The Dallas Stars began the 2007-08 season stretch run in fine fashion.
In their first game following the All-Star break and the first of a three-game tour of Western Canada, the Stars received a vintage performance from netminder Marty Turco, who made 29 saves to lead them to a 4-3 victory over the Vancouver Canucks Tuesday night at GM Place.
The win snapped a two-game losing streak and allowed the Stars to keep pace with San Jose, who defeated Edmonton 3-0 earlier in the evening, as the two clubs remain tied atop the Pacific Division with 63 points.
Dallas was able to take advantage of the fact that the Canucks did not have star goaltender Roberto Luongo, who skipped Sunday’s All-Star Game to be with his pregnant wife in Florida and remained there with her until he re-joins the club Thursday when they play in Tampa. Instead, Vancouver started backup Curtis Sanford for the first time in 18 days and he didn’t last past the second period, giving up three goals on 12 shots in 24:56 before being replaced by rookie Drew MacIntyre.
But goaltending was the story of this game, as the Stars received an excellent performance from Turco while the Canucks got sub-par netminding in their own crease.
“Marty was excellent,” Stars coach Dave Tippett said. “When we have three kids 22 and under on defense, we need our goaltender to be good and basically, he won the game for us tonight. He was the difference.”
“Luongo is one of the best goalies in the world so we weren’t disappointed he was in Florida tonight,” Modano said.
The Stars, ahead 4-1 midway through the third period, but gave the Canucks three power plays in the third period and managed to hold off a late Vancouver charge to come up with the triumph.
“We felt some rust yesterday coming off the break and we had a long flight, but we worked hard tonight and gained some valuable points,” Turco said. “It was important to grab some points in a game like this to start the trip. You know Vancouver’s power play is going to create chances and giving them so many opportunities was playing with fire. We were able to hang on and start this trip on the right note.”
With the score tied 1-1 heading into the second period, the Stars failed to score on an early power play, but on the very next shift, Modano connected for his 15th goal at 1:30. As Niklas Hagman sped into the Vancouver zone into the left face-off circle, he dropped a pass back to a hard-charging Modano, who blasted a rocket from the middle of the ice about 10 feet inside the blue line that whizzed past Sanford’s glove for a 2-1 lead.
“I was able to take a great pass from Haggy, walk in and put it past him,” Modano said. “This was a real good game coming off the break and we played a solid all-around game. We wanted to focus on the solid elements of our team game and we did that.”
“He was good,” Tippett said of Modano. “He’s a guy that the rest probably did him a lot of good. He’s a top player, but he plays top minutes and he’s not a young guy any more, so the rest, I’m sure, did him a lot of good and he was a factor in the game for us tonight.”
About 1:25 later, Krys Barch squared off with Jeff Cowan in a relatively short, but brutal, fight in which Barch clearly earned the edge.
Then with Dallas on the power play, Robidas notched his third goal of the year at 4:31. Just 15 seconds after Sanford robbed Loui Eriksson’s point-blank one-timer in front, Robidas blasted a slap shot from just above the left circle that beat a screened Sanford between the pads for a 3-1 Stars advantage.
The goal was just the Stars’ second on the power play in their last seven games and spelled the end of the night for Sanford, as he was pulled in favor of MacIntyre, who had just arrived in Vancouver that afternoon after being recalled from AHL Manitoba. With all of 27 minutes of NHL experience on his career resume coming in, MacIntyre performed well under the circumstances, making 10 saves on 11 shots in 33:48.
Shortly after that, things began to get physical again, as Mike Ribeiro flattened Vancouver’s Mike Weaver. Seconds later, Nathan McIver retaliated with a big hit on Ribeiro before captain Brenden Morrow stepped in, resulting in a fairly even fight between Morrow and McIver.
The Canucks may have taken some momentum from that, as they began to apply considerable pressure over the next several minutes. Turco had to make big saves on Henrik Sedin’s slap shot from the right circle 8:50 into the second, then denied Taylor Pyatt’s point-blank wrist shot 10 seconds later.
