The puck was right there in front of the net.
Unfortunately for Jamie Benn, so was netminder Devan Dubnyk.
During a late first period powerplay, the Stars captain twice found himself virtually alone in front of the net. Both times he was stuffed by arguably the Minnesota Wild’s best player.
Players up and down the roster had odd-man rushes, man-up opportunities and shots from the point. None of them made any difference, as the the Dallas Stars dropped their third consecutive game of the season, 3-1, to the Wild at American Airlines Center on Friday.
When the Stars captain can’t buy a goal, you know things are bad. The team’s lone goal of the night came off the blade of Jason Spezza, who tipped a great shot from rookie Miro Heiskanen. It was Spezza’s first goal of the season.
“It’s obviously frustrating, because we’ve generated a lot of chances,” Spezz said. “And their second goal goes off our guy and in. And that’s what happens when you let a team hang around...I feel like this one slipped away.”
The Stars are now 3-4, but things weren’t supposed to start like this.
Head coach Jim Montgomery inherited a team that has plenty of skill. Benn, Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov are three of the NHL’s most prolific scorers.
John Klingberg and rookie Heiskanen provide plenty of firepower from the blueline, too.
Plus, Montgomery’s up-tempo style of play was supposed to liberate this bunch from the plodding drudgery of ex-head coach Ken Hitchcock and his ‘get back and stay home’ philosophy.
It’s early in the season and there are plenty of reasons for the woes, but there is one that stands out: the goaltending of the opposition.
However, through seven games the Stars have faced some of the NHL’s best goalies. Some are familiar names such as John Gibson of the Anaheim Mighty Ducks, Craig Anderson of the Ottawa Senators and Dubnyk.
Coming into tonight’s game, those three owned the second, seventh and eleventh best goals against averages in the NHL.
New Jersey Devils goalie Keith Kinkaid, who only emerged as a starting-caliber goalie toward the end of last season owns a 4-1 record and was tied for the fifth-best save percentage in the league coming into Friday night’s action.
In the Stars previous two games, they were outscored a combined 7 to 1 by the Senators and Devils. This, despite outshooting the two teams by a combined total of 62 to 55.
Entering Friday night’s contest, the Stars (along with the Florida Panthers) were averaging 3 goals per game. That figure ranks 19th in the NHL.
The offense isn’t exactly efficient, either. Before playing the Wild, this team had amassed the 12th-most shots on goal of any team in the league. And the Stars converted on just 8.7 percent of those attempts, which ranks 21st in the NHL in shot percentage.