoine Roussel- He generated lots of energy, finished his checks, pushed hard at both ends of the ice and, best of all, helped out on the scoreboard. Roussel’s strong forecheck (along with Roy) led to a Columbus turnover and he got the puck to the point which led to Roy’s rebound goal. Roussel’s goal came on a re-direction of a shot from the point that was going wide of the net. Not sure if he’ll stay on this line once Erik Cole joins the team, but for this game at least, he really provided a spark and helped this line be the best on the ice for Dallas.

Dallas goal #3- Dillon's (top right) shot from the point gets re-directed by Roussel (bottom right).

2nd line- I mentioned Roussel above, but it was more than just him. The Stars’ second line dominated for the team. They were absolutely ferocious in the offensive zone. Their forecheck was very strong and effective and directly led to goals and chances. They were good on the back check and seemed to always be on the ice. Eriksson was mainly the setup man for the line throughout the game, but he took 5 shots of his own, including the game-winner in overtime. The line managed 3 goals, 2 assists and 14 shots.

Dallas goal #5- OT winner! Dillon was at the left point and he passed the puck to Roy on the right wing boards. He let the puck hit off the wall and he took a slap shot that Bobrovsky stopped. Bobrovsky did, however, give up a rebound right in front. Eriksson fought to get to the front of the net, got the puck and tucked in behind Bobrovsky for the win. 

Alex Goligoski- He actually looked like a confident player. He was strong defensively and he did what he was originally brought to Dallas for. He carried the puck out of the zone, pushed up on offensive rushes and took some big shots from the point. A couple of times he went in deep ending up around or behind the Columbus net. He had his pocket picked for a quality chance by Columbus, but Bachman bailed him out. He simply played better than he has recently.

Back-to-back slump over- Stars finally break the slump and get a win in the second of a back-to-back. This was their second win of the sort over the past two seasons. The Stars are now 2-15-2 in the second of back-to-back games over the past two seasons. 

The Bad:

Richard Bachman- Not good but not terrible. More like average, but for Bachman this season, average is good. As Turco mentioned on FSSW he wasn’t set when the shots were taken. Sure, some of the goals were by open players in front, but some he should’ve stopped. Dorsett was left open in front to score his goal so Bachman can’t really be blamed for that, but he did kick out the puck for a rebound. On Nikitin’s goal, it’s true that there was no pressure on the Columbus defensemen off the faceoff, but that’s also a shot that Bachman should’ve had. There was no screen, no player setting up shop on the edge of the crease. Bachman was simply beat. On the 3rd goal, Atkinson was left open in perfect position for the puck on a blocked shot to tie the game 3-3. And then Umberger was open in the slot for Columbus’ fourth goal but he got a piece of it. He did make some big saves that gave the Stars a chance at a win, like the big glove save on Johansen during the 4-on-4 early in the 3rd period and save on Foligno after a Goligoski turnover.

Giving up easy goals- The Stars continue to give up easy goals. After a faceoff loss by Benn, there was no pressure on the points and an uncontested blast from the blue line gave the Blue Jackets their first goal. On the second goal, Dorsett was covered on his initial shot, but Benn got turned around and Dorsett was left alone to pop in the rebound a few feet in front of Bachman. The third goal did come on a broken play when Aucoin’s shot from the right wing boards hit a skate in front. Still, Atkinson was left all alone to the right of Bachman in a perfect position to wrist the puck into the net. Jordie Benn’s pass from behind the net was picked by Foligno along the boards and sent to Umberger who was wide open between the hash marks for the goal.

Columbus goal #1- No pressure after faceoff loss leads to a shot byNikitin from the point (top center) going right by Bachman's glove. 

Columbus goal #2- Dorsett's first shot hits Benn's stick and Bachman's pad. Benn let him go and Dorsett wristed it over Bachman's right shoulder. 

Columbus goal #3- Aucoin's shot from the right wing boards hits a skate in front and goes to a wide open Atkinson, who rifles it in past a scrambling Bachman.

Columbus goal #4- Jordie Benn's pass from behind the net gets intercepted by Foligno along the left wing boards. He centers it for an open Umberger who rips it past Bachman.

