Securing three victories in a row for the first time this season is certainly an accomplishment for the Dallas Stars after their miserable start in October. How they did it, though, was more impressive.
Continuing a hot streak that has helped them climb out of the depths of the Western Conference and into serious playoff contention, the Stars soundly defeated their nemesis, the Detroit Red Wings, 4-2 at Joe Louis Arena on Thursday night in a spirited affair that left the Stars with the satisfying taste of finally hitting the consecutive-win trifecta.
"We are building some chemistry and starting to click," said Steve Ott, who led the way offensively with a goal and assist. "This is a tough building to win in, and that's makes it that much sweeter."
Jere Lehtinen, Chris Conner and Loui Eriksson also scored, and Brad Richards and Mike Modano each added a pair of assists for the surging Stars (22-18-7), who earned their fourth win in five games to join a five-team logjam for the final two playoff slots in the West. Dallas, Minnesota, Edmonton, Columbus and Vancouver all now have 51 points, the seventh most in the conference.
"Give the players a lot of credit. They pushed throughout the game and made a lot of really good plays," coach Dave Tippett said. "It was a revved up, hard fought game. It's nice to string some games together, and I like the way we are playing right now."
Goalie Marty Turco made 22 saves to win for the first time in Detroit in the regular season in 11 tries, taming the Red Wings with acrobatic saves throughout to help the Stars garner points for the 11th time in their last 15 games (9-4-2).
"It's been a long time coming, but the way we played was the most positive sign and it feels good," said Turco, who improved to 1-8 with two ties lifetime in Detroit. "It's big the way we played and our mentality tonight. We like to have the structure we showed tonight, and the power play came through for us. We showed some good work ethic against a good team in a tough place to play. I like the way our team is playing."
The Stars avenged a devastating 6-1 loss to these same Red Wings on this same sheet of ice exactly three weeks ago, sending Detroit to its season-high fourth consecutive loss by jumping out to a 4-0 lead over the first 22 minutes of the game thanks to three power play goals -- including two straight to open the tilt -- against the top-rated penalty killing unit at home.
"We wanted to outwork these guys, and two big power play goals right off the hop was huge," Ott said.
Conversely, the Stars, who had the worst power-play unit in the NHL on the road coming in, were able to fend off the league's top-rated power play by erasing all but one of Detroit's five man-advantage opportunities.
"We won the special teams battle, and had a real good start," Richards said. "We need to stay even keel and keep pushing. It's a constant battle, but tonight was a step in the right direction. Three in a row is a good step for us, and we can do a lot of good things."
Turco helped preserve the win with a terrific showing, especially in a wild second period in which the Red Wings scored twice, and had two other goals disallowed.
"Marty started slow but he's played the last while and he's a top notch goalie," Tippett said. "He played real well tonight and our team played well in front of him."
Marian Hossa and Andreas Lilja scored for the Red Wings, who had their seven-game home winning streak snapped while playing without star center Henrik Zetterberg, who was scratched because of back spasms just a day after inking a 12-year, $73 million deal.
Starting goalie Chris Osgood was yanked following the first period after allowing three goals on 12 shots. Ty Conklin came in to start the second, and gave up one goal on 11 shots.
With a 3-0 lead, the Stars edged further with their third power-play goal of the game two minutes into the second period when Eriksson notched his team-leading 23rd of the year. After taking a pass from rookie James Neal in the lower right circle, Eriksson put a neat move on Conklin, who was out trying to cut down the shooting angle, before stuffing the puck in behind him.
Detroit closed the gap on Hossa's team-leading 24th of the year on the power play 2:06 later. In the high slot, Hossa redirected defenseman Brian Rafalski's shot from the right point past Turco.
The Red Wings thought they had scored again with nine minutes left in the second when Daniel Cleary's weak wrist shot handcuffed Turco and began heading into the net. But defenseman Darryl Sydor was able to bat the puck out of mid air with his hand before Turco eventually swatted it away with his glove.
It was originally ruled a goal on the ice, but subsequently overturned after a one-minute video review showed the puck never crossed the goal line.
No such review was needed when Detroit made it 4-2 with 4:49 remaining on Lilja's second goal. With Tomas Kopecky screening Turco, Lilja ripped a slap shot from the high slot that gave the Red Wings some momentum.
Then, with Ott in the penalty box for a questionable interference call on Conklin, Detroit nearly scored another on the ensuing power play with less than a minute left in the middle frame. But Red Wings defenseman Nicklas Lidstrom's apparent tally was waved off after Detroit forward Tomas Holmstrom was ruled to have illegally contacted Turco after rolling over the goalie.
"I'd like to see that called more often when there is contact in front of the net," Turco said.
Ott opened the scoring with his seventh of the season with the Stars up a man at 10:15 of the first period. From the left point, Richards let a slap shot go that Ott was able to deftly deflect in the slot and past Osgood to give Dallas a 1-0 lead.
The Stars pushed their edge to 2-0 just 77 seconds later with another power-play goal, with Lehtinen cashing in for his fourth of the season. In the slot, Lehtinen one-timed Richards' pass into a gaping net while Detroit defenseman Chris Chelios was in the penalty box serving a double-minor for high sticking Krys Barch.
Conner completed the first-period scoring blitz and ended Osgood's night by firing in his first of the year with 1:28 left in the opening stanza. Off the faceoff in the left circle, Modano was able to slickly slip the puck to Conner at the inner hash marks. Conner then quickly whipped the puck past a surprised Osgood to give the Stars a 3-0 advantage after the first 20 minutes.
"It was a fun one," Ott said. "I grew up a huge Red Wings fan, and all my buddies are Wings fans and they let me hear about it when we don't beat them."
Dallas will continue its short two-game road trip on Saturday night with a critical game in Columbus against the Blue Jackets (6 p.m., my27). Columbus is one of a list of six teams that also includes Colorado that the Stars are battling for the final two Western Conference playoff slots.
The Blue Jackets defeated the Red Wings in overtime on Tuesday night, but have lost two of their last three heading into Friday's contest against Ottawa.
--Already the franchise leader in games by a goalie, wins and shutouts, Turco past Cesare Maniago for the most minutes played by a netminder in team history. With 16 minutes to go in the third period, Turco eclipsed Maniago's previous record of 24,229 minutes set from 1967-76.
--Ott extended his points streak to three games (2-3-5)
--Right wing Mark Parrish missed his second straight game because of the flu.
-- Barch lost three top teeth and five on the bottom after absorbing Chelios' high stick. After getting repairs, he was able to return. "I had shrapnel in my mouth," he said. "Good thing I wear a mouthguard. I battled through it and I wanted to be a part of a game like this. It was like a playoff atmosphere and every game from here on out is going to be like this."
--Before Ott's goal, the Red Wings had killed 24 straight penalties at home.
--Dallas has now won four of its last 16 in Detroit.
--Center Mike Ribeiro had an assist on Ott's goal, and has eight points in his last five games.
--Lehtinen scored in his second straight game, and has three goals in the last five games.
--The Stars moved to 10-12-3 on the road.
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