Brenden Morrow continues to lead the Dallas Stars and put his stamp on the club.
After scoring a goal and an assist in regulation, Morrow then connected for the game-winner in the sixth round of the shootout to lift the Stars to a 3-2 victory over the Vancouver Canucks on Tuesday night at the American Airlines Center.
Morrow’s goal against Canucks star goaltender Roberto Luongo stood up as the deciding marker after Marty Turco denied Taylor Pyatt on the next attempt, giving the Stars their fourth consecutive triumph.
The W extended the Stars’ lead atop the Pacific Division to four points ahead of idle San Jose, although the Sharks now have five games in hand. Meanwhile, the injury-depleted Canucks continue to struggle, falling to 1-6-2 in their last nine contests.
Turco, the NHL’s second star of the week last week, was outstanding in net again, making 22 saves, including five in the shootout.
Jere Lehtinen also scored in regulation for the Stars, while Mike Ribeiro recorded two assists.
In addition to Morrow’s heroics, the goaltending duel was the story of this night, even into the shootout, just like it was between these two teams last spring in the playoffs.
“These goalies are both very strong and they like the challenges,” Stars coach Dave Tippett said. “We are both teams that the goaltender is at the forefront of the action.”
“They’re just fun games,” Turco admitted whenever he faces Luongo. “He’s a great goalie, their whole game is built around him and for us to beat him, it’s usually not going to be pretty, they’re going to be tight games like this one. They’re fun games for everybody.”
After Jussi Jokinen scored on the opening shootout attempt, ripping a quick wrist shot off the goalpost and in, Canucks captain Markus Naslund, who scored both Vancouver goals in regulation, connected on the next chance to even the competition 1-1.
Then the goalies took over, as the next eight shooters were unsuccessful, although Vancouver’s Trevor Linden hit the post in the third round, leading up to Morrow’s selection.
“I got a couple looks on the bench, like, ‘Are you sure?’” Tippett said. “He is two- for-two now, that’s what counts.”
After observing how Luongo stopped Niklas Hagman previously, Morrow skated in and uncorked a wicked wrist shot from the high slot, wiring it over Luongo’s blocker into the upper left corner. It was just Morrow’s second career shootout attempt, and they’ve both been winners.
“I think I watched Hags and it looked like (Luongo) went down, was crouching down kind of low, so I knew I wanted to go high,” Morrow said of his shot selection. “I just trust that I’m going to hit the net better on that side than on the other, so it was as simple as that, just make sure I hit the net.”
“That was huge,” said Ribeiro of Morrow’s performance. “We need our line to create offense and play physical and Brenden was a great example. He had a goal and an assist, winning goal in the shootout, he’s the best example we can have here, work ethic, we follow him.”
Then Turco made a nice glove save on Pyatt to clinch the win, the 198th of his career.
Tied 1-1 going into the second, the Stars registered the period’s first legitimate scoring chance 4:40 in when Jokinen ripped a one-timer from the left face-off circle that sailed past Luongo, but clanked off the crossbar.
The Stars continued to press and surged ahead 2-1 on Lehtinen’s seventh goal of the season and first goal since November 9. With Dallas on a power play, Morrow slid a nifty pass out of the left corner to Lehtinen in front, and as he was knocked to his knees, Lehtinen managed to swat a backhander through Luongo’s pads and in at 7:11. In three games since returning to the lineup after missing 33 with a sports hernia, Lehtinen has a goal and an assist.
“Lehtinen is coming around, he is getting his timing back and he is getting more comfortable again,” Tippett said.
“Same old Lehts, always in position, he never makes mistakes, and he covers for you when you make them,” Morrow added. “He’s an all-purpose player, he does it all for us - penalty kill, power play - he hasn’t missed a step. He looks like he’s fitting in pretty good.”
The Stars got a scare just 30 seconds later as Turco was momentarily injured. After making a nice pad-stacking save on Mason Raymond’s point- blank wrist shot, Canuck Matt Cooke barreled into the crease, knocking Jeff Halpern on top of Turco. Turco seemed to hit his head on the ice and he remained down for several minutes before getting back to his feet and staying in the game.
“I just got hit straight on top of the head and at the very least, I’ll have a very sore neck and back tomorrow,” Turco said. “I just had an eerily-similar incident in the World Championship about five years ago and I fractured one of my vertebrae. Those are scary moments when you have the neck involved, but at this point, just wake up stiff tomorrow and move on with my business.
“I needed a quick moment to regain what I was doing. It was a pretty heavy collision, and once I realized I had mobility, it was only stiffness, of course I wanted to play on.”
Dallas poured on the offensive pressure late in the period, but Luongo made several impressive saves to keep it a one-goal game, first denying Morrow’s one-timer from low in the right circle with 6:25 left.
Less than a minute later, Luongo turned aside Loui Eriksson’s point-blank one-timer after he received a nice pass from behind the net from Jokinen.
