Maybe it was the juggling of the lines, the lightning quick start, the sense of urgency after momentarily falling out of first place in the Pacific Division, or the general frustration following three consecutive defeats. Whatever it was, there's no denying it resoundingly worked for the Dallas Stars on Sunday night.
Marty Turco had 19 saves to record his third shutout of the season, and 33rd of his career, Brad Richards added a goal and assist, and Stu Barnes and Stephane Robidas each contributed a goal as the Stars avenged Saturday's loss to Colorado with an impressive 3-0 win over the Avalanche at American Airlines Center.
With the win, the Stars leapfrogged San Jose and back into first place in the division after the Sharks had taken a brief one-point lead with a 3-2 shootout win over Minnesota earlier in the day. San Jose, which has won nine straight, has three games in hand.
"It feels good after a few losses in a row, so it's good to get back on track," said Richards, who recorded a multi-point game for the second time in four games since joining the Stars at the trade deadline. "I knew tonight was a big game, and it was good to get a lead and keep pushing."
After three lethargic games in which they had scored just one goal in each of the losses, the Stars weren't in the mood to suffer another setback. Instead, they seized control early in this one, setting the tone with a ferocious opening 20 minutes that saw them score two goals in the first five minutes of the game while allowing just one shot overall on Turco.
And when Steve Ott used Colorado defenseman Ruslan Salei's head for a punching bag four minutes after Trevor Daley jumped Kurt Sauer after Sauer roughed up Richards eight minutes into the game, the outcome had arguably already been decided despite what the scoreboard said at the time.
"They outplayed us and outbattled us yesterday," Robidas said. "Our identity is to win our battles, put one or two in the net, and then I like our chances. The standings are very tight, and it's hard to not look at them. Marty played great again tonight and gave us that chance to win."
Coach Dave Tippett also had a big hand in the win, as he went into the laboratory to cook-up some new triumvirates. The scientist broke up the high-flying trio of Mike Ribeiro, Brenden Morrow and Loui Eriksson, and put together a top line that consisted of Mike Modano, Richards and Morrow.
Ribeiro then anchored Niklas Hagman and Antti Miettinen, while Ott centered Jere Lehtinen and Eriksson.
"I like playing the off-wing so I can see the ice better, and it worked out good tonight," Richards said. "Tonight was more of our type of game, and we know this is how we are capable of playing."
The freshly-minted line of Modano, Richards and Morrow combined for five points.
"We needed our leaders to step up and play well, and they did just that tonight," Tippett said. "We showed the desperation you need. We wanted our best players to have an impact on the game, and tonight showed what we need this time of year."
Turco, meanwhile, was making his fifth consecutive start, and he blanked an opponent for the second time in less than a month.
"It was solid all around work," he said. "It's a level of commitment we need every night. Regardless of one shot or five, it was an indication of the hard work we were doing in the first."
Colorado goalie Jose Theodore allowed three goals on 21 shots before being lifted at the start of the third period for backup Peter Budaj. Budaj had five stops in relief for the red-hot Avalanche, who came in boasting a season-high six-game winning streak but were without the services of Peter Forsberg, who was scratched because of a groin injury.
"A win is a win no matter who is playing, and they're all important," Barnes said. "We knew what we had to do and that meant a solid effort. We wanted to play better than we did yesterday. We wanted to work hard and we did that. Marty played great."
Richards scored his first goal for Dallas since being acquired from Tampa Bay just under seven minutes into the second period to ice the game for the Stars. He converted a nifty passing play off the rush that included Modano and Morrow, one-timing a shot past Theodore from the right circle for a 3-0 edge.
"It was an all around better effort and what we need every game," Turco said. "We need to gain some momentum as the playoffs approach."
Dallas opened the scoring on Barnes' goal just as Salei's penalty expired under four minutes into the game. Twenty seconds after Trevor Daley was robbed by a spectacular save by Theodore, Barnes wasn't denied when his rebound of Daley's original shot from the right circle squirted between the left post and Theodore's right toe.
It was Barnes' ninth of the season, and first in 15 games.
Robidas doubled Dallas' advantage 89 seconds later with his seventh of the year, blasting a slap shot from the middle of the blueline past Theodore, who never saw the shot thanks to a screen by Morrow.
"The situation we were in, with three losses in a row and not playing well, we had to check well starting from our top players," Tippett said. "That's a good lesson for our guys. Last night to tonight, we checked our way to chances."
The Stars will head to Detroit to play the league-leading Red Wings on Thursday night (6:30 p.m., my27). It's the final meeting between the two rivals, with the Red Wings winning two of the first three contests.
"We want to be playing our best hockey going into the playoffs," Ott said. "San Jose and Anaheim keep winning, and we have to do the same. The schedule is tough the rest of way, and it that starts at Detroit on Thursday."
Detroit has gotten three of its four injured defenseman back in recent days, as Brian Rafalski, Nicklas Lidstrom and Niklas Kronwall have all returned from their ailments. Chris Chelios, though, is still sidelined with a chipped fibula.
"The playoffs are coming and we want to be ready," Barnes said. "We wanted to put an end to the losing streak."
--Defenseman Matt Niskanen was scratched after aggravating his bothersome foot injury in Saturday's game.
--Defenseman Dan Jancevski was recalled from Iowa of the AHL on an emergency basis, and was inserted into the lineup.
--Modano had two assists, giving him 751 career NHL helpers.
--Turco reached 30 wins for the fifth straight time, while his last shutout was a 1-0 win over Detroit on Feb. 17.
--Richards is now two points shy of 500 for his NHL career.
--Robidas set a new career high in goals, eclipsing the six he scored with Montreal in 2000-01.
--Theodore dropped to 0-6 with a tie in seven career starts at Dallas.
--The Stars killed off all four Colorado power plays.
--The Stars had never shut out the Avalanche since moving to Dallas in 1993.