With a goal and an assist each from captain Brenden Morrow and defenseman Sergei Zubov, the Dallas Stars utilized their core players to the best of their abilities to win their sixth straight home opener Friday night, 4-1 over the Boston Bruins.
Dallas has now won every home opener since moving into the American Airlines Center in 2001, and has fashioned an 11-2-1 record in them since the former Minnesota North Stars arrived in 1993.
On a team that some questioned the decision by management not to add many significant pieces to, the core players already here did the damage, with impressive performances by Morrow and Zubov, as well as goaltender Marty Turco, who made 24 saves.
One of the few newcomers, however, is 20-year-old rookie defenseman Matt Niskanen, and in his second NHL game, he earned his first two points, both assists.
Stars 4, Bruins 1 PHOTO GALLERY
The Stars also received goals from Niklas Hagman and Joel Lundqvist in an all-around solid effort that was a solid rebound game after a disappointing 4-3 loss in Colorado Wednesday night to kick off the 2007-08 season.
“A lot of positive things again,” coach Dave Tippett said. “Like the other night, there are some positive things to build on and there’s also some things we have to work on still. I thought Turco had a bounce-back game, he looked solid for us. We had some people do some real good work again, we just have to continue to work on it.”
“We had a pretty good effort, played better as a team and we’ll take the two points,” added defenseman Philippe Boucher, who had an assist. “We made some good plays, gave Marty some support and it was a good start here at home. We had a great crowd that gave us a lot of energy.”
The Stars scored on the power play for the second straight game, going 1-for-4 after going two-for-three with the man-advantage Wednesday night in Colorado, despite not scoring on a 35-second two-man advantage late in the first period.
“We wanted to come out and be aggressive, do the things that we had success with late in the game against Colorado, and we took advantage of the power play when we had it,” Morrow said. “The 5-on-3, we didn’t score, but we created a lot of momentum with all the chances we had. We earned a big win tonight.”
Entering the final period ahead 3-1, Dallas continued to push the tempo and extended the lead to three on the power play 3:39 into the third. Zubov drilled a slap shot from the blue line that squeezed through Boston netminder Manny Fernandez just as Morrow cruised through the crease to create a screen.
Turco maintained the three-goal lead for Dallas with nice stops on P.J. Axelsson’s re-direct in front about a minute and a half later.
Less than a minute after that, Peter Schaefer, racing down the left side, ripped a wicked wrister from the face-off circle that pinged off the near-side post and skittered harmlessly into the corner.
Turco also made impressive saves on Glen Murray’s slap shot from the right circle with seven minutes to play and then again on Patrice Bergeron’s shot from the high slot with 4:49 to go that ended about a full minute of sustained Boston pressure in the Dallas zone.
The Stars then killed off two more Boston power plays in the final five minutes to seal the win.
“It’s a great sign, just in two games now, you’re starting to see little character assessments,” Turco said. “Coming from behind (Wednesday) when we didn’t have our best effort, which is going to happen and tonight, getting the early lead, sticking with it, everybody playing hard, and a little more jump and we can see how beneficial it is for us to play 60 minutes and then stay with it. It’s not always easy in the end, I know we’ve softened up in the past, it’s something that we’ve been working on.”
With the Stars leading 1-0, Dallas pushed its lead to two just 2:41 into the second period on Hagman’s second goal of the season. Jussi Jokinen knocked down a Boston clearing attempt just inside the blue line and chopped a backhand pass that hit Hagman in full stride cutting into the slot behind the Bruins’ defense. Hagman went across the top of the crease, deking Fernandez to the ice before his slid it around the fallen netminder.
“He’s a good player,” Tippett said of Hagman. “He’s quick, he’s a confident player right now. That line he’s playing on (with fellow Finns Jokinen and Jere Lehtinen), they like playing together, so it’s been a good line for us through the first two games. Hagman’s been the beneficiary, finishing off a couple of plays.”
Boston retaliated by starting a fight after the ensuing face-off at center ice, as Shawn Thornton challenged Todd Fedoruk and a lengthy heavy-weight bout followed. Each player appeared to land some solid punches, but overall it was about even.
Then immediately after the puck dropped again, Boston rookie Milan Lucic, playing his first NHL game, squared off with Brad Winchester, and another spirited fight ensued. Again, it was pretty evenly matched.
With Boston on a power play, Turco then came up with a big save, snagging Bruins’ star center Marc Savard’s sharp wrist shot from the right circle with his glove.
Morrow then made it 3-0 at 8:49 on a beautiful one-timer from the top of right circle that caught the upper left corner of the net over Fernandez’s blocker. Zubov made the play possible by lugging the puck up ice out of the Dallas zone, weaving through multiple Boston defenders in the neutral zone and then drawing three Bruins to him just over the blueline before dishing off a perfect backhand feed that Morrow blasted in full stride.
