This was a game that the Dallas Stars might have lost back in October.
After leading 2-1 lead late in the third period, the Stars saw the New York Islanders tie the game on a power play with 2:38 remaining in regulation. But instead of surrendering and giving up another goal to lose, Dallas responded with some of their most determined play of the night and ended up defeating the Islanders 3-2 in overtime on Mike Modano’s second goal of the night.
It was the Stars’ sixth consecutive victory, a stretch in which they’ve now outscored their opponents 20-7, and extended their lead atop the Pacific Division to three points over second-place San Jose and four over Anaheim.
Jeff Halpern also scored, netting his 100th career goal and Sergei Zubov contributed two assists.
Marty Turco was back in the crease for Dallas after sitting and watching Mike Smith win four of the last five games, and despite a costly gaffe in the second period, delivered a very solid performance, making 23 saves for his seventh victory of the season.
“We knew they were going to come out hard, that’s their reputation, and we weathered that storm,” Stars coach Dave Tippett said. “Turc made a couple of good saves for us, and then it was a pretty good game.”
“At the end, they’re kind of ugly, they’re sloppy, but the goalies are giving us the opportunity and we’re finding ways late to get it done,” captain Brenden Morrow said of the impressive winning streak. “It didn’t look good, we got a couple of penalties late, gave them a chance to tie it, and then just got a break go our way. But we just keep hanging in there, hanging in there. We didn’t sit back, we tried to get out there and fore-check and not let them break out. That may have been something we didn’t do early in the season, but we’ve learned our lesson.”
After the Stars controlled the puck right from the face-off to start the overtime period, Stephane Robidas carried the puck into the Islanders’ zone and fired a wrist shot from the right face-off circle. New York goaltender Rick DiPietro made the save, but the rebound came out front right to Modano who was charging the net, and he popped it in for the winner after just 35 seconds of OT.
“You couldn’t have drawn it up any better,” Modano said. “I think that’s the most we’ve moved in overtime in a long time. Everybody moving and keeping their legs going and able to hold on to the puck is something that’s fun to see and it was fun to be a part of that one. Stephane and Zubie, and Niklas (Hagman) too, they get open space by their skating, the four of us moving, giving each other some good looks, and then finally a nice rebound came out to me.”
For Modano, his two goals give him eight on the season and six goals and 12 points in his last 10 contests Not coincidentally, his hot streak began the night he broke Phil Housley’s NHL record for career points by an American-born player, back on Nov. 7 in San Jose. This is much more like the Modano Stars fans have become so accustomed to watching over the years.
“I just think the point thing was getting beaten down, it was weighing me down,” Modano admitted. “I wanted it over with and there was a lot of pressure and stress to get it over with, but I think once it was over, it was the weight of the world lifted off. You just go out there and relax and have fun. You don’t have to worry about records any more, you don’t worry about it, you just play loose and forget about it. The last two or three weeks have been like that.”
“Mo was good,” Tippett added. “The thing you love about Mo is that he was digging into some battles, that winning goal is a goal that he beat somebody to get to the space and is a hard goal and Mo can be a real factor in games when he plays like that. He’s battling hard in games, he’s contributing a great deal to what our team’s doing right now.”
Entering the third tied 1-1, the Stars had the first couple of scoring opportunities of the period. Jussi Jokinen, controlling the puck along the goal line to the right of the net, slid a pass out to Stu Barnes in the slot, but Islander goaltender Rick DiPietro stopped his one-timer about two minutes in.
About four minutes into the period, Mike Ribeiro carried into the New York zone, made a couple of slick moves to cut into the slot, but DiPietro denied his backhand attempt.
The Islanders thought they took the lead about 30 seconds later when Mike Comrie threaded a pass out from behind the net to Chris Simon at the top of the crease and Simon one-timed it, but Turco closed his five-hole in time to stop it right in front of the goal line. The officials reviewed the video for several minutes before confirming that the puck never crossed the line.
The Stars then struck for the go-ahead goal, as Halpern connected at 6:07 for his fifth goal of the season and 100th of his career. Zubov had the puck at the right point and unleashed a wrist shot that deflected off New York forward Mike Sillinger’s stick and right to Halpern stationed off to the left of the crease. Halpern made no mistake, whipping it past a lunging DiPietro for the 2-1 lead.