Can’t hold a lead- The Stars manage to take leads and have recently been able to follow up with a quick strike, but in back-to-back games now the Stars have allowed a goal within a couple of minutes of their own goal. It only took Columbus 51 seconds to erase Dallas’ 2-1 lead in the second. The Stars never trailed, yet they barely managed to squeak out a victory. Stars seem to lack the ability to own a lead and hold strong or kick the opponent when they’re down and get the win.

First line disappearing- Benn seemed to always have two bodies on him, or at least two sticks hassling him. Jagr had a little more time and room to create but his passes seemed to be a little off today and a couple of times he made one too many moves with the puck. Morrow did score a goal but it wasn’t with the full 1st line out and it came on a pass from Eakin that bounced off his foot and in. The Stars were very fortunate that the 2nd line dominated the game for the Stars and they received some secondary scoring. If Columbus can do this, what will the stronger defensive teams do against the Stars’ top line?

Dallas goal #1- Eakin (far right) throws the puck in the middle and it hits off Morrow's skate and goes in.

A different angle of the Morrow goal. You can see Morrow's skates still facing forward and the puck is already ahead of him headed to the net.

Lines seen tonight:
Benn- Daley

PP- Eakin-Smith-Morrow-Benn-Daley
PK- Eriksson-Roy-Dillon-Robidas
PK- Fiddler-Nystrom-Benn-Daley
PK- Eakin-Roussel-Dillon-Robidas

Notable Notes:

  • Faceoffs- Benn won 9 of 16, Roy won 5 of 13, Eakin won 4 of 10 and Fiddler won 9 of 14.
  • The win tied the Stars’ record of 11 straight games with 3 or more goals scored
  • Michael Ryder and 3rd round pick traded to Montreal for Erik Cole (who waived his limited no trade clause)
FSSW's comparison of the players in the trade.

Dallas goal #4- Eakin skated in past the blue line and took a wrist shot that snuck through Bobrovsky.

Dallas goal #2- A Jordie Benn blast from the point hits a body in front and Roy is on the doorstep to put the puck in the net.

Stars Jack Up The Jackets. Dallas Stars Game 20: 5-4 OT Win at the Columbus Blue Jackets

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The back-to-back slump is over.

Loui Eriksson’s diving goal in overtime gave the Dallas Stars a 5-4 win against the Columbus Blue Jackets Tuesday night. It was the first time this season, and the second time in two seasons, that the Stars won the second game of a back-to-back.

It took nine goals, but the Stars were the first and the last to score and never trailed in the win.

Dallas opened the scoring with five minutes left in the first period when Cody threw the puck in the slot off Brenden Morrow’s skate and in. The play was reviewed, but it was determined Morrow did not kick the puck in.

Columbus scored 1:21 into the second period when Columbus won a faceoff in the Stars’ zone and Nikita Nikitin blasted a shot from the point. The second line dominated the game for the Stars and provided the goal for a 2-1 lead when Roy popped in a rebound that fell to the right of Sergei Bobrovsky.

Fifty-one seconds later, Columbus tied the game when Richard Bachman kicked out a rebound that Derek Dorsett was left to wrist in over Bachman’s right shoulder.

New second-line member Antoine Roussel gave the Stars back the lead when he re-directed a shot blasted from the point by Brenden Dillon. There was only one penalty in the first period and none in the second, but a Dillon scuffle with Colton Gillies to open the third led to a 4-on-4 in which Bachman came up with a big save on a Ryan Johansen breakaway.

Columbus did tie the game up 6:16 into the period when Adrian Aucoin’s shot from the right wing boards hit a skate in front and drifted to a wide open Cam Atkinson to Bachman’s right. Atkinson quickly fired the puck into the goal past a sprawling Bachman.

Later in the third period, Cody Eakin squeaked a wrist shot from the blue line through Bobrovsky for the 4-3 lead, but a turnover in the defensive zone led to an R.J. Umberger goal that tied the game back up. For the second game in a row, the Stars had a lead entering the third period, but had to settle the score in overtime.

On the game-winning goal, Dillon sent a pass over to Derek Roy on the right wing boards and he one-timed the puck at the net. Bobrovsky made the save, but the rebound bounced out directly in front of the net. Eriksson battled to get to the front of the net, corralled the puck and dove as he tucked it into the net behind Bobrovsky.

