DALLAS - It could have turned into a case of ‘Groundhog Day,’ but this time the Dallas Stars changed the script.
After running into another hot goaltender, the Stars did not wilt under some late pressure and managed to hold on to defeat the Vancouver Canucks 2-1 Friday night at the American Airlines Center.
After surrendering the tying goal with under a minute left Wednesday night to Calgary, and then losing in overtime, this time the Stars held up under the late push by the Canucks, including killing off consecutive penalties, as well as a brief 5-on-3, late in the third period. In doing so, Dallas snapped a three-game winless streak (0-1-2) and improved their record to 7-3-6.
The Stars fired a season-high 47 shots on goal, but were only able to beat Vancouver rookie goaltender Cory Schneider twice, on goals from Brad Richards and captain Brenden Morrow. It was the second straight game the Stars ran into a hot backup goaltender, after Calgary’s Curtis McElhinney backstopping the Flames’ 3-2 overtime win on Wednesday.
Dallas goaltender Marty Turco was outstanding himself, making 32 saves, including 16 in the third period, in his second game back after missing two with ‘flu-like symptoms.’
“The guys worked so well in the first two periods, you almost feel like it’s one of those games where you deserved some breathing room in the third period, but that certainly wasn’t the case,” said Turco, who was sporting a brand new mask. “Cory down at the other end, a young kid with a tired team, for him to play that well, was big for them. But in that third period, you could just see the desperation in our guys. It was great to see, it really was a total team effort all night and that third period was wonderful to see, especially after that last game giving up that late goal and forcing overtime. So it was good to close it out.”
“It’s in your mind because it just happened and we were in the same position, but tonight, we got it done,” Richards said regarding the ‘deja vu’ nature of the game. “A big huge kill, Marty made saves when we had to get them. We got a little away from it in the third, but you knew they were going to make a push at some point.”
Despite outplaying the Canucks, and outshooting them 22-10, in the first period, the Stars entered the second in a scoreless tie, but continued to apply considerable offensive pressure early in the second.
The Stars finally broke through on their 30th shot of the night, on Richards’ sixth goal of the season at 8:05. Loui Eriksson made the play by intercepting a Canuck clear attempt along the right sideboards and whipped a quick pass into the high slot for Richards, who quickly snapped a fierce shot just over Schneider’s shoulder for the 1-0 lead.
“Loui made a head’s-up play, got it off the boards and because of the confusion on Vancouver’s part, I had some time there in front of the net to get a shot off,” Richards said.
Vancouver responded with a counter-attack just 45 seconds later, speeding into the Dallas zone on a 2-on-1 rush, but Turco stopped Henrik Sedin’s point-blank shot, then made a spectacular stop on Kevin Bieksa’s rebound attempt while sitting on the goal line.
At the period’s midpoint, Dallas nearly extended the lead to two when Mike Modano feathered a pass behind the Vancouver defense that sprung rookie Jamie Benn in alone. Benn cut across the top of the crease and flipped a backhander up over Schneider’s pad, but the lunging goalie snagged it with his glove.
It briefly appeared that the Stars did take a two-goal lead with 7:15 left in the period, when Jere Lehtinen and Morrow poked at a loose rebound in front of Schneider. Just as the officials blew the whistle, perhaps prematurely since the puck still seemed to be loose, Lehtinen jammed it in, but the goal was waved off.
Mike Ribeiro sped in on a breakaway from center ice with 1:53 remaining in the second, but Schneider thwarted his five-hole attempt.
So despite outshooting Vancouver 18-7 in the period and 40-17 overall, the Stars held just a 1-0 lead that did not accurately reflect how well they were playing.
The Stars finally gave themselves some breathing room when Morrow notched his seventh goal of the year on a power play at 3:50. Morrow was stationed at the left post and received a crisp cross-crease pass from Benn before slamming it home into the open side of the net.
Once again, the Canucks came storming back right away and nearly cut the deficit in half just 29 seconds later. On a similar play to the disallowed Stars goal in the second period, Alex Burrows stepped out from behind the net at the right post and jammed the puck under a diving Turco. The whistle appeared to blow just as the puck emerged from under Turco’s pads at the left post and Sedin quickly popped it in. A video review upheld the call.
