DALLAS - The game was there for the taking, and this time, the Dallas Stars stepped up and seized it for themselves.
Mike Modano scored the winning goal with 2:21 remaining and added an assist to lift the Stars to a much-needed 4-3 victory over the Edmonton Oilers Sunday night at the American Airlines Center.
The injury-depleted Stars, who added defenseman Sergei Zubov to the expanding infirmary with a lower body ailment, carried a 2-1 lead into the third period, but saw one-goal leads disappear twice before rallying for the win.
The game-winner was their second power play tally of the night after they went 0-for-21 with the extra man over the previous four games and was Modano’s 1,300th career point, which couldn’t have come at a better time.
“You don’t get to 1,300 points without being a great player and it’s great to see him score such a goal that’s very meaningful for our group right now,” Stars coach Dave Tippett said. “The power play, in essence - how many times have we seen it where we have a late power play and haven’t got it done and there’s one, we got it done, and it’s a difference-maker. I give our guys a lot of credit, they came back and they found a way to get it done. We’re looking for things to build on and we’re going to take that and build on it.”
“We hung in there and finally the power play was something to get excited about,” Modano said. “It finally won us a game, it’s been awhile, but hopefully that’s something to get our confidence going in that area of our game. But otherwise, finding a way to stay within the game, it’s been a real battle, it’s been a struggle at times.”
Dallas has now won two of their last three after a rough 1-4-2 stretch and advanced out of last place overall in the NHL, although they’re still in the Pacific Division basement.
In addition to Modano, Sean Avery, Toby Petersen and Mike Ribeiro also scored goals, while Brad Richards added two assists for the Stars. In goal, Marty Turco was outstanding, making 25 saves after getting pulled in his last outing Friday night.
“It’s funny how it works when you get into slumps,” Turco said, “then you turn it around and play a really good game like we did tonight, compared to the way we have been playing and it still comes down to testing your will at the end, with close plays, goals that are going in that could be devastating. We talked about earning our confidence, we talked about trying to relax a little bit. It was a sight for sore eyes to see a couple of late goals for our team go in.”
“We have some key people out and you’re going to scramble and you’re going to have to find ways to win games,” Tippett added. “That’s why it’s so important right now that we have everybody doing the job we ask them to do and if they do it well enough, we’ve got a chance to win. We’re asking everybody to do their share and probably the biggest guy, Turc made some good saves for us tonight.”
But it was the way the Stars hung in there after losing a 2-0 second period lead and watching Edmonton tie it twice in the third period, including what could have been a deflating goal by Kyle Brodziak with just 3:22 remaining.
“I think we gained a lot of confidence, we were resilient in the third,” Richards said. “We could have hung our heads, I think it’s happened in the past, it gets a little sneaky out there, we might lose composure, but we kept getting back and staying patient and we won the game.”
Leading 2-1 heading into the third period, the Stars surrendered the equalizer 4:21 in. Turco stopped Sheldon Souary’s slap shot from the right point, but Brodziak was camped in front and managed to swat the rebound past Turco and in.
Turco made a big save to keep the game tied with 7:33 remaining, as he denied Robert Nilsson’s slap shot from the left face-off circle.
Dallas then took the lead again on Avery’s third goal of the season with 5:09 to play. As rookie James Neal carried the puck around the back of the Oilers’ net and into the right corner, he slid a pretty pass out front to Avery, who quickly banged it past Edmonton rookie netminder Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers for a 3-2 lead.
But the Oilers responded less than two minutes later as Brodziak netted his second of the game with 3:22 left. After Brodziak beat Ribeiro on a face-off deep in the Dallas zone, he worked the puck back to Souray at the top of the left face-off circle. Turco made a blocker save on Souray’s slap shot, but Brodziak got to the rebound and fired a sharp-angle shot off a diving Turco and in the short side.
It looked like we were headed to overtime, but Souray was whistled for hooking with 2:49 to play and the Stars’ power play struck again. Richards controlled the puck in the right corner and fed a sweet back-door pass out to Modano sneaking into the left circle, and Modano drilled a one-timer over Drouin-Deslauriers’ shoulder, just under the crossbar, for the game-winner and milestone point.
“Richie made a great pass, flat, on the stick and I found a seam,” Modano said. “It’s been a great run and I’ve been blessed to have been around this long. The game has been very good to me and I can’t ask for a better organization or city I’ve had here in Dallas.”