The Stars will head back home and prepare to face the Edmonton Oilers on Thursday night.  

Dallas Stars Game 19: The Good and the Bad

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Dallas Stars 5-4 OT loss at Nashville Predators
Shots: Dallas 24, Nashville 31
PP: Dallas 2-4, Nashville 1-4

The Good:

Matt Fraser- He didn’t do much but he did show he can take advantage of his time with the big club. He scored his first NHL on a fanned one-timer by Roy that came from a behind the back pass from Loui Eriksson behind Rinne. He showed only a few glimpses of his speed and physicality, but I think he’ll get more comfortable and play better with more games under his belt. His numbers in the AHL prove he’s a sniper and don’t forget his first shift in the NHL last season he blazed down the left boards past a defender and nearly roofed the puck in the net, so he is definitely an offensive threat the Stars can use. Same goes for his speed and body.

Dallas goal #1- Eriksson was behind the net and made a behind-the-back pass to Roy. He fanned on the shot but the puck slid right through to Fraser (center) who ripped the puck past Rinne.

Fraser was all smiles after his first NHL goal

Trevor Daley- Coming back from a neck injury, Daley looked normal. He was strong defensively, quick on the turnaround and moved up on a few rushes. Was a little scary when Hornvqist’s stick tripped him into the end boards on an icing, but good to see he got up fine.

Power play- 4 power play goals in the last two games?! Wow that practice last week really paid off. They have a slightly different setup now, but most importantly they are moving better with and without the puck, they are taking not just more shots, but better shots.  They are opening up more ice for themselves. Then again, the Stars seem to really struggle against an aggressive PK and Predators mostly sat back and looked to block and clear rather than pressure and attack.

Dallas goal #3- Stars were on the PP and Fisher took a high-sticking penalty behind the Stars' net. Nilstorp skated off and Fiddler came on as an extra attacker. He came in unnoticed and unmarked so Benn made a little back pass, Fiddler skated in and absolutely ripped the puck into the corner above Rinne's left shoulder.

Dallas goal #4- The Stars made some good passes and movement on the PP, then Eriksson threw the puck at the net. The puck hit off of Josi's stick in front and fluttered in to Rinner's right.

This is hands down my favorite power play set up so far. It's unbelievably effective and dangerous. Ryder and Jagr's off-hand shot positioning, Eriksson down low, Benn in the slot and a defender (not necessarily Goligoski) at the point. Awesome stuff. 

Lots of offense- The Stars have now scored 3 or more goals in each of the last 10 games. Considering how the Stars began the season, and the expectations coming into this season, that’s pretty impressive. The fact that bottom 6 is contributing as much as they are is greatly helping. Being able to plug in guys like Garbutt, Roussel, Fraser and Smith and get production from them, as well as the veteran checkers like Fiddler and Nystrom, is fantastic. Now, if the Stars can just stop giving up so many goals, everything would be much better.

Dallas goal #3- 25 seconds after Fraser's goal, Ryder (far right) made a pass through three Predators to a position perfect for Smith (bottom left) to deflect it in and over Rinne.

The Bad:

Cristopher Nilstorp- Can’t really put this game’s goals on a lack of help. Fisher’s backhander in the 3rd should’ve been stopped. Nilstorp continues to get beaten on screens. He seems to get scored on almost every time someone stands in front of him. You can say the Stars need to do better clearing the big forwards in front of him, but it’s not all on the defense. Especially these days where players can’t necessarily roughhouse the guys in front. The good goalies get better at looking around the screens and getting in position to stop the ones they don’t see and Nilstorp’s 6’4” 184 lb. self is physically capable. Nilstorp needs to develop that part of his game for success. Or else guys like Hornqvist, Franzen and any big-bodied forwards will provide screens for easy goals every game against him.

Nashville goal #2- Josi took a slap shot from the point (top center) and it made it through all the bodies in front and past Nilstorp's blocker.

Nashville goal #5- OT winner came on a slap shot from the top of the right circle. Again a body was in front of Nilstorp and again it was a shot that he should've stopped. 

