Newly-acquired center Brad Richards dazzled in his first appearance in a Dallas Stars uniform, matching a franchise-record with a career-high five assists en route to a wild 7-4 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks Thursday night at the American Airlines Center.
It was an incredible beginning to his new chapter here with the Stars, becoming the first player since the Minnesota North Stars moved to Dallas to collect five assists in a game.
Meanwhile, Niklas Hagman finished with his first career hat trick - with all three goals set up by Richards - while Mike Modano and Trevor Daley each scored a goal and an assist. Loui Eriksson and Jere Lehtinen also found the back of the net and Antti Miettinen added two assists.
But this night belonged to Richards, who came over in the blockbuster five-player deal with Tampa Bay on Tuesday. Skating on a line with Hagman and Miettinen, Richards also manned the point on the power play unit and paired up with Modano on the penalty kill.
“It’s an exciting start, I was so nervous and I wanted so badly to fit in and keep this thing going,” Richards said. “It feels good that I came in and we didn’t get a loss. We got a win and that’s the main thing. It’s a lot of fun to play with these guys.”
“We talked before the game and he told me how he likes to work down low and cycle, and it worked really well,” said Hagman, who indicated his last hat trick came in his first exhibition game with Florida before the 2001-02 season. “He is more of a playmaker with a good shot and he’s a threat all over the ice. I was really happy to get the hat trick, my first in the NHL, maybe all of those goals, I had the easiest part, I just kept my stick on the ice, but overall, the game, it was fun to play. Obviously, he played well, we got some chemistry.”
The Stars won their fourth straight game, outscoring the opposition by a 21-10 margin over that span, and are rolling along on a 13-2-0 hot streak. The triumph edged them to within three points of Detroit for the NHL’s overall lead, while also extending their lead atop the Pacific Division to eight points over Anaheim.
Clearly, the addition of Richards has only enhanced what was already a solid team.
“He’s just a good player in all situations,” coach Dave Tippett said of Richards. “The biggest thing we talked about is he just wants to come in and fit in. He recognizes that we’ve got a pretty good team here, he wants to come in and fit in with our group. Tonight, he played all parts of the game, he played penalty kill, power play, that line with Hagman and Miettinen was a great line for us, gave us great balance throughout the game. All three of our top three lines scored in
the game, so that by-committee scoring, we’re going to need it spread around and that makes us hard to play against.”
The final score actually makes the game look a little closer than it actually was, as the Stars carried a 5-1 lead into the third period and had leads of 6-2 and 7-3 later in the period, but Chicago continued to battle to the final buzzer. Rene Bourque scored two short-handed goals in the final period for the Blackhawks, the final one with just 1:45 to go.
In goal, Marty Turco turned aside 25 shots to win his 29th game of the season.
“When you’re up 5-1, the game gets a little sloppy,” said Tippett, who felt the Stars tried to be too cute in the third. “I didn’t think that was anywhere close to Turc’s strongest outing, put it that way, but some of that sloppiness came from the way the game moved along. Scoring goals like the couple we got, it’s like playing HORSE - when one person tries something, everybody else tries it, too.”
Entering the middle period with a 2-1 lead, Dallas blew open a close game by erupting for three goals in the first seven minutes of the second, two of which were set up by Richards. Hagman’s second of the game put the Stars up 3-1 at 2:47, as he finished off a pretty three-way passing play (Richards to Miettinen to Hagman) as the trailer on a 3-on-1, with a wrist shot into a virtual empty net from the slot.
“Haggy’s going to the net hard and the one thing Brad can do, he finds him,” Tippett said. “Some of those plays he made were unbelievable. It’s good for our team to get some life and come out and play like that.”
Less than two minutes later, Eriksson connected for his sixth goal in the last four games, firing into an empty net after a slick cross-ice pass from Brenden Morrow in the left face-off circle, who received an even sweeter backhand pass from Mike Ribeiro in the left corner.
Then Daley completed the barrage at 6:34 with his third goal of the season, beating Chicago starting goaltender Patrick Lalime with a wrister over the glove after receiving another nice feed from Richards on a 3-on-1 rush.
“Some pretty goals, a great start,” Modano said of Richards. “Bringing in an elite player, he’s going to make everybody around him that much better and to worry about chemistry, I think talent and skill guys never have a hard time adjusting and coming in and fitting in on a team. If anything, they raise their level and everybody raises theirs right with them. Those type of players are few and far between that can make an impact like that.”
