It seems that the Dallas Stars’ New Year’s slump is a thing of the past.
After suffering through a season-long four-game losing streak, the Stars won their second in a row by grinding out a tough 3-1 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks Wednesday night at the United Center.
In the first match of a five-game road trip, the Stars looked solid in all aspects of the game, and even got a goal on the power play, snapping a seven-game 0-for-24 man-advantage drought. Mike Modano led the way offensively with three assists, while Loui Eriksson (on the PP), Stu Barnes (short-handed) and captain Brenden Morrow (into an empty net) each found the back of the net.
The Blackhawks, who played the night before in Montreal and didn’t get back to Chicago until very early Wednesday morning, had their winless streak extended to seven (0-5-2).
“This was a hard working road game and I liked the way we responded,” Stars coach Dave Tippett said. “We wanted to play hard and make it tough on them, after they got in late last night.”
The Stars ascended back into sole possession of first place in the Pacific Division - and second in the Western Conference - with 54 points, although the Sharks have four games in hand.
Marty Turco was excellent in goal, making 17 saves, and also thwarting a penalty shot in the second period, the ninth of his career.
“We are starting to get back to playing the way we’re capable of, which is good to see,” Turco said. “We know that to win, we need to show hard work and dedication and we need to play as a team. Chicago is an energetic young team who is tough to play against, and it’s nice to grab the two points to start this long trip.”
With the teams even at 1-1 going into the third, Chicago had the first good chance of the period just over four minutes in, with Dallas on a power play. The Blackhawks, who lead the NHL with 12 short-handed goals, almost got another one when rookie Adam Burish stole the puck from Mike Ribeiro at the Chicago blue line and sped in on a breakaway. He made a wide move to his forehand, but a sliding Turco made a nice pad save to force it wide.
Chicago had another big opportunity just prior to the midway point of the period, as Patrick Sharp, who leads the Blackhawks with 21 goals, accepted a nice cross-ice pass from Dustin Byfuglien, spun around in the slot and slid a backhander that a scrambling Turco stopped with the outstretched paddle of his goalie stick.
About a minute later, Antti Miettinen fed a quick pass out from the left corner to Ribeiro alone in front, but Blackhawks netminder Nikolai Khabibulin made a big save on Ribeiro’s point-blank one-timer.
Then, with Chicago on the power play, Khabibulin made a nice stop on Steve Ott, who carried the puck all the way around the net before swinging out at the right post and firing a quick wrist shot.
About 30 seconds after that, the Stars, still killing off a Morrow hooking penalty, got the eventual game-winning on Barnes’ sixth of the year. Modano retrieved a loose puck in the right corner and fed it back to Barnes at the Chicago blue line, and the 37-year-old veteran drilled a slap shot that ricocheted off Khabibulin’s stick and just inside the far post. It was a shot that Khabibulin, who’d been brilliant all night in making 27 saves, would undoubtedly love to have back.
It was Barnes’ second short-handed goal of the season and the 11th of his career, and with just 6:04 remaining in regulation, stood up as the game-winner.
“Stu plays meaningful, valuable minutes for us and that was a huge goal,” Tippett said. “It was the turning point in the game against a goalie we thought was very good.”
The Blackhawks pulled Khabibulin for an extra attacker with 1:05 to go, but was never able to apply any significant pressure in the Dallas zone.
Finally, with 18 seconds on the clock, Modano won a battle for the puck along the boards and chipped it out to Morrow in the neutral zone, and after gaining the center red line, Morrow slid it down the ice into the empty net for the clincher.
Tied 1-1 after one, the Stars’ number one-ranked penalty killing unit rebounded from giving up a goal in the first period to nullify two consecutive ‘Hawk power plays early in the second period, including a 16-second 5-on-3.
The Stars dodged a bullet with 8:13 left in the period when Chicago rookie Patrick Kane, the first overall draft pick last June, stole the puck from Sergei Zubov at the Blackhawk blue line and raced in on a breakaway. Zubov hooked him several times along the way, and after Kane couldn’t control the puck in front to complete the deke, the officials awarded him a penalty shot.
Kane, taking his first career penalty shot, skated in on Turco, faked him out with a quick move to his backhand, but flipped the shot wide. It was the 10th career penalty shot faced by Turco and the ninth he thwarted.
Dallas responded with two outstanding scoring chances of their own just 30 seconds later, but were denied each time by Khabibulin. Morrow dished a nice pass from behind the net to Ribeiro in the slot, but Khabibulin flashed out the pad to stop Ribeiro’s bang-bang one-timer. Seconds later, Nicklas Grossman ripped a slap shot from the blue line that Khabibulin somehow managed to save with the shaft of his stick just above the blocker through a screen.