Jamie Oleksiak- For the most part, Oleksiak was invisible this game. He threw some pucks at the net and didn’t make a habit of big defensive mistakes but I put him in this category simply for fisher’s goal early in the 3rd. Fisher was his man entering the zone. Oleksiak didn’t get physical and eliminate fisher or at least force him to the boards. And he didn’t use his reach to poke the puck. Instead he allowed Fisher to squeeze between him and Goligoski for an open backhander (which Nilstorp should’ve had). And if you look back far enough, Morrow and another forward both pursued the puck and left Fisher open at center ice to get the puck and skate in. Just an all-around failed play on the Stars’ side.

Nashville goal #4- Morrow and another forward attacked one player. He got the pass off to Fisher near center ice so he collected the puck and skated to the blue line uncontested. Fisher then split Oleksiak and Goligoski and tucked in a backhander between Nilstorp's legs.

Penalties- Same story again here. Taking too many penalties and taking weird ones as well. The bright spot is that they’re not mostly mindless penalties taken in the offensive zone. And the Stars defense has been getting much better at not getting that annoying interference penalty as opponents enter the zone. The problem this game was the unsportsmanlike conduct penalties to Nystrom and Fiddler and the fact that they put the Stars in a position where they had to kill nearly 1:17 of 5-on-3 time… and Nashville eventually scored.
The Stars' top two penalty killing forwards and a third man in the box is a very unsettling image. 

Faceoffs- There is more to this than just the wins/losses on the dot. The Predators were missing their best faceoff man in Paul Gaustad and the Predators are not very strong even with Gaustad in. Still the stars won 26 out of 57 draws. I keep faceoffs in the good or bad columns because it is a very critical aspect of our team that the Stars made moves to get stronger at. With Benn, Roy, Eakin and Fiddler, the Stars should be stronger on the draw than they are. Sure losing Ott hurt, but they upgraded on Ribeiro’s faceoff skills so it’s got to get better throughout the season. Final numbers Benn won 5 of 15, Roy won 8 of 15, Eakin won 6 of 12 and Fiddler won 7 of 14.

Lines seen tonight:
Benn- Daley

PP- Eakin-Roy-Morrow-Benn-Smith
PP- Benn-Jagr-Eriksson-Ryder-Goligoski
PK- Fiddler-Nystrom-Dillon-Robidas
PK- Eakin-Garbutt-Benn-Daley
PK- Smith-Roy-Goligoski-Oleksiak (Eriksson’s regular spot but he was in the box)
PK- Eriksson-Roy-Benn-Daley
PK- Eakin-Dillon-Robidas (5-on-3)

Notable Notes:
  • Nashville was the lowest scoring and lowest shooting team in league and the Stars managed to give up 5 goals and 31 shots to them.

Wanted to point out that yes it was a 5-on-3 but Dillon's overpursuit on this play pushed Robidas into a bad situation. Robidas laid down to cut off a pass or low shot (instead of attacking the puck or taking the body) and the bottom picture shows the scene immediately after.

Nashville goal #3- Hornqvist (left) sent a pass across to Smith (right) but the puck hit Dillon's stick (center) and it went in past Nilstorp.

Nashville goal #1- Kostitsyn had the puck in the right corner, he rang the puck around to Clune in the left corner. He immediately made a centering pass and Fiddler couldn't react fast enough to either stop the pass or take out the man in front. So the man in front (Smith, left) simply put the puck in the net.

Now this is what I call a back check and eliminating the garbage in front. 

Nashville threw a lot of bodies at the net and almost always kept a body in front of Nilstorp.

Not sure what's going on this year with Eriksson, but he's taking more penalties than usual. 

Morrow had a chance in the slot in the 2nd period but hit the post to the right of Rinne.

Morrow's shot ringing off the post.

Nystrom had a heck of a chance to tap in this pass from Fiddler, but it went just wide of the net. 

Nystrom fought Fiddler in the 2nd. nystrom took Yip to the ice, but I'd have to say i think Yip got the better punches in. (Getty Images)

Another fight was about to break out in the 2nd between Fiddler and Fisher but the refs broke it up. Fiddler and Fisher had a little scuffle in front of the net just a few seconds before, then Fiddler pushed Fisher in front of the net and the almost-fight ensued. 

Very scary moment when Robidas was hit directly into the corner of the opening on the Nashville bench. Luckily, he was not injured and was back on the ice for his next shift, but that could've been really ugly.