With 9:30 remaining in the period and Vancouver on the power play, Turco made a beautiful sliding save with the pads stacked to stop Mattias Ohlund’s one-timer from the left circle after he took a nice cross-ice pass from Henrik Sedin.
About 20 seconds later, Turco again thwarted Daniel Sedin’s in-close wrist shot, then made an even better save on Pyatt’s backhand rebound attempt.
The Stars had their first prime opportunity against MacIntyre with 7:25 left in the second while on a power play, as Eriksson drilled a one-timer from the right circle after he received a velvety backhand pass from Ribeiro in the right corner, but MacIntyre came up with an impressive blocker save.
Dallas continued to press, and Stu Barnes had a chance with four minutes left, as he tried to bank the puck from behind the net off MacIntyre’s stick. The puck rolled in the crease before MacIntyre smothered it.
Less than a minute after that, Dallas fans were treated to a sequence that demonstrated just how special a netminder Turco can be. After making a nice glove snag of Alexandre Burrows’ wrist shot from the high slot, Turco dropped the puck down and fed a quick pass up ice to Antti Miettinen leaving the Stars’ zone. Miettinen carried into the Canucks’ zone on a 2-on-1, with Ribeiro racing up the other side, opting to rifle a wrist shot from the slot, but it clanged off the goalpost and wide.
With the Stars leading 3-1 going into the final period, Vancouver quickly tried to reduce the advantage, but Turco made two big saves 25 seconds in. First he denied Sami Salo’s slap shot from the blue line through a screen, then made a big pad stop on Henrik’s point-blank rebound chance.
With the Canucks on a power play, the Stars extended the lead to three on Ott’s seventh goal of the season at 7:30. After Jeff Halpern carried into the Vancouver zone, he fed Ott charging down the slot, and Ott’s quick snap shot beat MacIntyre between the pads for the shorthanded goal.
Vancouver wouldn’t give up, though, and narrowed the lead back to two again on Ryan Kesler’s 13th goal at 11:10 following several Dallas turnovers in their own zone. Matt Cooke passed out from behind the net to Kesler in the slot, and Kesler roofed a quick wrist shot over a sliding Turco to make it 4-2.
The Canucks continued to press, and Turco came up with big saves after the Stars took a too many men on the ice penalty, stopping Ohlund’s wrist shot from the left circle with 4:33 left and then making a shoulder save on Mason Raymond’s one-timer from the top of the right circle 30 seconds later.
Ribeiro had a chance with 2:26 to go, but MacIntyre denied his booming slap shot from the right circle with a shoulder save of his own.
The Canucks pulled MacIntyre for an extra attacker with 1:30 remaining and just 10 seconds later, Naslund popped home his 17th goal to make things very interesting. After Daniel Sedin slipped a short, quick pass back to Naslund in the slot, he popped a snap shot past Turco’s glove.
About 15 seconds after the subsequent face-off, the Canucks pulled MacIntyre again, but were unable to generate another solid scoring chance, although Dallas nearly scored into the empty net. Miettinen shot from just over the Vancouver blue line, but a diving Henrik Sedin deflected the puck just wide with 39 seconds on the clock.
Overall in the third period, Vancouver outshot Dallas 11-6, but Dallas found a way to win.
“We had some breakdowns late that gave them a chance, but Marty was really sharp down the stretch,” Modano said.
“We had a couple mental mistakes that led to penalties down the stretch, but we overcame that and we’ll take the points and move on,” Tippett said. “We wanted to play a solid road game and we battled hard.”
The Stars had the game’s first scoring opportunity, as rookie defenseman Matt Niskanen, who skated in Saturday’s YoungStars Game, carried into the Vancouver zone 3:35 into the first, before firing a quick wrist shot from the right circle, but Sanford flashed out the pad for the save.
