Marty Turco made 28 saves to register his second shutout of the season, leading the Dallas Stars to a 1-0 victory over the Detroit Red Wings Sunday afternoon at the American Airlines Center.
In a nationally-televised game on NBC, Turco finally found a way to beat the Red Wings, earning his first career regulation victory - and second overall - in 16 decisions over Detroit, stopping several breakaways in the process.
The Stars are won their second straight game and are rolling along with a 9-1-0 mark in their last 10 games, extending their lead atop the Pacific Division to eight points, pending Anaheim’s game later on Sunday and maintaining the league’s second-best record.
Meanwhile, Detroit, the team leading the NHL’s overall standings, lost their sixth consecutive game (0-5-1) while starting a rookie goaltender making his first start of the season. Even so, they still hold an eight-point lead on Dallas at the top of the Western Conference.
But Turco, who won two NCAA national championships with nearby Michigan, had already lost once in Detroit earlier this season and carried a 1-9-5 career line against them into the matchup, so to defeat the Red Wings in such a fashion was sweet.
“I don’t really count, but I don’t think I ever beat them in regulation and still haven’t beat them up there,” Turco said. “They’ve been the one team that has had my number and it’s going to take me a while to catch up and that’s my goal.”
Niklas Hagman scored the contest’s only goal early in the third period, firing a rebound past Detroit netminder Jimmy Howard, making his first start and third appearance this season, after coming in to relieve Chris Osgood in the Wings’ two previous outings.
Overall, it was a solid defensive effort with everybody contributing.
“We were concerned about our energy levels, but today the energy in the game and in the building helped our guys,” Stars coach Dave Tippett said. “Marty needed to be good and he sure was. His record against these guys isn’t because he hasn’t been trying. He made some big saves today and played a great game. We needed that from him. Marty feels like if his game is on, we’re going to be fine and I completely agree with him. Hagman got the big goal and gave us that one-goal win.”
Center Mike Modano, who led all Stars’ forwards with 20:54 of ice time, noted that facing an inexperienced goaltender doesn’t change their mindset.
“Not really, the guys in front of him are still skilled and talented and they defend well, just as well as anybody,” said Modano, who grew up in the Detroit suburb of Livonia. “It goes for any goalie that we face, get traffic, shots, second, third chances, kind of hanging around the net, hoping that something goes off us and we’re able to cause some confusion on the first one and that’s exactly what - the result for Hagman, loose rebound, great bounce right to him.”
Heading into the third period scoreless, the Stars finally broke through at 3:13 on Hagman’s 21st goal of the season. After Howard saved Jere Lehtinen’s shot from the just inside the blue line, the rebound bounced right to Hagman just off to the right of the crease, and with Howard down, Hagman lifted it over the rookie netminder’s outstretched glove.
“On that one, (defenseman Nicklas Grossman) shot it, it got blocked and Lehtinen just threw it at the net,” Hagman said, “and they kind of forgot me on the back door, maybe took a little lucky bounce to the back door, right on my tape and it was pretty easy to put it in from there.”
Dallas then got a fortunate bounce less than two minutes later, as Tomas Holmstrom collected a rolling puck low in the left face-off circle, and rang it off the inside of the left post, ricocheting behind Turco through the crease and out the other side.
Just over a minute later, the Stars had another dangerous opportunity, as Howard turned aside Grossman’s slap shot from the top of the left face-off circle, and then thwarted Lehtinen’s rebound chance in front.
With time winding down, the Red Wings began to turn up the pressure, and Turco made a stellar play with 1:33 to play, diving out to poke-check the puck off Valtteri Filppula’s stick as he moved in alone.
Detroit then pulled Howard for an extra attacker with 55 seconds remaining, and very nearly tied it eight seconds later as Henrik Zetterberg passed out from behind the net to a charging Kris Draper in the slot, but Turco came up with the big save.
Turco then made a nice sliding stop on Johan Franzen at the right side of the crease with 33 seconds on the clock, and Detroit didn’t generate another good opportunity before the final buzzer.
“We are defending well, not allowing a lot and that has been our strong suit lately,” Modano said. “When we’re able to limit chances and opportunities, it really keeps us in the game and somehow, one way or the other, we’re able to pull games out as the game goes on. We’re able to find ways to win.”
The Red Wings came out of the gates flying, generating the contest’s first few scoring opportunities. First, about 2:30 in, Turco made a nice save through a screen on Filppula’s slap shot from the right point, but the rebound came out to Dallas Drake in the slot. Turco made an outstanding sprawling save on Drake’s wrister.