Weber spilled some blood thanks to a high stick. He complained that there should've been a penalty on the play but replays showed that his own teammate Erat's stick was the one that struck him, not Jagr's.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Fallen Prey. Dallas Stars Game 19: 5-4 OT Loss at the Nashville Predators

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Again the Dallas Stars had a big second period and headed into the third with a lead, but couldn’t hold on.

The Stars led 4-2 midway through the second period and headed into the third with a one goal lead, but the Nashville Predators rallied for a 5-4 overtime win Monday night.

Matt Fraser scored his first NHL goal and the Stars received additional scoring from Reilly Smith, Vernon Fiddler and Loui Eriksson, but Roman Josi’s blast from the top of the right circle 28 seconds into overtime gave the Predators the win and the very important two points in the standings.

Cristopher Nilstorp started in net again and stoped 26 of the 31 shots he faced. The one he would most likely want to have back was Mike Fisher’s goal 8:22 into the third period that tied the game at 4-4. Fisher received a pass near center ice and flew into the Stars’ zone. He skated between Jamie Oleksiak and Alex Goligoski and put in a soft backhander between Nilstorp’s legs.

Nashville opened the scoring the lone first period goal, but Dallas erupted early in the second period. Only 1:20 into the second period Loui Eriksson stood behind the Nashville net and sent a pass out front intended for Derek Roy. Roy fanned on the shot and the puck went past him but right to Fraser who skated in and slapped the puck past Pekka Rinne.

Twent-five seconds later Smith tipped in a pass from Michael Ryder across the slot and just like that the Stars took a 2-1 lead. One minute and twenty seconds later, Josi’s slap shot from the point found its way through a crowd in front of Nilstorp and tied the game for Nashville.

Fiddler’s goal came on a delayed penalty 7:29 into the second period. The Stars were on the power play already and when Fisher committed a high stick in the Stars zone, Nilstorp skated to the bench and Fiddler jumped on as the extra attacker. Jamie Benn was standing in the high slot and made a pass back to a streaking fiddler who ripped a slap shot in the corner above Rinne’s left shoulder.

The Stars’ second power play goal of the night came nearly two minutes later when Eriksson’s shot from the side boards hit off Josi’s stick in front and slipped past Rinne. Patric Hornqvist’s power play goal came with less than seven minutes left in the second period when his intended-pass hit off of Brenden Dillon’s stick and fluttered into the net.

The Stars have now scored three or more goals in 10 consecutive games, and they have scored two power play goals in their last two. They killed three of four penalties but had fewer shots (31-24), fewer hits (28-15), fewer faceoff wins (31-26), fewer blocked shots (20-10) and fewer takeaways (7-4).

The Stars look to get an elusive win in the second game of a back-to-back as they visit the Columbus Blue Jackets Tuesday night. 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Dallas Stars Game 18: The Good and the Bad

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Dallas Stars 3-1 win against San Jose Sharks
Shots: Dallas 28, San Jose 32
PP: Dallas 2-6, San Jose 1-7

The Good:

Cristopher Nilstorp- He finally got his first NHL win. He was really strong in net stopping 31 of 32. They were just 32 shots from the outside. They came from all over the ice in all fashions and he did a good job swallowing rebounds, limiting second opportunities in close. True that the team in front of him helped him a little better this game but there were moments when the Sharks were swarming with a consistent attack and NIlstorp stood strong. He kept busy the whole game, bookmarked the game with 12 shots in first and another 12 in the third.

Nilstorp celebrating his first NHL win.

Couldn't help myself, random picture I really liked of a Nilstorp save (Getty Images)

Physicality- The game started with a quick, physical pace with lots and lots of stick battles, but the Benn-Thornton fight really changed things up. The game turned into a fiery pace filled with body-crumbling hits and tons of shots. I thought it was some of the most exciting gameplay from the Stars this season. The Stars had one of their most physically dominating nights of the season so far. They outhit the Sharks 29-8. 29-8! There was an unbelievable fight and almost a second one but the refs broke it up.

Benn started off with two great punches, but Thornton came back hard and they ended up trading punches the rest of the fight. (Getty Images)

Joe Thornton "cup-checked" Benn from behind and the fight soon began.

