DALLAS - With lots of negative attention swirling around them the last few days, credit the Dallas Stars for blocking out the distractions and doing their talking on the ice.
In their first game since learning winger Sean Avery would be suspended for four more games for inappropriate comments made Tuesday, the Stars received a vintage performance from goaltender Marty Turco and a shootout game-winning goal from Mike Modano to seize a 2-1 victory over the Colorado Avalanche Friday.
The injury-depleted Stars (10-12-4) have now won three of their last four as they seek to rebound from a sub-par start to the season that had them last overall in the Western Conference entering the contest.
“It’s very much needed right now, we are fighting and clawing for every point so this was big,” Modano said. “It’s been a strong rallying point for us, we knew we needed to play solid hockey and try and build some momentum. We are working hard and Marty has been exceptional.”
Turco was outstanding, making 26 saves and came oh-so-close to securing his first shutout in 33 games dating back to last season, but with goaltender Peter Budaj on the bench for an extra attacker, Colorado tied it with just 55.5 seconds remaining in the third period on Marek Svatos’ fifth goal of the season to send it into overtime.
In the shootout, Wojtek Wolski scored on Colorado’s first chance, but Mike Ribeiro beat Budaj on the Stars’ third attempt to tie the shootout and Modano ripped a scorching wrist shot over Budaj’s shoulder to give the Stars the edge. Turco then denied former Oiler Ryan Smyth to clinch the triumph.
It was the Stars’ first victory in three shootouts this season and in five games that have gone beyond regulation.
“The efforts, second, third and gutting it out is pretty understated,” Turco said. “It’s a little harder at this time of year. The focus is there and has been growing over the last week. It’s an awesome sign, even despite a late goal. In the short term, if you get on a streak or start collecting points with regularity, it certainly helps. It was a great sight for me to be laying on my butt and see us picking up the puck in front. This team has been playing tighter, better and more together.”
“It was a little nerve wracking to give up a goal in the last minute but it’s nice to get the two points tonight,” added defenseman Stephane Robidas. “We played pretty solid and we are getting back toward our identity of playing solid defense. We are heading in the right direction and that’s how we are going to get out of this hole, as a team. That’s our motto here, team first.”
Toby Petersen scored Dallas’ only goal in regulation. After going 49 NHL games (including playoffs) without a goal dating back to March 2007, Petersen now has three in the last four.
“(Turco) made some huge saves to keep us in it and obviously came up huge in the shootout,” Petersen said. “We’re turning a corner here, we’re starting to play as a team and make things happen. Shootouts haven’t been our strongest suit this year, so it was good to get a win in the shootout.”
“We had a lot of guys compete very hard and Marty was excellent tonight,” Stars coach Dave Tippett said. “Toby’s speed and tenacity are big assets and he is very valuable in what we are doing here.”
Despite three power plays and outshooting the Avalanche 8-7 in a scoreless first period, the Stars were unable to solve Budaj early. Their best chance came on their third man-advantage, with 2:16 left in the period, when James Neal received a pass from Ribeiro behind the net and fired a quick wrist shot from low in the right face-off circle, but Budaj made the stop.
The Stars dodged a serious bullet about six minutes into the second period, as Svatos, who once upon a time broke the Stars’ hearts with an overtime playoff goal, raced in on a breakaway. His quick snap shot from the slot beat Turco over the shoulder, but rang off the crossbar. The puck ricocheted into the left face-off circle, where Tyler Arnason drilled a shot under the sprawling Turco, but it slid just wide of the far post.
About two minutes after that, the Stars broke through to take a 1-0 lead on Petersen’s goal. After Matt Niskanen held the puck in at the Colorado blue line, Modano retrieved it at the top of the left face-off circle and fired a belly-high wrist shot that Petersen, waiting in front, deftly deflected down between Budaj’s pads at 7:57.
“When your linemate gets the puck, you just want to get in front of the net and create some traffic and that’s exactly what happened when Mo put it on net,” Petersen said. “Anytime you get on the ice with Mike Modano, it’s going to make your game better, he’s got such great vision.”
Dallas had another good chance with 5:22 left in the second as recently-acquired defenseman Andrew Hutchinson drilled a one-timer from the top of the right circle, but Budaj made a nice stop.
Just 1:20 later, it was Turco’s turn, as he denied Paul Stastny’s quick wrist shot from the left circle off the rush.
Leading 1-0 heading into the final period, the Stars held their opponents scoreless through two for the first time this season.
Petersen almost collected his second of the night just 35 seconds into the third, but Budaj made a tremendous toe save on Petersen’s point-blank rebound shot after turning aside Nicklas Grossman’s slap shot from the point.
Turco made a huge stop at the other end with 11:34 remaining, after Ryan Smyth’s slap shot from the high slot changed direction as it deflected off Darryl Sydor’s leg. Arnason got the rebound in front, but Turco, lying on the ice, snagged that, too.
The Avalanche, who outshot the Stars 13-6 in the third period, continued to press and Turco had to make big saves on Arnason with 5:05 left in regulation and on Stastny a minute later.
Then, just 36 seconds after an apparent goal by Stastny was waved off after a video review, Stastny collected the puck behind the Dallas net on his backhand and fed a quick pass out front to Svatos, who roofed it up and over Turco’s shoulder from in close.
“When you win a few games, you start to feel good about yourself,” Tippett said. “When you compete hard and find ways to win, your group comes together. Hopefully our confidence continues to grow.”
After getting a nice four-day break, the Stars will continue their three-game homestand with a date Wednesday against the Phoenix Coyotes (7:30 pm start, FSN).
- Petersen extended his scoring streak to four games (three goals, one assist), matching his career-high originally set in his rookie year of 2000-01 when he was with Pittsburgh.
- Modano, after his assist on Petersen’s goal, now has five points in the last four games (three goals, two assists). With his game-deciding goal, he is now 6-for-18 all-time in the shootout.
- Rookie James Neal led the Stars with five shots on goal, while Petersen was second with four.
- With the win, Dallas is now 27-10 all-time in the shootout.
- Ribeiro is now 2-for-3 this season on the shootout and 7-for-17 in three seasons as a Star.
- Rookie Fabian Brunnstrom had his first career shootout attempt, but Budaj made a nice glove save on his in-close backhander.
- The Stars continue to struggle on the power play, which went 0-for-3. They are now a paltry 2-for-37 with the man-advantage in their last eight games.
- Still short a forward, the Stars recalled center Tom Wandell from the Timra IK club in the Swedish Elite League. Wandell, expected in Dallas sometime Friday, will be at practice Sunday.
“I know him as a player from being at camps, we’ve always liked him, he’s an intelligent player,” Tippett said. “I guess this year, he’s gone over and played very well over there. Right now, we’re down in bodies because of the injuries, so it’s a good time to look at him. He’s played mostly center this year, but he is a versatile player that way, he can jump around.”
Wandell, 21, has scored 11 goals and 24 points in 28 games in Sweden this season so far, ranking in the top 10 in the league in both categories. He was the Stars’ fifth-round selection (154th overall) in the 2005 Entry Draft.
- The Stars entered the day sporting an impressive 9-4-0 record in their last 13 meetings with the Avalanche, dating back to the beginning of 2005-06, outscoring them 50-38 in those games, including a 5-2-0 mark at home.