Sanford made a nice shoulder stop four minutes later on Eriksson, who was playing in his 100th career NHL game, as he ripped a wrist shot from the high slot.
About eight minutes into the period, Turco denied Daniel Sedin’s point-blank wrist shot from the right side of the crease.
With the Canucks on a power play with 9:20 left in the first, Pyatt re-directed Daniel Sedin’s slap shot from the blue line, but Turco again made the nice stop.
About 30 seconds later, as the Vancouver power play was expiring, Modano stole the puck from Canucks’ rookie defender Alexander Edler at the Dallas blue line and sped down the right side, with Daley joining him for a 2-on-1 rush. Modano then slid a cross-ice pass to Daley, who fired a wrist shot from the left circle, but Sanford made a nice sliding save.
Turco came up big with Vancouver on another power play with 6:20 remaining, as he stopped Edler’s deflection from in front of Ohlund’s long slap shot.
Then with 4:06 to go in the opening period, Dallas grabbed the first lead on Daley’s second goal of the season. As the Stars controlled the puck in deep, Daley drifted down into the right corner, collected a short pass from Morrow and charged the net. His point-blank shot from a sharp angle seemed to ramp up Cooke’s stick and flipped up and over Sanford on the short side.
So despite trailing the Canucks 12-5 in shots on goal, the Stars had a 1-0 lead. Unfortunately for Dallas, it didn’t last long, as Vancouver tied it with 1:22 left on Henrik Sedin’s 10th goal of the year. After Daniel feathered a pass out from behind the net to Henrik in the high slot, Henrik’s quick snap shot seemed to ricochet off Robidas’ stick and over Turco’s shoulder.
The Stars came right back with a strong shift as Modano fed Hagman for a scorching wrist shot from the high slot just 20 seconds later, but Sanford made a nice save to preserve the 1-1 tie going into the first intermission.
The Stars continue their Western Canada road trip with a date Friday night in Edmonton against the Oilers (8 pm, FSN) before heading on to Calgary on Saturday (9 pm, FSN). The Stars will again be looking to match division rivals San Jose and Anaheim as the stretch drive continues.
“This is the start, after tonight, we’ve got 28 games left,” Tippett noted. “We talked about it as a team this morning, that we have to put things in place for a strong stretch drive. The standings are very close and every point is going to be very valuable, so every game is that much more important.”
- Ott’s goal was his third in the last five games, and represented the first shorthanded goal of his career - in his 248th game. It was also his second game-winner of the season. Ott was also a stellar 7-1 in the face-off circle.
- Robidas’ goal was his second in the last four games and third of the season, quite an offensive explosion for a guy who went all of last season without one (75 games) and a total of 102 regular season on playoff contests until he got his first one this year on Nov. 8. He also delivered five hits.
- Modano’s goal and assist snapped a four-game pointless streak. He tied for the club lead with three shots on net.
- Norstrom’s assist on Modano’s goal gave him assists in consecutive games and was his third in the last four contests after registering just one in his first 36 contests this year.
- Ribeiro’s two assists leave him with seven in his last six outings, although he hasn’t scored a goal in nine. Perhaps surprisingly, Ribeiro registered a game-high six hits.
- Morrow’s assist gives him six points (four goals, two assists) in his last six games.
- Halpern’s assist gives him five points (one goal, four assists) in the last six games.
- The Dallas power play scored just its second goal in seven games, snapping a 1-for-29 streak when Robidas scored in the second period.
- Defenseman Sergei Zubov sat out his fifth straight game with foot and groin injuries.
- Winger Jere Lehtinen, who practiced the last two days and is getting closer to rejoining the lineup, sat out his 33rd straight contest with a sports hernia.
- Dating back to 2001-02, Dallas is now 17-5-3 against Calgary, Edmonton and Vancouver in road trips in which they have played all three teams, including 3-1-0 so far this season.