DALLAS - Thankfully, the Dallas Stars did not make history Thursday night.
Instead, the injury-depleted club rallied behind an outstanding team effort and 29 saves by goaltender Marty Turco to defeat the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 at the American Airlines Center and vault back into the Western Conference playoff picture.
Having lost six straight at home, during which they were outscored 18-7, to equal the franchise record originally set back in 1970 when the club was based in Minnesota, the beleaguered Stars came through with goals from Mike Ribeiro and recent additions Steve Begin and Brendan Morrison.
Dallas, which had been just 2-7-1 in their previous 10 games, now has 72 points in the standings, jumping up to seventh, pending the late outcome of the Oilers-Atlanta game (if Edmonton wins, the Stars would be eighth).
“Those were desperate points and we needed them,” Stars coach Dave Tippett said. “When new guys like that help the cause it endears them in the locker room. This is going to be a tough month and the more guys we can get endeared the better, because we’re going to need to stick together. Tonight our mindset was to stay with the game and when we get a chance to have an effect on the game, to have an effect.”
“Guys responded pretty well. It’s teamwork and everybody has to chip in,” Begin said after collecting his first point as a Star and being named the game’s first star. “It’s always fun to be a part of an intense game like that. We won the game so that’s the most important thing. That’s how we have to play every game and I think we brought it for a full 60 minutes tonight. We were ready for this match up tonight. That’s character and that’s what we need every night.”
Even after falling behind 1-0 in the first period, the Stars battled back against a Hurricanes squad in the midst of their own struggle for a playoff spot that came into the night 4-0-1 in their previous five, a stretch in which they outscored the opposition 25-8. Dallas surged ahead 3-1 in the second and held on for the triumph despite getting outshot 15-6 in the third and allowing a power play tally with 6:15 remaining.
Turco, who was pulled after allowing three goals on eight shots in just 12 minutes in the Stars’ 5-2 loss in St. Louis Tuesday night, rebounded with a stellar performance to notch his 31st win of the year, good for third in the entire NHL.
“We played well, they poured it on and we just pushed it enough tonight,” Turco said. “Every night is a character game. One glimpse at the standings and you’re going to have to have your character every night.”
And after both Morrison and center Mike Modano were called out by Tippett earlier in the week, each responded with excellent efforts. Skating on the same line, they each registered three shots on goal and joined forces for the game-winning goal at 9:51 of the second period.
“To get on the board tonight was nice, it’s a matter of consistency,” said Morrison, who notched his first point as a Star in his fifth game since being claimed off waivers from Anaheim on Mar. 4. “We had a good team effort all around. They had us maybe bending a little bit the last 10 minutes but we didn’t break. We held on. Points are crucial.”
Trailing 1-0 after the first period despite outshooting Carolina 15-9, the Stars got a fortunate bounce to even it up just 1:01 into the second on Ribeiro’s 19th of the season. After taking a pass from Matt Niskanen in the high slot, Ribeiro tried a slick pass back between his own legs to Loui Eriksson on the far side, but the puck hit the skate of defender Tim Gleason and slid past Hurricanes netminder Cam Ward just inside the far post.
“I’m a big believer that you work for your breaks,” Tippet said. “Tonight, we worked for our breaks. Sometimes you get rewarded for your work and (Ribeiro’s goal) was one that we got rewarded for.”
The Stars then went up 2-1 on Begin’s first goal in a Stars uniform at 6:25. Chris Conner led the rush into the zone and fired a sharp-angle wrist shot from the left corner that Ward stopped, but the rebound spit out in front. Begin then had two whacks at it before kicking the loose puck back to his stick and lifting it up and over Ward.
Then, just 20 seconds after he hit the goalpost on a point-blank wrist shot, Morrison recorded his first goal as a Star at 9:51. Modano rifled a booming slap shot from the top of the left face-off circle, and Morrison, camped out in front, deftly deflected it about belly button-high down past Ward for his 11th goal overall this year.
Turco made a sparkling save with 35 seconds left in the second period with the Hurricanes on a power play, sliding across the crease to deny Joseph Corvo’s one-timer at the right side of the crease.
Ahead 3-1 heading into the final period, Dallas breathed a sigh of relief 3:29 in when Tuomo Ruutu’s wrist shot from the top of the right face-off circle got past Turco but pinged off the goalpost.
The Hurricanes struck iron again just over a minute later when Niclas Wallin’s long wrist shot from the left point pinballed off Sergei Samsonov’s skate in front, past Turco and off the far post.
“As long as it’s not in the back of the net, it doesn’t matter if you got beat, got lucky or made a
good play,” Turco said of the back-to-back postage. “Our guys were there and I was the beneficiary of seeing all the pucks, too.”
