On a night in which Marty Turco played his best game, his spectacular performance was spoiled by his own unfortunate undoing.
Turco's gaffe with 28.3 seconds left in regulation was converted into Patrick Marleau's winner, as the San Jose Sharks defeated the Dallas Stars 2-1 at HP Pavilion on Saturday night.
The win was San Jose's ninth straight at home to open the season, and 14th in a row at the Shark Tank dating back to last year. The Sharks were also able to extract some revenge from last year's playoffs when Dallas ousted them in a thrilling six game, second-round series.
Turco's mishandle of a routine dump-in by Sharks defenseman Brad Lukowich just a couple of feet in front of the Dallas net allowed Marleau to steal it away and tap it home before a sprawling Turco could recover. Turco appeared to have wanted to clear the puck through the slot before he began to bobble it.
"I was on the good end of a nice bounce, and I was fortunate to put it in," Marleau said. "We still had a little bit of a bitter taste in our mouth (from last year) so it was good to get the win."
"It's self explanatory," a distraught Turco said. "Generally, I let them dictate the play and I shouldn't be going high over the middle. To make matters worse, I knocked it into the net. I don't know what I was thinking."
Loui Eriksson scored the lone goal for Dallas, which failed in its bid to win consecutive games for the first time since February.
"(Turco) played a very good game," coach Dave Tippett said. "It was a hard fought game and we played well. But in the end we made a mistake that cost us."
Other than the game-changing giveaway, Turco was simply spectacular in the net, giving the Stars an opportunity to stay in a contest that easily could have gotten away from them. The Sharks jumped on Dallas fast, and set an upbeat and physical tone early on. Through the first two periods, the Sharks outshot the Stars by a 19-12 margin, but only led 1-0 thanks to Turco.
Turco finished with 31 saves.
"We have no regrets," captain Brenden Morrow said. "Marty played a heck of a game and made some critical saves against an elite team. It's unfortunate that he couldn't get the win."
Dan Boyle scored San Jose's other goal, and backup goalie Brian Boucher, playing for the injured Evgeni Nabokov, made 23 saves to win his third game of the year. Boucher is now 5-0 since signing with the Sharks in February, and was coming off two shutout wins in his other starts this year.
"Last year with the playoff loss to them it was pretty fresh in our mind," Boucher said. "They're a division opponent, so it was nice to get this win. We struck first, kept the lead for most of the game, and maybe that kept them on their heels."
Down by a goal after two periods, Eriksson knotted it at 1 with his sixth of the year 3:41 into the third. After Steve Ott's wicked slap shot from the slot went off the end boards, Eriksson was able to corral the ricochet and shovel the puck into the net behind Boucher.
The goal snapped Boucher's 163 minute, 37 second shutout sequence, and gave the Stars some instant energy, as they suddenly found their legs and began buzzing around the San Jose zone.
During a five-minute span following Eriksson's goal, the Stars began to take the game away from the Sharks, but Boucher was there to thwart golden opportunities by Mike Modano and Sean Avery.
Turco, meanwhile, kept the Stars alive with splendid saves on Joe Thornton and Marleau late in regulation.
"It would've been huge for our team confidence and growing, but there's nothing for us to hang our heads about," Turco said. "We have to look at the big picture and continue making steps. There is a sting in losing tonight, but we have to continue playing like we did."
Turco preserved the 1-0 deficit midway through the second with an amazing save on Thornton. After skating around the net, San Jose's big center whipped a backhand at Turco, who made the original save before the puck bounced up and behind him. But Turco amazingly swatted it away when he flung his left arm behind his back like a contortionist.
Turco added to his impressive second-period resume with dandy saves on Thornton again and Devin Setoguchi as well.
Boyle scored the only goal of the first period, netting his third of the year at 7:13 of the first period. Boyle was the beneficiary of a pretty tic-tac-toe passing play that also featured Thornton and Marleau, and his wrist shot from the right circle went off Turco's glove and into the net.
"You learn from adversity and we are learning our fair share," Tippett said. "We have to get points out of a game like this, bottom line."
The Stars will cap their five-game road trip on Tuesday when they play at the Los Angeles Kings (9:30, FSN). The Kings defeated St. Louis on Saturday to win their second straight.
"It's a tough trip out west here, and it's disappointing to not get a point tonight after playing so well," Morrow said. "You have to earn every point you can and pay the price."
-- Forward Jere Lehtinen continues to be sidelined with a groin injury and has missed all 14 games this season.
-- Nicklas Grossman sustained a bloody nose after Thornton rammed him into the boards in the Dallas zone in the second period. Thornton was whistled for a boarding penalty on the play.
-- B.J. Crombeen and Ryane Clowe got into a spirited bout in the first period, with Crombeen ending the fracas with a devastating right to Clowe's jaw.
-- Ott has four points in his last five games.
-- Eriksson has seven points in his last seven games.
-- Dallas has earned points in seven of its last nine games played in San Jose.
-- The Stars fell to 3-6 on the road.
-- Dallas was 0-for-4 on the power play, while the Sharks went 0-for-3 with the man advantage.
1 - 0 SJS
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 SJS