DALLAS - For one night at least, everything crystalized perfectly for the Dallas Stars.
The offense exploded for a season-high six goals, including four in the first period, and goaltender Marty Turco was fabulous in goal, making 29 saves for his first shutout of the season as the Stars routed the Nashville Predators 6-0 Wednesday night at the American Airlines Center.
The win leaves the Stars 2-0-3 on the season, as they have still not yet lost in regulation time, and represents the squad’s most complete performance of 2009-10.
The new, more aggressive offense implemented by head coach Marc Crawford certainly seems to be paying dividends.
“We really wanted to establish our presence here at home,” Crawford said. “I thought our guys were spot-on early in the game, especially our top two lines. I thought they really established their dominance in the game. It’s not always going to be like that, but they executed real well. They hung onto the puck, they made good plays in the offensive zone, they drew penalties and it was full marks for us to get that many offensive plays.”
“We’ve got guys that are pretty confident right now, coming off real good years,” Morrow said, “and the system is directing a lot of pucks at the net and crashing and banging and so far we’re being rewarded and we’re seeing results from it.”
But as well as the Stars executed in the offensive zone, Turco sparkled in net at the other end, as he earned his first triumph of the season while making a season-high 29 saves.
“He played unbelievable, made some big, big saves,” defenseman Stephane Robidas said of Turco. “He kept us in the game. Sometimes, a couple of bounces go their way early in the game, it could have been the difference. A 1-1 game and a 3-0 game is not the same.”
“Finally, it’s nice to see everything go our way,” said Turco, who posted his 37th career shutout.
The Stars had been having issues with their special teams, but in this one, they went 2-for-4 on the power play and, obviously, did not allow a power play goal against for the first time this season, killing off all four Nashville man-advantages.
It was an offensive eruption right from the start, as the Stars found themselves up four goals before the contest was nine minutes old.
Morrow got things going just 3:17 in when he received a nice backhand pass from Ribeiro in the left corner and boomed a wicked one-timer from the face-off circle that beat Nashville starting goaltender (and former Stars farmhand) Dan Ellis over the shoulder on the short side.
The raucous American Airlines Center crowd of 16,365 hadn’t yet stopped cheering when Richards made it 2-0 just 40 seconds later. Eriksson froze Ellis in the left face-off circle, then fed a pass to a wide open Richards in the slot, and Richards flipped it into the open side of the net past the fallen Ellis.
Eriksson made it a three-goal lead, and ended Ellis’ night, at 6:31, when he made a slick, back-to-the-net deflection in front of Neal’s wrist shot from just inside the blueline. That prompted Nashville coach Barry Trotz to pull Ellis, who had faced three shots and didn’t stop any, and replace him with Pekka Rinne.
With that extra incentive, Nashville made their first offensive push and Turco stood tall, turning aside David Legwand’s one-timer from the high slot just over a minute later. Turco’s sliding pad save on Joel Ward less than a minute after that was impressive, too.
Dallas wasn’t done yet, as the Stars capitalized on their first power play of the night when Morrow notched his fourth of the season at 8:48. The play was set up by Richards, who controlled the puck at the left point, worked his way in deep and feathered a pass through several legs to an open Morrow at the far post, and even though Morrow shanked the one-timer, it still managed to roll in.
After that, the Predators began to push back, but Turco held the fort.
With 6:27 left in the first, rookie Colin Wilson drilled a one-timer from the slot, but Turco made the stop. Then, 35 seconds later, Legwand raced in on a breakaway, and again, Turco came up big on Legwand’s wrist shot.
So despite being outshot 9-8 in the first period, the Stars held a commanding 4-0 lead heading into the second period.
“I think in the first period, the score wasn’t really in evidence of the way the period went,” Morrow admitted. “We gave up a couple of real good chances. I think they outshot us, we just seemed to get some bounces and Marty made the saves he needed to make.”
“We could have come out of that first period only up 3-2, if their goalie makes a save more or Marty doesn’t make the big saves that he made,” Crawford said. “I was really pleased with the way we started. We wanted to have a great outing here at home and I thought we did.”
With the Stars on another power play, the Stars nearly made it a five-goal lead just 35 seconds into the second. Benn made some slick moves to weave his way through Nashville defenseman and came in on a breakaway, but Rinne made a pad save on Benn’s deke attempt. After Rinne swiped at the loose rebound, Morrow swooped in and drilled it home, believing he had just completed the hat trick (one hat hit the ice prematurely), but the goal was waved off because a penalty was being called on the play and the whistle had already blown.