Then, 45 seconds later, Franzen stole the puck inside the Dallas zone, spun and fired a quick wrist shot from the right circle, but Turco kicked out the pad to make the save.
The Stars dodged a major bullet 5:25 in as Kirk Maltby stole the puck from Trevor Daley at the Detroit blue line and led Tomas Kopecky with a pass that sent him away on a breakaway. Coming in on Turco, Kopecky made a nifty move to his backhand and slid the puck under Turco, but it ricocheted off the far post and came out.
Detroit was outshooting Dallas 6-0 at one point, but the Stars began to push back. Their best opportunity in the period came with four minutes remaining when Hagman cut into the slot and ripped a snap shot that Howard made a big blocker save. By then, the Stars had recovered to the point of that they held a 9-7 edge in shots.
The Red Wings countered with 2:30 remaining as Pavel Datsyuk broke in alone on a partial breakaway, but Turco made an spectacular diving poke-check to knock the puck off Datsyuk’s stick.
After a scoreless first period, Detroit had a golden opportunity to get on the board first just 40 seconds into the second. Datsyuk turned on the jets and raced in alone on Turco, making a slick backhand to forehand to backhand move, but Turco made a fabulous save with just the paddle of his stick outstretched across the crease to keep it scoreless.
“He’s maybe the best at making moves in tight, making something out of nothing and it seemingly was,” Turco said of Datsyuk, the NHL’s ninth-leading scorer with 69 points. “For somebody to get a clear breakaway from the face-off dot it, you certainly don’t see that very often. He was kind of running out of real estate, so to speak, so I feel like that was the only move he had, to go to his backhand. You lay down the stick and hopefully, the guys are there to clean it up, which we did.”
“A couple of breakaways, they made nice moves, it looked like he read them perfectly on those,” Hagman said of Turco. “I’m running out of words to describe how Marty is playing - both of our goalies are playing so well.”
Turco then got across the crease quickly enough to make a big stop on Filppula’s wrist shot from deep in the right circle 5:15 into the second.
After the Stars spent a couple of minutes straight applying offensive pressure, the Red Wings counter-attacked and Turco made a big glove save on Franzen’s scorching wrist shot from the left circle.
About a minute later, Howard made a nice glove snag of Hagman’s snap shot from the left sideboards.
The Stars had another prime chance with 5:22 remaining in the second while on a power play, when defenseman Stephane Robidas, who scored two goals and an assist Friday night in Anaheim, slid a pass/shot towards Brenden Morrow in front. Morrow, with his back to the net, deflected the puck between his legs on goal, but Howard made a nice stop and then denied the rebound attempt.
Another prime chance for the Stars came two minutes later, as Steve Ott fed a pass from behind the net out front to Stu Barnes, but Howard made a big stop on Barnes’ one-timer, and then made an even better save on Barnes’ rebound.
With 30 seconds left in the second, Robidas took a stick in the mouth from Holmstrom, and went off to receive several stitches, although he wasn’t exactly sure how many.
“I don’t know,” said Robidas, who was back out for the start of the third. “I quit counting a long time ago.”
The Stars will now have a couple of days off before facing off with Calgary at the American Airlines Center on Wednesday (7:30 pm, my27) and hope to keep the good times coming.
“This has all been about winning, doing the right things, and no matter what, staying with it for 60 minutes,” Turco said. “And tonight was another great example of you never know when that one key play is going to turn into the difference-maker, and tonight we had it and they didn’t.”
- Hagman’s goal not only extended his career-high for one season to 21, it was his eighth game-winner of the year, tying him with Washington’s Alexander Ovechkin for the NHL lead.
- Lehtinen’s assist gives him six points (one goal, six points) in his last five games.
- With the victory, the Stars improved their record in afternoon games to 5-1-1 this season. Over the last four years, Dallas has fashioned a 24-6-2 mark in contests that start at 3pm or earlier.
- As part of USA Hockey’s ‘Hockey Weekend Across America,’ the Stars honored Jouni Lehtola as their Hockey Hero for 2008. Lehtola was the architect who kick-started the youth hockey program in the Metroplex back in 1993 after the Stars moved here, and has also served as a coach and administrator in several local youth hockey organizations. He is also the USA Hockey Coaching Director for the Texas Amateur Hockey Association, in charge of certifying local coaches, among various other youth hockey-related capacities.
- It hasn’t just been Turco struggling against the Red Wings in recent seasons. Even with this win, the Stars now have a 4-10-1 mark versus Detroit over the last four seasons.