It’s not supposed to be this way in the world’s hardest league. In the NHL, it’s not supposed to be this … easy.
But that’s the way John Klingberg and Joe Pavelski are making it look, most recently in the Stars’ 6-3 win in Columbus on Tuesday night. Pavelski (two goals, two assists) and Klingberg (two assists) continued their tear through the Central Division as the Stars rebounded from a winless weekend in Carolina.
With their first road win of the season, the Stars moved to 5-1-1 heading into the last game of the road trip Thursday in Columbus. Jamie Benn, Denis Gurianov, Radek Faksa and Alexander Radulov (empty-netter) also scored for Dallas as rookie goaltender Jake Oettinger picked up his second win in his second NHL start.
Klingberg and Pavelski set the table for the Stars.
“Joe and John have got a pretty good thing going,” Stars coach Rick Bowness said. “They work on this high-tip and screen, they’ve been working together very well. They work together in practice. They’re key guys on this team to ignite the offense, and they’ve been delivering.”
The duo combined for the team’s first two goals in similar fashion: Klingberg lofted a point shot towards the net, and Pavelski tipped it home. The first came at 5 on 5 punctuating some offensive zone time, while the second came after a faceoff win on the power play. But no matter the circumstances, Klingberg and Pavelski have proved a potent tandem for the Stars.
The Stars have now scored 29 goals this season. Klingberg has been on the ice for 20 of them; Pavelski, 19. Both have been on the ice for 13, accounting for almost half of the Dallas offense.
Pavelski has seven goals this season. Klingberg has an assist on five of them.
The two players have served as the offensive engine for the Stars, with Klingberg jumpstarting the team both in transition and from the blue line while Pavelski has owned the net-front, as he’s done for most of his career.
The success isn’t surprising for anyone, especially for anyone paying attention. The skills that Klingberg and Pavelski are toting in their toolbox are well known around the league.
Klingberg is one of the league’s best at moving laterally in the offensive zone, shimmying his way to space to unleash a wrist shot. Teams know about his presence on the power play and how he can drive offense with such an effective shot. (It’s these skills that make his third-period turnover that led to a Columbus goal worth it. Welcome the good, accept the bad.)
“I think we were trying to find each other last year, and didn’t get the pucks through really and didn’t get to work on that,” Klingberg said. “That’s something that, before the bubble, we were trying to change as well. I always, in my career, haven’t shot enough pucks. I think that’s something that I have to do more of.”
Pavelski is one of the league’s best around the net, savvy enough to find pockets of space and quick-twitched enough to deflect pucks when they arrive. It’s how the 36-year-old has survived in the NHL as a seventh-round pick that doesn’t scrape 6-foot.
The combination makes almost any innocuous play a dangerous one for the Stars. Flick from the point with a screen in front? That’s a scoring chance for Dallas. Won faceoff on the power play? That’s a scoring chance for Dallas.
“Those things take time,” Pavelski said. “It’s taken a little bit. He’s been playing with a ton of confidence. He really wants the puck right now, and he’s finding lanes, which that’s all I can ask for. Tonight, he delivered a couple good pucks. After I got a stick on them, they found holes.”
As the Stars displayed in Carolina over the weekend, offensive outbursts won’t come every game. Dallas remains a defensive team at its core. But that’s what makes nights like Tuesday appreciated more when Klingberg and Pavelski are able to rip through a typically structurally sound team like the Blue Jackets.
The offense from Klingberg and Pavelski has been welcome in the early going with the plethora of injuries Dallas has endured in the season’s first two weeks. Benn and Blake Comeau each missed four games. Roope Hintz missed two. Joel Kiviranta has missed five (and counting). Tyler Seguin won’t play for another two months.
Dallas needed offense from somewhere. And Klingberg and Pavelski are happily obliging, and making it look effortless along the way.
Dellandrea out: For the first time this season, rookie forward Ty Dellandrea was a healthy scratch on Tuesday night in Columbus.
Forward Joel L’Esperance entered the lineup in Dellandrea’s place.
Bowness said Dellandrea would likely be back in the lineup Thursday vs. the Blue Jackets, regardless of the result on Tuesday night.
Kiviranta doubtful: Injured Stars forward Joel Kiviranta (lower-body) is skating again, Bowness said, but is doubtful to play this week.
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