The Stars had a prime chance of their own 6:00 into the third when Eriksson sped in on a breakaway, making a move to his backhand, but Ward made the save.
Dallas then handed Carolina consecutive power plays and although Turco made a big save on Matt Cullen’s wrist shot from the high slot with 9:06 left, the Hurricanes capitalized on the second man-advantage. Ray Whitney boomed a slap shot from the top of the right circle that beat Turco over the glove to make it 3-2 with 6:15 to go.
But that’s as close as Carolina would get, especially after Turco made a huge pad save on Erik Cole’s wrist shot from the right circle with 1:07 left.
Ward was pulled for an extra attacker three seconds later, but the Hurricanes never threatened again and the Stars effectively cleared their zone several times as the clock wound down.
“We didn’t make it easy on ourselves at the end, but we’ll take the points,” Tippett said. “If you give them enough time and power plays, they’re going to score, so I give credit to the guys at the end.”
The Stars had the contest’s first legitimate scoring chance 6:03 in, while on a delayed penalty call, as Steve Ott sped into the Carolina zone, carried deep into the left corner and fed a nice pass back to Eriksson in the high slot for a wicked one-timer, but Ward made a nice pad save.
Unfortunately, the ensuing power play turned out to be a curse rather than a blessing as the Hurricanes ended up notching the game’s first goal while shorthanded. After Ward stopped Modano’s shot from the slot, the rebound bounced out past pinching defender Stephane Robidas and Carolina’s Eric Staal and Rod Brind’Amour took off on a 2-on-1 rush with just Ribeiro, a forward, back on D. As Staal carried deep into the Dallas zone, he slid a pass past Ribeiro across to Brind’Amour for the easy tap-in and a 1-0 lead.
On the next Dallas power play, Staal nearly set up another Carolina goal, stealing the puck from Robidas behind the Stars’ net and passing out front to a wide open Cullen in the slot, but Turco made a fabulous glove save on the ensuing wrist shot.
The Stars had a promising opportunity with 1:31 left as Conner broke in on a partial breakaway, but Ward thwarted his in-close backhander.
The Stars remain at home for a couple of days for their next battle on Saturday night against the Minnesota Wild (7 pm start, FSN), another club in the gaggle of clubs fighting for the last Western Conference playoff spots. The Wild started the day tied with Dallas for ninth, and after falling 2-1 in a shootout to Colorado, have 71 points and are right on the bubble.
- Ribeiro extended his point streak to a season-long six games and now has 12 points (six goals, six assists) in his last nine outings.
- Begin earned his first point as a Star in his eighth game since his acquisition from Montreal on Feb. 26. Overall, going back to his time with the Canadiens, Begin had gone 14 games without a point. He now has seven goals total on the year. Begin also led Dallas with seven hits.
- Morrison, in his fifth game with Dallas, had gone seven games overall, dating back to his days in Anaheim, without reaching the scoresheet.
- With his assist on Morrison’s goal, Modano now has six points (one goal, five assists) in his last seven contests.
- Eriksson’s assist on Ribeiro’s goal gives him eight points (five goals, three assists) in his last seven contests.
- Conner’s assist on Begin’s tally snapped a five-game point drought and was his ninth point of the year, topping the eight he compiled in 33 games over the previous two seasons.
- Nicklas Grossman’s assist on Morrison’s goal was his seventh assist on the year and first in 15 games.
- Matt Niskanen snapped a four-game pointless streak with his assist on Ribeiro’s goal. He also led the club with four shots on goal.
- The goal against by Brind’Amour was just the second shorthander allowed by the Stars this season.
- With winger Mark Parrish sitting out with an upper body injury, Joel Lundqvist made it back into the lineup after five straight contests as a healthy scratch. In 12:06 of ice time, he registered one shot on goal and delivered four hits.
- The Dallas power play went 0-for-3 on the night after striking for goal in six of the previous seven games, converting 6-for-39 over that span.
- This was the first meeting between the Stars and Hurricanes since Nov. 18, 2006, a 5-4 Carolina victory at RBC Center in Raleigh. This marks the their first visit to American Airlines Center since Dec. 2, 2005, when Dallas won 5-4 in the first home shootout in franchise history.
- The win now gives the Stars a 6-0-1 mark on home ice against the Hurricanes since they moved to North Carolina in 1997. The last time Dallas lost at home to that organization was on Feb. 11, 1995, when the Hartford Whalers took a 5-3 victory at Reunion Arena. Since the Stars moved to Dallas for the 1993-94 season, the club is 8-1-1 at home against the Whalers/Hurricanes.
1 - 0 CAR
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 DAL
3 - 1 DAL