For the Dallas Stars, Monday's matchup against the Oilers was much more than a chance to break a five-game losing skid. This game was their official welcome to new owner Tom Gaglardi, who was introduced by the team earlier in the day after his purchase of the Stars out of bankruptcy was approved by the NHL's board of governors on Nov. 17.
With the new boss walking out to center ice to drop the puck before a sparse but vocal crowd, the Stars came out determined to start this new era of team history on the right foot. Physically punishing the younger and smaller Edmonton team, the opening goal of the game came not from the dazzling skill of Ryan Nugent-Hopkins or the relentless work ethic of Jamie Benn, but from Toby Petersen, hitting the scoresheet for the first time this season.
Petersen battled behind the Edmonton net for the puck with Taylor Chorney, finally making it out to the faceoff circle before turning and throwing what was likely intended as a centering pass at Nikolai Khabibulin. Instead, the puck found a gap between the veteran goaltender's leg pad and the post and into the net, good for a 1-0 lead that would stand up through the end of the first period after Kari Lehtonen stopped very Oiler shot he faced.
In the second period the Oilers attempted to get their stymied offense moving against the Starts' workmanlike defense, and they appeared to finally catch a break when Ryan Smyth circled the Dallas net with the puck after Lehtonen was caught out of his crease, but the veteran was unable to perform his signature wrap around, the puck instead floating across the empty goal mouth and being captured by Steve Ott, who moved the puck quickly up ice. Passing off to Mike Ribeiro, left without his helmet due to the chaos around the crease, he left the puck behind him for Brenden Morrow, then took a long pass and skated behind Khabibulin in the Edmonton net before firing a quick pass to back to Ott as he drove to the net, where the agitator shoveled the puck past the Bulin wall.
The Oilers cut their deficit in half when a series of turnovers in the neutral and defensive zones by Dallas saw Jordan Eberle behind most of the Stars defense before sending a floating pass over to Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, and the 2011 first-overall pick was able to bump the puck through the skates of former Oiler Sheldon Souray before taking a second whack that seemed to surprise Lehtonen as it slid into the net.
Any hopes for this triggering a rally for Edmonton were shortlived after a collision between forecheckers and defense at the Edmonton blue line saw Jordan Petry defending a 3-on-1 attack. Nicklas Grossman waited for Petry to commit before passing back to Michael Ryder, who sent a hard shot into the top corner to restore the two goal lead.
The third period was textbook defensive performance by the Stars, who limited Edmonton to just four shots despite Morrow being boxed twice, including a late penalty for interference that gave the Oilers a chance to get back into the game with fewer than three minutes left. With Khabibulin pulled for an extra attacker, the Stars missed their first chance to ice the game when Tom Wandell attempted to pass off to Radek Dvorak but had the attempt picked off by Tom Gilbert, who brought the puck back into the offensive zone. Another attempt would appear, however, when Shawn Horcoff lost his footing and turned over the puck to Vernon Fiddler, who cleared the zone before handing the puck off to Dvorak, who fired the dagger from just past center ice to complete a dominant 4-1 victory.
The Stars ended the night with 47 hits and 35 shots while limiting the Oilers to a mere 18, including an exceptional effort on the penalty kill, holding off the Oilers despite six opportunities with the man advantage.