“I think that’s probably the farthest I’ve scored from, away from the net,” Morrow laughed. “I didn’t get all of it, and I actually had the same chance about three minutes later and I hit it where I wanted to hit the first one and I missed the net. Zubie’s kind of got the patience and he can drag people to him and make that backhand saucer play. Not a lot of guys can do that and have the patience to wait until the defender comes to him to make the play, but it was a heck of a play by him.”
With the Bruins on another power play late in the period, Turco then made two sparkling saves on Boston’s Murray, before they finally broke through with 2:01 left in the second. Schaefer had the puck just to the right of the net when he spun and slipped a backhand pass between his own legs across the top of the crease to Bergeron, who slammed it home from the left side.
“Penalty kill did a great job, despite getting that one goal,” Turco said of the PK unit that killed 5-of-6. “We were hemmed in there for almost the whole two minutes. It was a tough pill to swallow for that group, who did work really hard when they had to tonight, which was nice. Discipline has been a big key so far in a couple of games.”
The Bruins ratcheted up the offensive pressure after the goal, but the Stars, and Turco, weathered the storm without giving up any significant scoring chances before the period ended.
Boston had the contest’s first scoring chance, as Phil Kessel raced down the right side, taking an in-close wrist shot that Turco turned aside less than two minutes in.
The game was delayed for several minutes after referee Rob Schick got caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, getting crunched into the boards in the corner after a check was delivered. But like the players, he fought through what appeared to be getting the wind knocked out of him, and remained in the game.
The Stars’ best scoring chance early came with about six and a half minutes left in the first period, as Mike Modano sped into the Boston zone and unleashed a wrister from the top of the left circle that Fernandez absorbed into his mid-section, although he did look behind him to make sure it didn’t slip through.
Dallas did break through for the season’s first home goal soon afterwards, though, as Lundqvist notched his first goal at 15:19. Niskanen, in his second game, earned his first NHL point on the play as he slid a bouncing pass from the left point to Lundqvist in the high slot, who swatted a one-timer that zipped over Fernandez.
“I felt better again tonight and got the puck up to the good guys that can score,” Niskanen said. “I think I continue to improve and I know I need to but this whole time in the NHL has been a dream come true. The guys have been great and specifically Boucher has been so helpful to me and has been perfect for my style of play.”
“I thought he was very good again, he’s got some poise,” Tippett said. “There were some hiccups in there that any young defenseman is going to have, but he’s been a very solid player for us now. The first play, when he made the play to Lundqvist, was just a good heads-up play, finds an open guy. That’s just the poise he has with the puck. That’s instinct, and that’s why he’s a good player.”
Two minutes after his first assist, Niskanen had one of those hiccups, losing the puck at the Boston blue line to Bergeron, leading to a partial breakaway, but Turco bailed out the rookie with a big save on Bergeron’s wrist shot from the right circle.
Dallas missed a prime opportunity late in the period, as they enjoyed a 35-second 5-on-3 power play after Savard was whistled for delay of game when he shot the puck into the stands from his own zone, but despite several close chances, were unable to capitalize. Fernandez, once the backup to Ed Belfour here in Dallas, made a big save on Morrow’s deflection in front off Jokinen’s wrist shot from the right circle just 15 seconds into the advantage.
Then, just before the two-man advantage expired, Modano ripped a wrister form the high slot that Morrow once again deflected in front, but Fernandez was there, as he was on the resultant rebound that Morrow knocked out of mid-air.
“We got four tonight, it would be great if that happened every night, but realistically, that’s not going to be the strength of our team,” Morrow noted. “We know that and we need to make sure we keep the goals against (down), and if we keep teams to one goal, we should have a lot of success.”
The Stars will now travel over to Nashville for a game against the Predators Saturday night (my27, 7 pm) before enjoying three days off. Tippett said that Mike Smith would get the start in goal.
- Modano’s assist on Morrow’s second period goal was his 1,227th career point, leaving him just five shy of Phil Housley for the NHL’s all-time American lead.
- In addition to having won their last six home openers, the Stars are also on a nine-game unbeaten streak (8-0-1), dating back to 1997, when they lost to St. Louis 2-1. They haven’t lost a home opener since moving into the American Airlines Center in 2001.
- The Stars now have a record of 8-2-3 in their last 12 meetings with the Bruins. With his assist in this game, Modano has now scored nine goals and 27 points, most of any Star, over 28 career games against Boston.
- Hagman now leads the Stars with two goals and is tied with Zubov (one goal, two assists) for the team lead with three points, after two outings.
1 - 0 DAL
2 - 0 DAL
3 - 0 DAL
3 - 1 DAL
4 - 1 DAL
Hi stick - double minor