With 2:48 to go in the second, Trevor Daley took a cross-ice pass from Miettinen and fired a scorching wrist shot from the right circle that Khabibulin made an impressive shoulder save on.
Morrow had another big chance denied with the Stars on the power play with 1:25 left. Ribeiro fed a slick pass out of the right corner to Modano in front, and Modano made a soft touch-pass over to Morrow just to the left of the crease, but Khabibulin again made a huge pad save on Morrow’s one-timer.
Having controlled most of the play in the second, Dallas ended up outshooting the Blackhawks 13-5 in the period.
The Blackhawks took the early lead 6:09 into the first period on Robert Lang’s second goal in as many games with Modano in the penalty box for hooking. Duncan Keith launched a quick wrist shot from the blue line that Lang, camped in front of the net, deftly re-directed through Turco’s pads.
The Stars’ big line had two prime opportunities just past the midway point of the period. First, Morrow fed a nice behind-the-back backhand pass from behind the net to Ribeiro, who cut across the top of the crease before Khabibulin made a pad save. Seconds later, Ribeiro passed out from behind the net to Morrow in front for a one-timer that Khabibulin turned aside.
Khabibulin also made a nice stop on Ribeiro’s one-timer from the right circle on a power play with 7:42 remaining in the first.
With 5:15 left and Chicago on their second power play of the game, Kane ripped a wrist shot from the right circle that clanged off the near-side post and fell harmlessly into the corner.
The Stars tied it up on their second power play of the game, snapping the 0-for-24 streak going back seven games. The goal was set up by an incredible second-effort play by Modano, who dove along the Chicago blue line to poke the puck away from Lang and keep it in the zone - not only preventing a breakaway against Turco, but leading to Eriksson getting it in the right corner.
Eriksson then charged the net, sidestepping around Blackhawk defender Brent Seabrook and shoveling a shot that banked off the side of the goal and right back to him as Khabibulin fell to his knees. That allowed Eriksson to pick up his own rebound and pop it through the five-hole for his fourth goal of the season, with just 1:33 to go in the period.
“That whole series of that one power play, it was kind of bouncing around, it’s late in the period, the ice isn’t very good, so I was kind of lucky to keep both those pucks in,” Modano said. “Then a couple of soft ones on Khabibulin, but we’ll take those.”
The Stars get right back on the road and travel to St. Louis for a date Thursday night with the Blues (7:30 pm, FSN). It will be the teams’ first meeting since the Stars won 5-4 in a thrilling shootout at the American Airlines Center Dec. 29 despite Paul Kariya’s third period hat trick.
“This was a good way to get this trip started,” Modano said. “We have a lot of work, a long time on the road, so it’s always nice to get the first one, everybody feeling good - hopefully, it overflows into tomorrow in St. Louis.”
- Turco stopped his ninth straight penalty shot, having only allowed the first one he faced, to Mike Fisher of Ottawa back on Dec. 5, 2001.
Turco also improved his career record against Chicago to 13-2-1, with a minuscule 1.65 goals-against average and three shutouts - and those numbers include his last outing against them on Oct. 31 when he surrendered three goals on 21 shots before getting pulled in the second period. He did not get the decision in the 5-4 loss.
- Barnes, who had just one goal in his first 36 games, is now on fire, notching his fifth in the last nine games. It was his second game-winner of the year and his second short-handed goal, marking the first time since the 2000-01 season he’s collected more than one in a season and matching his career high in that category.
- Barnes’ goal was also the Stars’ seventh shorthander of the season, after they recorded just three in all of 2006-07.
- Eriksson’s goal was his fourth of the season - and third in his last eight games. He had three shots on goal and even blocked two shots in 16:26 of ice time.
- Morrow’s empty-net goal was his third point (one goal, two assists) in the last two games after going four (all losses - not a coincidence) without a point. He also fired a game-high six shots on goal.
- Ribeiro, in his second game after signing the big contract extension, did not register a point, but he did register a season-high five shots on goal.
- Zubov, who entered the night with just one assist in his previous six contests, picked up his team-leading 31st of the season on Barnes’ goal. He also once again led Dallas in ice time, logging 27:37.
- Chicago’s Jason Williams, who was named the first star in both previous meetings between the clubs this season, scoring three of his seven goals on the season in those games, sat out his 19th straight game with a strained groin.
- The Blackhawks’ other super-rookie, Jonathan Toews, missed his fifth consecutive game after suffering a sprained knee on Jan. 1. He’s expected to be out another three weeks.
- Chicago defenseman Jordan Hendry made his NHL debut. He was whistled for a hooking penalty early in the third period and had one shot on goal in 13:29 of ice time.