“It was a tough call,” Morrow said of the no-goal. “I think he was right to wave it off, he did blow his whistle, but I don’t necessarily think he needed to blow it right away.”
That put Dallas on a 5-on-3 advantage for 1:25, and Eriksson cashed in with his second of the night at 1:27. Neal’s one-timer from the left circle went wide, but the puck bounced off the end boards right to Eriksson at the right post and he quickly roofed it over Rinne to make it 5-0.
“Nealer tried to shoot it and it bounced out on the backside of the net, and I just had a pretty shot there into the net,” Eriksson said. “It’s a lucky bounce.”
“I thought Loui Eriksson was extremely good tonight,” Crawford said. “The more I’m seeing of Loui over the last couple of games is his ability to track the puck as he does and his ability to get his stick in the late. He got a couple of goals himself tonight and he was definitely one of our better forwards.”
The Stars almost built on the lead, but Fabian Brunnstrom’s stuff attempt at the right post was denied by Rinne less than a minute later, and then Rinne robbed Neal’s point-blank wrist shot four minutes later.
Turco kept the zero on the board with a nice lunging save on former Star Jason Arnott’s wrap-around attempt and the subsequent rebound with 57 seconds left in the period, and then he made a fabulous blocker save on Hamhuis’ scorching wrister from the right circle 30 seconds later.
With a five-goal lead heading into the final period, Turco stepped up and, with a little help from his best friend the goalpost, maintained the goose egg on the scoreboard. First, Nashville’s Ryan Suter unleashed a wrist shot from the left circle and it pinged off the far post with 11:28 left.
Turco was spectacular during a power play midway through the period, making several big saves, including a fantastic, pad-stacking pad stop on Hamhuis’ uncontested high wrist shot from the left circle. He also made tough saves on Martin Erat’s snap shot from the slot and an even better sprawling stop on Legwand’s resultant rebound shot.
Dallas put the exclamation point on the victory when Toby Petersen collected his first goal of the year with 2:13 remaining, executing a nifty waist-high deflection from the high slot to re-direct defenseman Karlis Skrastins’ slap shot over Rinne’s shoulder.
“If you look at the talent that we got up front, it’s pretty scary, there’s a lot of skills out there,” Robidas said. “There’s a lot of good players. I’m not really worried about us scoring goals this year.”
The Stars remain home for consecutive games for the first time this season, facing off next against the Boston Bruins on Friday (7:30pm, FSN) at the American Airlines Center. Click here for tickets
The Stars will hold their Thursday practice at the Farmers Branch Dr Pepper StarCenter at 11 am. The practice is open to the public.
- Richards now has a five-game point streak, having recorded a point in every contest this season. He leads the Stars with nine points (three goals, six assists).
- Ribeiro extended his scoring streak to four games, during which he’s accumulated seven points (two goals, five assists).
- With his two assists, Benn now has a four-game point streak as well, having collected five points (one goal, four assists) over that span.
- Morrow’s two goals give him four in the last four contests, along with three assists.
- Neal’s three assists set a new career-high for assists in a game.
- Skrastins, who picked up his first point as a Star, had a +3 plus/minus rating and led the club in ice time with 21:37.
- Defenseman Nicklas Grossman earned a +2 plus/minus rating and now leads the entire NHL with a +10 on the season. Robidas, who was +1, now has a +8 and is tied for second in the league.
- After scoring four 5-on-5 goals on the night, Dallas has now outscored their opponents 13-4 at even-strength this season.
- Center Steve Ott sat out the contest with an oblique injury, while center Mike Modano missed his fourth straight game with a rib injury. Both are listed as day-to-day.
- With Ott out, Petersen was back on the ice after missing the previous contest as a healthy scratch.
- Defenseman Jeff Woywitka returned to the lineup after sitting out the last two games as a healthy scratch. Taking his place in the press box as a healthy scratch was Mark Fistric.
- With the win, the Stars now boast a 10-2-1 record in their last 13 home meetings with the Predators, and have outscored them 66-30 overall over their 22 all-time home matchups (17-4-1) with Nashville.
- Wednesday was the Dallas Stars’ Hockey Fights Cancer Awareness Night, with several initiatives to help support the league-wide cause. Seven groups were recognized at the game: Children’s Medical Center, Komen G. For the Cure, Leukemia & Lymphoma Society, Gilda’s Club, St. Jude’s Medical Center, No Walker Left Behind, and Pancreatic Cancer. Stars coaches, management and broadcasters all wore custom lavender ties to show support for the cause. Lavender represents awareness for all cancers.
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