By Pat Hauldren

Kari Lehtonen Dallas Stars

Kari Lehtonen couldn’t pull one out in the opener as the Dallas Stars fell to Florida, 4-2.

Did you see the Dallas Stars season opener?

The new and improved Dallas Stars played the Florida Panthers in front of a not-too-shabby opening season crowd at American Airlines Center.

The Stars … almost … won. Honest.

Dallas scored once in the second and third periods, but, thanks to Florida’s experience, the Panthers mopped up the ice with the Stars, scoring two late goals in a 4-2 win.

Watching the game made me wish I’d printed out a team roster because if it weren’t for Ralph & Razor calling the show, I’d have been majorly lost. Even Jordie Benn, a defenseman we hope stays in Dallas this  year, has changed his stripes, well, not his stripes really, just the number on his jersey to #24. Tyler Sequin debuted with the Stars. (Remember to pronounce his name correctly, “say-gen,” which sounds a bit like Sagan, of the Carl physicist variety.) And if it helps to remember, Antoine Roussell has Guy Carbonneau’s old number, #21, but saying “Antwaaaaaan” across the ice doesn’t have the same ring to it as yelling, “Geeeeeeeee!” I rest my case.

Ray Whitney, who fast became one of my faves last season, passed off the puck to Alex Chiasson, another who we’ll come to love I predict, and he scored in the second period to tie the game.

Another guy to watch, as if you didn’t already know, is Brenden Dillon. He made our hearts race in the opener as he skated the puck across two blue lines for a short-handed goal in the third period thanks to Vernon Fiddler’s pass. Fiddler, another veteran, looked really good.

And don’t forget about the new captain, Jamie Benn, who doesn’t just shoot the puck, he wrangles the puck, mauls the player for the puck (all within hockey regs I’m sure), tumbles into the defender’s net for the puck (we should have gotten a point for player in the net), and basically makes plays happen on the ice. And that’s what we want in a captain, right? Goodbye Morrow, hello Benn. (I’m still mooning over Mo, now married a second time, so nevermind me.)

After that, one could say, the story was almost as predictable as a Disney movie as the Panthers pooled their smarts. Aleksander Barkov, Florida’s “teen” player, scored and Dallas never seemed to recover. Florida’s Marcel Goc went on to pop two more in the net, the last on an open net (those always seem to bite us, so often, I sometimes wonder why they bother.)

Power plays weren’t much help. The Dallas Stars used to shine with the man advantage, but the players who excelled in that area have moved on. They were dependable, fast and experienced players who forced the issue in and out of the circle. And they are sorely missed, as Dallas didn’t have a shot on goal in any of the three power plays they generated. Not one.

But this is a “New Deal” now. They’ve revamped the organization from the inside out. Now it’s up to the few veterans and many new Dallas Stars players to put the puck in the net. They did it two times and it was really fun to watch.

Yet again, though, the defense did Dallas wrong.

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