With 4:43 to go, Luongo then mad a beautiful glove snag on Niklas Hagman’s blast off the rush from the left circle.
After keeping his team in it, Luongo was rewarded as the Canucks evened the contest with just 1:13 remaining in the second on Naslund’s second of the night. After Byron Ritchie fed a pass out from behind the net, Naslund skated across the top of the crease, faking Turco to the ice and then firing a wrist shot just under the crossbar. There was initially some question as to whether the puck actually went in and didn’t just bounce off the crossbar, but a video review upheld the goal.
Tied 2-2 going into the final period, Vancouver had the first good chance of the third 6:45 in, as rookie Jason Jaffray sped into the Dallas zone on a partial breakaway and unleashed a wrist shot from the left circle that Turco appeared to get a piece of before it rang off the far post and wide.
Dallas began to take over the territorial advantage fin the second half of the period, and Luongo once again was called upon to make some big saves. First he swallowed up Mattias Norstrom’s bomb of a slap shot from the blue line with 10:46 to go, then with eight minutes remaining, Luongo turned aside Ribeiro’s wrister from the slot after Stars’ center made a couple of slick moves to cut in off the left sideboards.
Trevor Daley then rocketed a slap shot off the rush from the top of the left circle, but Luongo made a sprawling glove save with seven minutes on the clock.
The Stars then had a golden opportunity to jump ahead with 5:05 to play in regulation as Antti Miettinen carried into the Vancouver zone on a 2-on-1. As he entered the right circle, he fed across to a charging Ribeiro, but his one-timer attempt shanked off his stick and went wide.
“Pressing, they had a young defense, a lot of guys from the American League, so it was to have a good forecheck and shoot some pucks,” Ribeiro said of the Stars’ objective in the third period. “I think for most of the period, we had the puck in their zone and Luongo kept his team in the game. It was a team effort, we still need to get better in some areas, but happy with the two points.”
Turco came up with a big save on Daniel Sedin’s wrist shot from the right circle with 3:15 left to send it into OT.
In the five-minute overtime, the Canucks had the only real scoring chance, but Turco made a nice glove save on Sami Salo’s slap shot from just inside the blue line, setting the stage for the shootout.
“It’s like that against them all the time,” Ribeiro said of the Stars’ close battles with the Canucks. “It’s tight, it’s a one-goal difference most of the games we play against them and both goaltenders are huge every game we play, All-Star goaltenders, we need those scrappy goals and those rebound goals and Turco kept us in the game and Luongo did the same on the other side.”
In a slow-to-develop first period, there weren’t any shots registered by either team during the first seven minutes until Turco kicked out a long slap shot from Alexander Edler.
The Stars almost got a fluky bounce go their way with 8:15 remaining in the period, when Stephane Robidas drilled a dump-in from center ice that ricocheted crazily off a glass support in the right corner and beelined into the crease. Luongo, who was on his way behind the net, scrambled back in front to barely knock it away with his glove.
Robidas was whistled for high-sticking 12 seconds later, and the Canucks capitalized on the ensuing power play to take the early 1-0 lead. Naslund drilled a one-timer from the right circle that beat Turco just inside the far post for his 18th goal of the season.
Luongo made a big save at the other end just 45 seconds later when he kicked out the pad to deny Daley’s slap shot from the top of the right circle.
Dallas evened the scored with 3:20 remaining in the period on Morrow’s team-leading 23rd goal of the year. After receiving a soft pass out of the left corner from Ribeiro, Morrow fired a quick wrist shot from the top of the left circle that banked off Burrows’ skate in the crease and past Luongo. The play was reviewed by the video goal judge, perhaps to see if Halpern, who was occupying Burrows, had kicked it in, but it was deemed a good goal.
“I still don’t know how it went in, I don’t know if it went in off Halpie or one of their guys,” Morrow said. “Talking to Halpie, he said if it hit him, he wasn’t making a kicking motion, so I didn’t think they were going to take it away from us. Usually, it takes quite a bit to reverse those if the referee calls it a goal.”
After just one game back home following a three-game road trip, the Stars go right back on the road to face Minnesota Thursday night.
- The Stars are now 5-2 this season in shootouts and 26-7 all-time.
- Morrow’s two points in regulation extended his point streak to four games (three goals, six points) and gives him seven goals and 11 points in his last nine outings. He also led all shooters with six shots on goal.
- Ribeiro’s two assists gives him a four-game assist streak, during which he’s collected seven assists.
- Jokinen’s goal in the shootout gives him a 2-for-4 record this season and 17-for-29 all-time in the tie-breaking procedure introduced in 2005-06.
- Center Stu Barnes, despite skating just 11:05 of ice time, was a stellar 11-2 in the face-off circle.
- The Canucks scored on their only power play of the night, snapping the Stars’ streak of nullifying 22 straight opposition advantages over the last four games.
- The Stars won their seventh straight regular season game over the Canucks at the American Airlines Center and are 14-4-2 in their last 20 regular season meetings against them.
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