NEWARK, N.J. - They thought they had this thing figured out.
With two of the NHL’s best goaltenders facing each other, it was Martin Brodeur of the New Jersey Devils who stole the show, fashioning a 5-0 shutout over the Dallas Stars Wednesday night at the Prudential Center.
Two nights after an inspiring 2-1 road triumph over the Rangers Monday night snapped a two-game losing streak, the Stars (2-4-1) stumbled again, dropping their third out of the last four games, a stretch in which they’ve surrendered 17 goals.
Marty Turco, second only to Brodeur in goalie victories over the last five years, didn’t even finish the contest, giving up three goals on 17 shots in just over 30 minutes of action before coach Dave Tippett inserted rookie backup Tobias Stephan in his place.
Stephan, making his third appearance of the season - all in relief - allowed two goals on 12 shots in 29:43.
“We aren’t playing well, right from the goalies out,” an upset Tippett said. “You can say what you want, we didn’t play good enough. We have to have the ability to bring an intensity level to win a battle. It’s about protecting the puck - things that we actually took steps forward the other night - and maybe we’ve got players we’re overrating, I don’t know, but we’re not getting the job done. It’s as simple as that. We expect a much higher level of play out of our group than we’re getting and that goes from compete levels to execution to mental toughness.”
“They worked for their breaks and we just aren’t working hard enough to make the bounces go our way,” added captain Brenden Morrow. “We all need to sacrifice, win battles and take the hesitation out of our game. Giving up five isn’t going to cut it and we have to play better in front of Turks.”
While the Stars did generate several good scoring chances, Brodeur made the saves when he needed to, stopping 21 shots overall to register his 98th career shutout and his 543rd career win, inching ever closer to the legendary Terry Sawchuk’s NHL-record 103 shutouts and Patrick Roy’s mark of 551 triumphs.
For the second consecutive game, the Stars fell behind almost immediately, as New Jersey struck just 1:59 into the contest. It was former Star Jamie Langenbrunner, now the Devils’ captain, who picked up a loose puck behind the Dallas net, stepped out into the lower right face-off circle and whipped a backhander that squeezed through Turco’s underarm and in.
This time, however, Turco didn’t respond with a heroic, outstanding performance the way he did in Monday’s win at Madison Square Garden. After surrendering two goals to Devils’ former Selke Trophy winner John Madden within an 82-second span, Turco was lifted.
With New Jersey holding an 8-1 edge in shots on goal through the first nine minutes of the second period, Madden accepted a pass from Paul Martin as he sped into the Dallas zone on a 3-on-2 rush. Madden blew around defenseman Matt Niskanen into the slot and fired a quick wrist shot past Turco’s glove at 9:05 for a 2-0 Devils lead.
Then, moments after Brodeur made a big stop on Morrow at the other end, New Jersey extended the lead to three. Turco stopped Bryce Salvador’s long wrist shot from the blue line, but left a juicy rebound that Madden gobbled up as he swooped in, stepped around Turco and popped into the open side of the net.
At that point, Tippett decided that Turco’s night was over and replaced him with Stephan.
“It is embarrassing and we need to get some things done,” Turco said. “I have to give these guys a chance and I didn’t do that tonight. I have to see pucks better, react better and just play better overall. We had some fire and energy early but we got in a hole and couldn’t dig ourselves out of it. Brodeur is all world for a reason.”
Dallas picked up the pace, outshooting New Jersey 7-2 over the last several minutes of the period. They had a golden opportunity on the power play with 3:35 remaining when Mike Ribeiro set up Philippe Boucher in front, but despite several whacks at it, Brodeur held the goal line and kept it out. The play was even subjected to a video review, but replays showed the puck never crossed the line.
Another big chance for the Stars came with just 30 seconds left in the second, as rookie B.J. Crombeen stole the puck from Devils defender Mike Mottau in the left circle, but Brodeur stopped his point-blank shot. As James Neal charged in for the rebound, Colin White cleared it out.
The Stars had another golden opportunity 1:05 into the final period on a power play, when Morrow behind the net fed a pass out front to Sean Avery, but Brodeur made a fabulous kick save on Avery’s one-timer.
Perhaps their best chance of the night came five minutes into the third, when Ribeiro intercepted an errant pass from White at the New Jersey blueline and raced in on a breakaway. Ribeiro made the deke to his backhand and tried to slip it through the five-hole, but Brodeur made the sprawling save.
The Devils made it 4-0 at 9:49 when Andy Greene ripped a slap shot from the left circle off the rush that Stephan stopped, but left a small rebound that Zach Parise popped past him.
New Jersey struck again less than two minutes later, when David Clarkson’s blast from 50 feet beat Stephan just inside the left post.
“We are playing one of the most disciplined teams in the league with the lead and you spot them two or three, it was pretty much an uphill battle the rest of the way,” center Mike Modano said. “They’re not going to give you much, but they are pretty deliberate the way they approach the zones with their puck movement. They were head and shoulders above us tonight in those categories. We have to get our legs moving and stop watching.”
“You need your goaltender to make saves, you need your special teams to work,” Tippett said. “You give up five goals on 20-something shots, you’re not going to win.”
The Stars conclude their New York-area tour Thursday night, heading over to Long Island to face the Islanders Thursday night. Please note that the game, which starts at 6 pm, will now be shown on FSN - so what it says on your pocket schedule has been changed.
Dallas will then return home for a date with Alexander Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals on Saturday at the American Airlines Center. That game, a 7 pm start, has a TV change as well - it will now be shown on my27 on HD.
- Winger Sean Avery was booed every time he touched the puck. It seems New Jersey fans haven’t forgotten his wacky antics during last spring’s playoffs when he waved his arms in front of Brodeur and later scored on him as a member of the Rangers. Brodeur, who refused to shake Avery’s hand in the post-series handshake, took the opportunity to pop him in the back of the head when Avery camped out in front of the net one time in the first period, with no penalty called, even though the referee was standing right there watching them.
Even so, Avery seemed to have a lot of jump and ended up leading the Stars with four shots on goal.
- Defenseman Stephane Robidas led the club with six hits, while Boucher logged the most ice time, 25:16. Boucher also blocked a team-high three shots.
- The Dallas power play unit went 0-for-4 on the night, leaving them 4-for-32 on the season overall.
- Center Toby Petersen returned to the lineup after missing the Rangers game to be with his wife Alexa, who gave birth to the couple’s second child, son Elliott. “It’s been a whirlwind three days here,” Petersen said. “You try to put everything in your life aside and work as hard as you can for the three hours you’re in here.”
- Crombeen got into his third fight of the season early in the third period, tangling with Salvador in a pretty even scrap.
- Brodeur now has 178 wins over the past five seasons, while Turco sits second among NHL netminders with 150. Calgary’s Miikka Kiprusoff (147), Vancouver’s Roberto Luongo (145) and Florida’s Tomas Vokoun (129) round out the top five.
- The Devils, who were 3-1-0 despite scoring just six goals in their first four games, have now scored nine in their last two, both victories
- In addition to the TV changes noted above, the Stars announced one more alteration to the schedule. Their home contest against San Jose on Dec. 29 has been changed from a 7:30 pm start time to 8 pm. Make a note of it on your schedule.