That fifth goal spelled the end for Lalime, who surrendered five goals on 13 shots before getting pulled for rookie Corey Crawford.
Morrow almost added another goal 9:30 into the second, as he took a nice pass from Ribeiro behind the net, then hit the far post with a scorching wrist shot from the slot.
Richards endeared himself immediately to his new fans, setting up Hagman for the Stars’ first goal just 4:57 into the game, tying the contest 49 seconds after Chicago took the early lead.
First, he received a nice ovation from the American Airlines Center’s overflow sellout crowd of 15,584 when he first stepped on the ice for a face-off 1:40 into the game, proceeding to win his first draw in a Stars uniform.
The Blackhawks struck first, needing just 42 seconds of power play time to capitalize 4:08 into the first period. After Turco saved Cam Barker’s slap shot from the blue line, Dustin Byfuglien, camped out in front, swatted home the rebound for his 13th goal of the season.
Then Richards helped the Stars even it up just 49 seconds later, as he set up Hagman for his 23rd goal of the season. Richards slid a perfect pass from the top of the left circle to a charging Hagman at the right post, who deftly re-directed it past Lalime to make it 1-1.
Less than two minutes later, the Stars nearly went up by one when Robidas blasted a slap shot from the blue line that clanked off the goalpost.
Dallas then did break through and take the lead when Modano picked up a loose puck at the top of the right circle, cut across the high slot and fired a fierce wrist shot over Lalime’s glove for his 18th goal of the season at 9:58.
“Steve (Ott) did a great job getting in there and causing a turnover,” Modano said of the play. “It came right to me, so I was able to get it up past Lalime, but it was nice work on those guys’ part just to get it to me.”
Modano almost set up another one with about three minutes left in the period, as he carried into the Chicago zone on a 2-on-1, slid a nice cross-ice pass to a charging Ott, but the puck bounced off Ott’s stick and went into the corner.
The Stars continue a three-game homestand Saturday night when Nashville visits the American Airlines Center (7:00pm start, my27). The Predators will also be scrounging for points, as they entered the evening officially in ninth in the West, but tied with Colorado for the eighth and final playoff spot.
Richards joked that he may have set the bar too high right off the bat.
“Hopefully I didn’t do too much, expectations are going to get too high,” he laughed. “I know it’s going to get harder, it was one of those nights that the guys were getting in the open. I just have to keep that excitement level up and who knows what’s going to happen. I’m just so happy to be a part of this and hopefully it keeps going.”
- The last Star to compile five points in one game was Modano, who picked up a goal and four assists on Feb. 10, 2002 at Anaheim.
- The others in franchise history to amass five assists in one game were North Stars defensemen Murray Oliver in 1971 at Los Angeles and Larry Murphy in 1989 at the New York Islanders, so Richards is the first forward to pull it off.
- Eriksson now has six goals in his last four games to double his season total to 12.
- The two points by Daley gives him four (one goal, three assists) in his last four outings.
- Modano now has five points (two goals, three assists) in his last five games and 11 points (three goals, eight assists) in the last 10.
- Modano's goal was the 525th of his career, moving him
past Hall of Famer Bryan Trottier into sole possession
of 29th on NHL's all-time list.
- Rookie defenseman Nicklas Grossman returned to the lineup after sitting out Tuesday’s 3-1 win over St. Louis with a facial bruise. He was + 1 in 16:19 of ice time. Fellow rookie D-man Matt Niskanen missed his second consecutive game with a bruised foot. He is currently listed as day-to-day.
- Defenseman Philippe Boucher made just his second appearance - and first at home - since returning to the lineup after a 38-game absence because of a shoulder injury. He earned an assist in 18:13 of ice time. “He’s got a ways to go yet, it’s been a struggle for him these two games,” Tippett said. “You can’t miss that much time and expect to jump back in, he’s still got some work to do, but he’s working hard at it.”
- Turco entered the night sporting a stellar 13-2-1 record over his career against the Blackhawks with a 1.65 goals-against-average and three shutouts.
- The Stars finished February with a 12-2-0 record, the most wins in a single month in team history. The previous mark of 11 wins were set in December of 1998-99 (11-1-3), January of 2005-06 (11-3-1), March of 2000-01 (11-2-2) and March of 2005-06 (11-3-1). The last NHL team to win 12 games in February were the New York Islanders in 1982 (12-1-1).