In their first action of the 2009-10 pre-season, their 16th since moving to Dallas, the Stars came back to tie the game late in the third period and used a Brad Richards shootout goal to pull out a 4-3 victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning Wednesday night at the American Airlines Center.
As the third Star shooter, Richards raced in with speed and beat Tampa goaltender Jaroslav Janus with a wrist shot over the blocker for the only goal of the shootout.
“It’s instinct,” Richards said of his shootout decision. “The goalie was out, so I couldn’t shoot (from far out). I wanted to try to move him a little bit.”
It was an exciting beginning to the Joe Nieuwendyk/Marc Crawford era in Dallas, featuring plenty of fast-paced up-and-down action that management has been implementing in training camp.
“I was real pleased tonight,” said Crawford, who was coaching his first game since the end of the 2007-08 season with Los Angeles. “While we made some mistakes, our energy was there and guys were real attentive to what we were trying to do.”
The forward line of center Richards between wingers James Neal and Loui Eriksson was a force almost every time they were on the ice, and each contributed a goal and an assist in the game. Veteran Mike Modano, beginning his 21st NHL season, added two assists.
“I think there is a lot of chemistry between both pairs of guys, with Richards and Neal, and Richards and Eriksson,” Crawford said of the dynamic combination. “I think they’ll have good chemistry. Both James and Loui receive the puck extremely well and are very good on the forecheck. When the puck is in Brad Richards’ hands, he is one of the premier players in the league.
“I think Brad is excited, he likes the line and I think on the power play, he’s really at home. There was a spot there where they were all playing together on the power play with Mike Modano, who is a world-class passer as well. Lots of good things for them tonight. I think they have a lot of chemistry.”
“I’ve always loved playing with Loui, he’s such a smart player,” said Richards, who set up Neal’s game-tying goal with a pretty backhand pass with 3:14 remaining in regulation. “We’ve never really found that left winger, but James would be ideal. He’s a big guy that works hard and having two guys that go to the net fits in well with me.”
Goaltender Marty Turco started the game and made his first big save less than two minutes in, when he stacked the pads to deny a point-blank shot from former Star Todd Fedoruk. After allowing one goal on 13 shots in 31:13 of action, Turco came out of the crease in favor of 19-year-old prospect Tyler Beskorowany.
Beskorowany, who just signed a three-year entry-level contract but will likely be heading back to Canada for one more season of junior hockey, came up with his first save just 36 seconds after coming in as he thwarted a point-blank one-timer from Tampa’s Dana Tyrell. Overall, he made nine saves in 31:39, as well as three in the shootout, to get the win.
“Here he signed his first contract today, he’s playing in his first NHL game, he’s in a shootout, and I never saw his pulse go over 100,” Crawford marveled. “That’s a big sign. He’s got a really bright future and he’s going to go back and have a great year.”
After the Stars built up a 2-0 lead in the first period, Tampa pushed back in the second and the teams headed into the final period tied 2-2.
Stars center Brian Sutherby squared off with Tampa Bay’s David Hale in the contest’s second full-fledged fight 5:06 into the third, and less than a minute later, the Lightning took a 3-2 lead on a goal by Blair Jones. Beskorowany made a glove save on former Star Jeff Halpern’s wrister from the left circle, but left a rebound that Jones slammed home from the lip of the crease.
The Stars got a lift from killing off a 1:51 stretch where they were shorthanded two men, then went on a power play of their own, but Janus denied defenseman Philip Larsen’s wrist shot from the slot with 9:30 remaining.
Dallas had another late power play, but allowed Tyrell a breakaway that Beskorowany made a nice save on with 6:14 left.
Neal then got the equalizer with just 3:14 to go in regulation, drilling a one-timer from the right face-off circle past Janus after receiving a sublime no-look backhand cross-ice pass from Richards.
“He got one there at the end, it was a big one for us,” Eriksson said of Neal. “It feels good out there, it was a good line with Richards and Neal, we played with lots of speed. We did real well and came out with a win.”
Eriksson nearly ended it with 1:01 left when he raced in on a breakaway, but was hooked from behind by Tampa’s Steve Downie and could not get a clear shot off. The Stars spent the rest of regulation on the power play, but were unable to resolve things before the buzzer.
In overtime, neither team could convert on the more dangerous 4-on-3 power plays, with Beskorowany making a nice pad save on Tampa’s Matt Lashoff with 1:40 left and Janus returning the favor with a glove snag on Richards’ blast from the top of the left circle with just 2.6 seconds left, setting the stage for the shootout.
It didn’t take long for the first fight of the night, as Dallas prospect Luke Gazdic tangled with Tampa’s Zenon Kenopka in a fairly entertaining bout just 2:32 into the opening period.
Dallas got on the scoreboard first, capitalizing on their first power play just three seconds after Halpern entered the box for high-sticking. Immediately off the ensuing face-off won by Modano, Eriksson poked the puck free and swatted it through Lightning starting goalie Antero Niittymaki’s pads at 9:28.
Eriksson hit the post on another power play three minutes later, but the Stars went up 2-0 with 1:09 left in the first on another man-advantage. This time, Eriksson was occupying Tampa defender Mike Lundin in front of the net as Richards bombed a slap shot from about 10 feet inside the blueline. The puck deflected off Lundin’s stick and past the screened Niittymaki to leave Dallas 2-for-3 on the PP through one period.
Tampa cut the lead by one 5:45 into the second on a goal by Fedoruk. After working his way past Star defenseman Matt Niskanen in the neutral zone, Fedoruk skated unmolested into the left face-off circle before firing a wrist shot over Turco’s shoulder.
With 54.5 seconds left in the second period, each team’s most promising prospect got involved in a minor scrap, as the Stars’ Jamie Benn and Tampa’s Victor Hedman (the second overall pick in June’s NHL draft) each earned roughing penalties.
Benn also received an extra penalty for holding and on the subsequent power play, Tampa tied it up 2-2. Kurtis Foster’s booming slap shot from the point was deflected in front by Brett McLean past a screened Beskorowany with just 28.2 seconds left in the period.
The Stars will have a group of players heading to Colorado to face the Avalanche Thursday night before taking on the Blues in St. Louis Saturday. Dallas is back home Tuesday for their fourth pre-season matchup against Florida.
“The pre-season is about trying to really get comfortable and trying to understand how we want to play,” Crawford said.
“There’s always some excitement, some nervousness when you start a new season,” Modano said. “It’s a new start, a new season for everyone. There was a lot of tension leading up to it, but we did some good things, we focused on some things that we have been trying to elaborate a little bit more in practice and try and get some other fundamentals as far as the system with Marc.”
- In the shootout, Beskorowany made a nice pad save on Blair Jones, forced Richard Panik to lose the puck on his deke attempt and made a pad save on Martin Karsums’ in-close wrist shot with the game on the line.
- Eriksson led the Stars with four shots on goal (not including the one in the shootout that Janus stopped) and also led Dallas with 22:36 of ice time.
- Defenseman Mark Fistric, entering his third NHL season, led the club in hits with seven (no one else had more than three) and also in blocked shots, with three.
- The Stars ended up 2-for-8 on the power play, while killing eight-of-nine Lightning opportunities.
- It was a very impressive debut for the huge new HD screen on the scoreboard and at each end of the arena. It is amazing how much clearer and crisper the replays are, and the new, non-digital time clock and penalty clocks were also big hits. Very nice touch by the Stars.