“Zubie saw me, there’s no way he didn’t see me,” Halpern joked. “He knew there was a screen in front and threw DiPietro off, but me and Zubie have been working on that one in practice. (100 goals) is a nice mark. It would have been nice to get it a little sooner, but I think any milestone is nice to have in this league.”
Turco then made a nice save on Andy Hilbert about two and a half minutes later, as Hilbert swept around the net and threw a wrap-around attempt on goal that slid through the other side of the crease after Turco got a piece of it.
The Stars then dodged a major bullet with 6:20 to go after Turco got caught out of his net again with the Islanders on a power play. After making the save on Radek Martinek’s slap shot from the blue line, Turco put the puck back in play and attempted to clear the zone, but with the puck on his backhand, he flubbed the shot and it went right to Marc-Andre Bergeron at the top of the left face-off circle. Turco managed to scramble over and stop Bergeron’s shot, but then Miroslav Satan got it past Turco and the puck bounced into the crease, where Philippe Boucher swatted it away.
Then rookie defenseman Matt Niskanen was banished to the penalty box for hooking with 2:49 left in regulation and the Islanders struck almost immediately. Comrie won the face-off deep in the Dallas zone and after Turco stopped Bergeron’s slap shot from the blue line, the rebound slid out into the right circle where Satan pounced on it and ripped a snap shot over Turco’s shoulder to tie it just 11 seconds after the power play began.
Right after the puck dropped again, though, the Stars applied good offensive pressure and seemed to take back any momentum the Islanders might have gained from tying it up.
Robidas almost won it with just nine seconds to go in the third period when his booming slap shot from the blue line was snagged through a screen by DiPietro’s glove.
“Robi’s been solid,” Tippett said. “Robi and Zubie haven’t got enough credit. I mean, those two young guys (Niskanen and rookie defenseman Nicklas Grossman) are coming into some tough buildings, and we’re finding ways to battle through, but Robi and Zubie have really helped stabilize that and helped stabilize our group of defense.”
After a scoreless first period in which the Stars were outshot 12-8, Dallas had the first good scoring chance of the second, when Hagman broke into the New York zone on a partial breakaway, bu Brendan Witt pulled him down and was called for a holding penalty.
The ensuing Stars’ power play was short-lived, however, as just 15 seconds later, Zubov was forced to haul down Richard Park as he sped in on a breakaway. Park still managed to get off a shot that Turco saved,but Zubov ended up in the box.
As has been their custom lately, the Stars picked up their level of play early in the second, outshooting the Islanders 7-0 over the first eight minutes. Things looked even better for Dallas when former Star Bill Guerin, now the Islander captain, was whistled for holding at 8:01, and the potent Star power play took the ice.
But things turned sour quickly, as New York struck for a short-handed goal at 9:07. Islander defenseman Radek Martinek fired a loose puck out of his zone, and when it became clear Park was going to be the first one to it, Turco took off out of his net to try to beat him to it. But Park reached the puck first at the top of the right circle, cut wide around Turco and put it on his backhand to pop it into the empty net just ahead of a back-checking Zubov.
“That’s why he plays goal, not defense,” Tippett joked. “It’s just a bad break. The errors were made way up the ice before it got to Turco.”
“After I got out there, I realized who it was, I forgot about that guy, he’s got wheels,” Turco said of the speedy Park. “Normally, I’d just take him out, but I thought I still had a chance. You win some, you lose some. You can actually have a little chuckle when you get back to the bench. I didn’t realize who it was, that’s what I said, and they started laughing at me. Lately, it’s been our M.O., not letting us get too down, to a man or the team and just keep playing. Every game recently, we get better as the game goes along and you’re going to win more games than you lose when you play like that and have that mentality.”
Just as the Stars power play expired, Park had another prime opportunity, drilling a slap shot from the right circle, but Turco made the save.
It didn’t take the Stars long to tie it back up, as Modano deposited his seventh of the season at 11:37. Hagman controlled the puck high along the right side boards and then fed Modano breaking into the slot, and Mo ripped a wrist past DiPietro just inside the far post.
