December 21 – Day 75 – The Stars head home

Yesterday’s Game of the Day between the Washington Capitals and New York Rangers was a game of goal-streaks, but the Caps took control of the game in the second and third periods to win 7-3.

After 12 minutes of scoreless action, First Star of the Game Justin Williams scored Washington‘s first goal, assisted by Taylor Chorney and John Carlson (his 20th on the season).  The Caps‘ momentum was short-lived though (1:39, to be exact), as J.T. Miller fired a wrister to level the score at one-all, assisted by Rick Nash and Keith Yandle (his 18th of the season).  New York then took the lead at the 15:44 mark with a wrister from Chris Kreider.  The final goal of the period also belongs to the Blueshirts and Dan Boyle, a slap shot after being assisted by Ryan McDonagh and Mats Zuccarello (his 14th of the season), setting the score at 3-1.

Washington began their comeback at the 5:25 mark of the second when Evgeny Kuznetsov, assisted by Dmitry Orlov and Williams (his 13th of the season), fired a backhand into net, setting the score at 3-2.  1:36 later, T.J. Oshie scored on a backhander of his own, assisted by Second Star Nicklas Backstrom and Dmitry Orlov to tie the game.  Captain Alex Ovechkin finally got on the score sheet at the 11:03 mark of the second, assisted by Third Star Marcus Johnansson and Backstrom.  The final score of the period belonged to Williams, a snap shot after being assisted by Johansson and Backstrom (his 21st of the season).  William’s second tallly of the night set the score at 5-3.

Washington began the third where they ended the second, scoring their sixth tally of the evening after only 2:26.  Tom Wilson assisted Jason Chimera to his eighth goal of the season.  Only 2:10 later, the Capitals scored again, this time a snap shot from Johansson after being assisted by Kuznetsov (his 20th of the season), setting the score at the 7-3 final.

21-4-1 Braden Holtby earns the win in tonight’s game by saving 33 of 36 (91.7%), while Henrik Lundqvist’s record falls to 15-9-3 after saving only 19 of 24 (79.2%).  He was replaced with Magnus Hellberg for the third period, who saved four of six shots faced (66.7%).

The DtFR Game of the Day series now stands at 28-11-6, favoring the home squad by 26 points over the roadies.

Today’s schedule features eight games, with the action getting started at 7 p.m. eastern when half of those games drop the opening puck (Anaheim at the New York Islanders, St. Louis at Philadelphia, Columbus at Pittsburgh and Washington at Carolina).  At 8 p.m. eastern, two more games get started (Montréal at Nashville [RDS] and Dallas at Minnesota [TVAS]), followed an hour by the co-nightcaps (Toronto at Colorado and Winnipeg at Edmonton).

Three of tonight’s games are between divisional rivals (Columbus at Pittsburgh, Washington at Carolina and Dallas at Minnesota), while two of tonight’s matchups are between current playoff qualifiers (Montréal at Nashville and Dallas at Minnesota).  Only one game qualifies for both lists, so we will focus on the StarsWild matchup.

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Dallas has been featured three times already in the DtFR Game of the Day Series, most recently Saturday’s win against the Canadiens, which set their record in the series at a perfect 3-0-0.  Minnesota has been featured an additional time and host a 3-1-0 record in the series.

The 24-7-2 Stars currently lead both the Central Division and the Western Conference, and are tied with the Washington Capitals for the league lead.  Their most recent victory was the aforementioned game against the Habs.  A summary of the Stars‘ play is featured here.  For those not willing to read the summary, Dallas‘ record and position in the standings should tell the story.

The 17-8-6 Wild currently sit in fourth place in the Central Division, and fifth in the Western Conference.  Their most recent game was in Nashville on Saturday, where they lost 3-2.  So far this season, the Wild have built their success on their defensive strength.

Just as shots for are usually indicative of a team’s success, shots against can also tell a good portion of the story.  Thanks in part to Jared Spurgeon’s 65 blocks, Minnesota has allowed only 887 shots to reach 14-8-2 Devan Dubnyk and co., of which 91.9% have been saved.  One of the major shortcomings of the Wild is their penalty kill.  Although they’ve only allowed 77 opportunities and 17 goals, their 77.92% kill rate trails the league average by 3.23%.

Offensively, the Wild are an interesting situation.  While they have only managed 887 shots (led by Jason Zucker’s 88), they have scored on 9.9% of those shots for 86 goals.  An especially potent aspect of Minnesota‘s offense is their power play.  On 102 attempts, they have scored 21 goals for a 20.59% success rate that leads the league average by 1.74%.

Some players to watch in tonight’s game include Dallas‘ Jamie Benn (22 goals [leads league], 44 points [tied for second in the league], +15 [tied for fourth in the league] and 22 assists [tied for sixth in the league]), John Klingberg (26 assists [tied for third in the league]) and Tyler Seguin (44 points [tied for second in the league], 26 assists [tied for third in the league], 18 goals [fourth in the league] and +14 [tied for ninth in the league]) & Minnesota‘s Dubnyk (four shutouts [tied for second in the league] and 14 wins [tied for seventh in the league]).

The Stars and Wild have already played twice this season, with Dallas winning both games in overtime.  If that is indicative of how this game will go, it should be a good one.