EDMONTON - Dallas' playoff-less campaign last year was lowlighted by Brenden Morrow's serious knee injury. The captain, though, is back, and he showed exactly what he means to a Stars team that missed him so much.
Playing in just his second game in nearly 11 months, Morrow had a pair of goals and added an assist, as the Stars were able to collect a point in a 5-4 shootout loss to the Edmonton Oilers at Rexall Place on Tuesday night.
Ales Hemsky scored the lone shootout goal, as the Oilers sent the Stars to their second straight shootout loss. Hemsky slightly whiffed on his shot in the third round, and the changeup slid along the ice and past befuddled Dallas goalie Marty Turco.
James Neal and Stephane Robidas also scored for the Stars, who fell in a shootout to Nashville in the season opener on Saturday. Turco finished with 20 saves in the fast-paced and hard-hitting affair.
"We didn't score a goal and we let one in and that's all it takes (in the shootout)," Turco said. "Last year we learned you have to scratch and claw to make the playoffs, and those extra points are important. We would have liked to have gotten that one."
It was the second straight game the Stars showed what they'll be about this year under new head coach Marc Crawford, as they once again outshot their opponent while putting plenty of heat on the puck in the offensive zone. Neal has seemed to benefit the most thus far from the run-and-gun style, accumulating 12 shots over the first two games to go along with his three goals.
"Early in the season you are always concentrating on the process that your team is going through," Crawford said. "Our team is learning how to play at the level that they need to play at. I think they are enjoying and they are embracing playing at the high pace. We have a lot of guys that can do it really well. You see a young James Neal and young Jamie Benn, and even our veteran guys -- Ribeiro is playing at a higher pace, Morrow is really starting to get his legs, and our defense are active. We had a lot of positives again tonight."
Brad Richards, meanwhile, has taken 15 shots in the up-tempo scheme.
"I think that's where the league is going now…pressuring teams," said Morrow, who seemed to energize his team each shift, playing his normal gritty style while producing four shots in 20 minutes of ice time.
With the score tied 3-3 after two periods, Morrow gave the Stars a 4-3 edge with a power-play goal 1:25 into the final stanza. Standing at the bottom of the right circle, Morrow accepted Mike Ribeiro's pass, took a stride toward the goal and deposited the puck between Edmonton goalie Nikolai Khabibulin's legs.
But the Oilers battled back to tie it when Denis Grebeshkov's one-timer from the left point went off Nicklas Grossman's shin and into the net at 6:52 of the third.
Grebeshkov had a goal and assist, and Mike Comrie, Sam Gagner and Dustin Penner also scored for the Oilers. Khabibulin made 30 saves in picking up his 300th career NHL win.
"I think we're having a lot of fun, but fun really comes from results," Crawford said. "I thought we did a terrific job and generated some chances. We did a lot of good things and we have to keep building. We won't be satisfied with not getting two points, but I know that if we continue to work then we'll be OK. That will probably make the difference."
Dallas played without veteran center Mike Modano, who is nursing a cracked rib sustained when Nashville defenseman Francis Bouillon's stick found Modano's chest after Bouillon followed through on a clearing attempt late in Saturday's loss. Modano is day-to-day.
The Stars took their first lead of the game when Neal scored a shorthanded goal 5:57 into the second period. Turco began the play at the goal line, elevating a pass that eventually landed on Neal's stick just outside the Oilers' blue line. Neal skated into the zone before snapping a wicked wrist shot into the top-left corner for a 2-1 Dallas lead.
The Stars scored only two short-handed goals all of last year.
"I think we're trying to be a little bit more aggressive on the PK," Robidas said.
The advantage, though, was short-lived, as Gagner tied it with his second of the year just 38 seconds later on the power play. After receiving a pass along the boards at the blue line, Gagner skated to the top of the left circle to unleash a slap shot that eluded Turco.
Robidas helped the Stars recapture the lead when his slap shot off a feed from Richards snuck past some bodies in front of Khabibulin with 8:03 left in the middle frame. The goal came on the power play, and just seconds after Khabibulin sprawled to rob Loui Eriksson's attempt from in close.
"That's what happens when you just try to get something to the net and when you get it through traffic," Robidas said. "It's not always pretty but I'll take it."
Penner closed the wild second-period scoring with his second of the year with 1:55 to go. The big forward skated along the goal line from the right circle before lifting the puck into the roof of the net before defenseman Jeff Woywitka could thwart the opportunity.
The Oilers opened the scoring when Mike Comrie notched his first of the year just 3:39 into the first. While on the power play, defenseman Ladislav Smid kept the puck in along the left boards at the blue line before throwing it behind the net, where Andrew Cogliano retrieved it. Cogliano promptly sent a behind-the-back pass from underneath the goal line to Comrie, who chipped it past Turco from in tight.
Morrow tied it for the Stars just over two minutes later, picking up his first goal since Nov. 20, 2008. After rookie Jamie Benn sent the puck to defenseman Trevor Daley at the right point, Daley blasted a shot that was stopped by Khabibulin before popping out to Morrow, who was standing five feet away. Morrow was able to shove the puck with a backhand, and it ricocheted off J-F Jacques' skate and into the net.
For Benn, it was his first career NHL point, and second consecutive game playing alongside Morrow and Ribeiro.
"Brenden's a great leader and Mike's a crafty player," Benn said. "It's great playing with them."
The Stars will play the second contest of their three-game western road swing when they travel to Calgary to take on the Flames Friday night (8 p.m., FSN). Calgary defeated the Montreal Canadiens on Tuesday to lift its record to 2-0 to start the season.
The Flames defeated the Oilers last Saturday.
"We're actually playing pretty good hockey," Turco said. "We've got two out of four points to start the season. We have a lot of work to do, but we take it all in stride. We will continue to work and the results will come." STARGAZING
--Though he's getting close, Jere Lehtinen continues to be hindered by a hip/groin injury and missed his second game after practicing with the team on Monday. Defenseman Mark Fistric was also scratched.
--Krys Barch engaged in his first fight of the season, challenging Edmonton defenseman Sheldon Souray to a scrap six minutes into the game.
--Steve Ott also exchanged punches with Ryan Stone in the second period, while in the faceoff dot he won 77 percent of the draws he took (10-of-13).
--Edmonton was without captain Ethan Moreau, who has an infected ankle. Robert Nilsson replaced him.
--Khabibulin is 6-2 in his last eight games against the Stars.
--Dallas fell to 11-3-1 in its last 15 meetings with the Oilers.