Morrow and Wingels were ready to fight late in the second period but for some reason the refs stopped it before it started. 

Jamie Benn- He had a Gordie Howe hat trick and in a big way. His assist opened the scoring and got the PP moving. His goal sealed the game in the 3rd period. His assisted a big power play goal from Jagr that opened the scoring. And he fought Thornton (two inches taller and 20 pounds heavier than Benn) which really pushed the game’s pace and intensity up in the 2nd period.

Dallas goal #3: Benn took a big hit from Murray, but Benn dished off a pass and got it right back to wrist it in the net. 

A look from another angle showing the bodies Benn's shot went through. 

Easily the man of the night. 

Big name scoring- Finally, the Stars didn’t rely on their 3rd and 4th lines to come up on the score sheet. Jagr, Ryder and Benn scored. The first line combined for 4 points and 5 shots. The bottom six did what you’d expect, provided grit, hustle lots of hitting, speed and a strong effort in both ends of the ice. But the top 6 stepped up and did as expected of them. Sure two of the goals were on the power play but still the big names came up with the goals and the top line nailed the final goal at even strength.

Dallas goal #2. Goligoski kept the puck in at the line and passed it over to Ryder. He took a few strides toward the net and ripped a wrister. You can see Niemi was off his angle a little, providing just enough space for Ryder to Niemi's right. 

Power play- It didn’t start off too well, but they made up for it later. They couldn’t score on 1:02 of 5-on-3 play in the first, but they created lots of chances and took a handful of shots. The power play didn’t really struggle getting the zone or getting set up this game. It was more about finishing their chances and burying the puck, but some of that can be credited to Niemi’s stellar play. The focus of attention on the power play during the Stars practice paid off. You could tell they were more organized and comfortable with the positioning and passing. And best of all, they took way more shots than we typically have seen this season.

Dallas goal #1: Aggressive forechecking led to a turn over. Eriksson collected the puck behind the net, passed to to Benn along the red line to Niemi's left. He centered it to Jagr who re-directed it in.

The Bad:

Amount of penalties- simple and straight forward, their PK bailed them out. Sharks had 7 power plays and there was lots of 4-on-4 time this game. Luckily, the Sharks have been struggling on the PP recently and Stars PK has been strong so it worked out this game. Yes, lots of the calls were questionable and you could see it on the players’ faces on their way to the box, but still can’t use that as an excuse.

Faceoffs- Stars have been struggling here recently. Not that they were dominated by the Sharks but the centers pulled up nearly even all the way down the lineup. Gotta get some more wins on the draw or at least tie up the opposing center rather than losing outright. Benn won 7 of 15, Roy won 6 of 14, Eakin won 9 of 18, Fiddler won 8 of 16.

Lines seen tonight:
Benn- Larsen

PP- Eriksson-Jagr-Benn-Ryder-Robidas
PP- Eriksson-Jagr-Benn-Ryder-Roy (5-on-3)
PP- Eakin-Smith-Morrow-Goligoski-Robidas
PK- Fiddler-Nystrom-Dillon-Robidas
PK- Eriksson-Eakin-Larsen-Goligoski
PK- Garbutt-Roussel-(combo of both defensive pairings above)
PK- Eriksson-Roy-Larsen-Goligoski
PK- Eakin-Garbutt-Benn-Goligoski

Notable Notes:
Aaron Rome and Philip Larsen left the game with injuries and did not return.
Matt Fraser was a healthy scratch again. I really want to see this kid play with the big club again.

Morrow was announced as a second member of the Stars' 20th Anniversary Team

Morrow responding to the fans' standing ovation in honor of him getting on the Stars' 20th Anniversary team.

A close call early in the first period. Rome with a big clearing save here.

Another close call when the puck bounced off the boards behind the net and came back out in front. Larsen tried to glove it down, but it hit off of him, off Nilstorp's leg and just wide of the net.

A great save by Nilstorp on Thornton.

Thornton's momentum carried him into Nilstorp and out of the net. The Sharks scored but it was waved off due to goalie interference.

Larsen left the game with an injury in the third. A typical play turned ugly. Wengels was skating into the zone, Larsen was covering him close. Wengels lost his footing as he headed behind the net and Larsen was taken down by the momentum. You can Larsen went pretty much head first into the boards.