“He does look a lot lighter,” Turco said of Modano’s play lately. “I think it’s the little things that he does, that maybe he doesn’t realize are making him feel better about his game, probably. Now he can just go play. Just having a clear mind can only help.”
Through the second, Dallas held a 12-6 edge in shots while enjoying four power plays, but their PP unit, ranked second in the NHL, was unable to convert on them, including one to finish the period.
“I think we got a lot more confidence now than we did a month ago, that’s for sure,” Morrow said. “Our third, since LA (Nov. 10), it’s been one of our best periods, and when you’re tied up on the road going into the third period, we got a pretty good feeling that we’ll come out with some points.”
Turco would be tested early, after Trent Hunter intercepted a Stars’ clearing attempt inside the Dallas blue line about two minutes into the first. Hunter skated into the left circle and ripped a wrist shot that Turco stopped but left a rebound, and Hunter got off another in-close shot that Turco turned aside. Hilbert then got two more wacks at it before Turco managed to smother it.
Dallas countered about two and a half minutes later, as Hagman raced into the Islander zone, took a nice drop pass from Jussi Jokinen, then fired a wrister that DiPietro thwarted.
Turco made another nice stop on Satan’s fierce wrister from the right circle about 8:10 into the first.
Just past the midway mark of the period, Turco saved Sean Bergenheim’s blast from the left circle, then Park picked up the loose rebound in front, cut across the top of the crease and wristed a shot that a falling Turco snagged with the glove.
Turco made another big stop on Comrie’s one-timer from the right side after a nice cross-ice pass from Chris Simon with 2:37 remaining in the period.
Overall, Turco made 12 saves in the first period.
“It’s the way that we’ve won that has been impressive,” Halpern said. “And tonight, the first period wasn’t a good one for us and Marty kept us in the game and gave us a chance to win, but I think the way we’ve been able to get out of our own end and control pucks in the other teams’ ends have been, even if we weren’t winning these games, it’s stuff that you know you can build on. We’re proud of the winning streak but more proud of the way we’ve been playing.”
The Stars now continue their tour of the New York metropolitan area by traveling back across the Hudson River to face the New Jersey Devils Wednesday (6 pm, my27) at their new arena, the Prudential Center. It will be the Stars’ third of a season-high six-game road trip that includes every team in the Atlantic Division.
- Halpern scored his fourth goal in the last eight games, after collecting just one goal and one assist in the first 16 contests.
- Zubov’s two assists give him 17 points (one goal, 16 assists) in the last 13 games.
- Robidas’ assist on the game-winner gives him back-to-back games with assists for just the second time this year, and a total of six points (one goal, five assists) in his last nine outings after going scoreless during the first 15 games.
- Barnes picked up an assist on Halpern’s goal after going pointless over the previous eight contests.
- Morrow did not figure on the scoresheet, snapping his career-high eight-game point streak, during which he registered four goals and 10 points.
- Jere Lehtinen missed his third straight contest with an abdominal strain and is listed as day-to-day. Antti Miettinen sat out his second game in a row with a sore groin and is also day-to-day.
- The Stars’ red-hot power play, ranked second overall in the NHL, went 0-for-5 in the game. Despite that, the PP unit has been unbelievably proficient over the last eight games, converting on 10-of-26 opportunities (38.5 percent). Additionally, the PK unit, which is fifth in the league, has been on fire lately as well, nullifying 29-of-31 opposition power plays over the past seven contests after surrendering one goal on four attempts.
- Backup goaltender Mike Smith, who started four of the previous five games and won all four of them, including a 39-save gem Sunday afternoon against the Rangers at Madison Square Garden, was named the NHL’s third star of the week.
- With the victory, Dallas ended a six-game winless streak (0-4-2) against the Islanders, dating back to a 2-1 win on March 23, 2001. This was the Stars’ first visit to Long Island since dropping a 4-1 decision on Nov. 6, 2003.
- The last time the Stars won six straight was Jan. 23 - Feb. 1, 2006.
1 - 0 NYI
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 DAL
2 - 2 Tie