“We thought he was all done with milestones and another one creeps up on us,” Turco said of Modano. “He’ll probably tell you the timing of the goal was the most important thing.”
Edmonton pulled Drouin-Deslauriers for an extra attacker with 20 seconds left and Souray had one final shot from the high slot with eight seconds on the clock, but it whizzed wide and the Stars pulled out the victory.
Dallas got on the board first when Ribeiro connected for his third of the season at 7:20. The Stars snapped an 0-for-22 power play drought with the goal, which came on a crazy bounce. Modano ripped a slap shot from just inside the blue line that Drouin-Deslauriers stopped, but the puck popped high up into the air. Drouin-Deslauriers didn’t know where it was as it came down on the back of his head, hit off his arm and fell into the crease, where Ribeiro opportunistically jammed it home for a 1-0 lead.
“It was a bad bounce. I batted the puck in the air,” Drouin-Deslauriers said of the play. “I needed to back up in my net. It was a bad bounce off my pads. When you’re lucky that hits the top of the net.”
“Did we draw up the first goal? No,” smiled Richards, regarding the PP unit’s success. “We had some patience, we got some shots through, sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But we had some good chances in front of the net a couple of times too. It worked for us tonight and we needed that to wake up.”
One of the longest fights of the season occurred 1:36 later as Krys Barch scrapped with Edmonton’s Zach Stortini, in a bout that seemed to last about five minutes.
The Stars extended the lead to two with 5:59 left in the period on Petersen’s first goal in a Stars uniform. Petersen was camped in front and made a nice deflection on Matt Niskanen’s slap shot from the right point, beating Drouin-Deslauriers over the shoulder.
Turco made a spectacular save just 45 seconds later to maintain the 2-0 lead when he absolutely robbed Ales Hemsky in front. Hemsky took a pass from behind the net and deked to his backhand, and with Turco down, had an empty net to shoot at, but Turco’s outstretched goal stick along the ice made the stop.
Turco made another huge stop 3:55 into the second to keep the Oilers off the board. With Dallas on a power play, Edmonton’s Ethan Moreau raced into the Stars’ zone on a 2-on-1 with Shawn Horcoff. After Moreau evaded the lone Dallas defender, Stephane Robidas, he fired a point-blank snap shot from the slot, but Turco made the stop.
The Oilers began to apply significant pressure midway through the period, and Turco was called upon to make another big stop with 9:20 left in the second as he snagged Souray’s bomb of a slap shot with the glove.
Edmonton finally broke through at 12:11 of the second on Hemsky’s power play goal. After robot referee Kevin Pollock whistled Nicklas Grossman for holding, the Oilers worked the puck to Horcoff in the right circle, who whipped a cross-ice pass to Hemsky in the left circle. Hemsky then fired a scorching wrist shot over Turco’s shoulder into the upper corner to make it 2-1.
The Stars now head north for two road games, starting with a date Tuesday night in Calgary against the Flames (8:30 pm start, my27), looking to finally string together two consecutive wins for the first time since last February.
- Modano is the 31st NHLer to reach the 1300-point plateau. His game-winning goal was the 88th of his 19-year career.
- Ribeiro’s goal was his first in seven games and the 98th of his NHL career. He also went 9-5 on face-offs for the night.
- Petersen’s last regular season goal came 33 games ago, on March 27, 2007 at Nashville, when he was still with the Oilers.
- Eriksson’s assist on Modano’s game-winner extended his points streak to a career-high five games (three goals, four assists) and gives him 11 points in the last 10 outings (six goals, five assists).
- Neal’s assist gives him points in three straight games (three goals, one assist).
- Avery snapped a four-game scoreless drought and scored for the first time in 11 games. He led all players with a career-high nine shots on goal.
- With Zubov hurt, defenseman Doug Janik got back in the lineup after sitting out the last two games as a healthy scratch. He delivered one hit and skated 9:22.
- The Stars now boast a stunning 10-1-0 record in their last 11 meetings with the Oilers, outscoring them 40-25 in that span, including a perfect 4-0-0 mark last season. Edmonton last beat Dallas on Dec. 8, 2006 here. Overall, since the Minnesota North Stars relocated to Dallas in 1993, they own a 42-9-5 mark against Edmonton, which includes a 22-4-2 advantage on home ice. That also does not include six playoff series between 1997-2003, of which the Stars won five.
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