“I’m confused but I didn’t really get an explanation,” Turco said. “They blew the whistle, but to my understanding, if the intent to blow the whistle is there, it’s not even reviewable. It was underneath me, squirted all the way through my pads and their guy pushing my leg in the net forced the puck to go in and that’s where the whistle comes in. The right call was certainly made.”
Vancouver snapped Turco’s shutout and pulled to within 2-1 on Mason Raymond’s goal at 8:14. On a seemingly routine play, Bieksa fired a sharp-angle shot from the right corner that Turco easily stopped, but he allowed the rebound to spit out right in front and the uncovered Raymond pounced on it, drilling it past Turco and in.
The Canucks amped up their game after that and had the Stars back on their heels for several minutes, leading to back-to-back power plays (and a 18-second 5-on-3 advantage), but Turco was sharp. He made big saves on Sami Salo’s one-timer from the high slot with 5:23 remaining and then again on Bieksa’s deflection in front 10 seconds later.
With 1:23 left in regulation, the Canucks pulled Schneider for an extra attacker but were unable to generate another dangerous scoring chance.
“Marty made a couple of really good saves on the penalty kill,” coach Marc Crawford said. “That was a very hard-fought win for us. I’m pleased we’ve played two very, very good games in a row now.”
The American Airlines Center crowd of 17,235 had barely settled into their seats when Vancouver’s Ryan Kesler grabbed the puck in the left face-off circle and found himself alone in front of Turco, but the netminder made a sparkling diving save on his point-blank wrist shot, just 15 seconds in.
“That was a big save on Kesler on the first shift,” Stars defenseman Stephane Robidas said. “They go up 1-0, that gives them momentum and that big save kind of gave momentum to our side and we kept on pushing.”
Dallas began to impose their will on the Canucks for much of the next 10 minutes. Their first good scoring chance came 4:20 into the period, when Lehtinen fed a pass out of the left corner to a charging Ribeiro, but Schneider stopped Ribeiro’s re-direct.
Turco then made a larcenous save just past the midway point of the period when Salo received a pass in the right circle and drilled a one-timer that appeared ticketed for the far upper corner, but Turco managed to deflect it just wide with the butt end of his stick.
Schneider made several more big saves at the other end as the period continued, snagging Ribeiro’s point-blank wrist shot from the slot with his glove with 3:24 left, and then denying Eriksson’s uncontested wrister in front with 1:40 to go.
All in all, the Stars fired a season-high 22 shots on goal in the first period, but still could not find the back of the net.
“We got a lead tonight, which helped a little bit,” Richards said of facing a hot goaltender. “That’s nice, because no matter how many saves he’s making, the first one kind of relaxes the bench a little bit and we realize that we can score on him.”
Dallas heads immediately on the road, traveling up to their former home in Minnesota to face the Wild Saturday night (7 pm start, FSSW), which will be their first of four consecutive road contests. The Wild have been struggling lately, taking up residence in the Western Conference basement with a 5-10-0 record after losing to Vancouver 5-2 Thursday night.
- James Neal, the Stars’ leading goal-scorer with nine, sat out with a sore groin. Neal was riding a career-high seven-game scoring streak, during which he registered six goals and 10 points. While he will not make the trip to Minnesota, he is listed as day-to-day.
- Richards extended his scoring streak to seven games, during which he’s compiled 10 points (three goals, seven assists).
- Morrow, who had just three assists in his previous six outings, scored his team-leading third power play goal of the season. He also set a new career-high with eight shots on goal.
- Turco is now 4-0-1 in his last five starts, with a 1.97 goals-against average and a sparkling .932 save percentage. His new mask arrived at the arena this afternoon and was directly out of the box and on his head for pre-game warm-ups.
- National anthem singer Celena Rae missed her first game in years, but Buffi Jacobs of the band Polyphonic Spree performed a fabulous rendition of ‘Oh Canada’ and ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ on the cello in her place.
- The Stars’ new affiliate in the Central Hockey League, the expansion Allen Americans, have their home opener Saturday night at the brand new Allen Event Center at 7:30 pm.
- Individual tickets for December and January Stars home games will go on sale tomorrow morning at 10:00 AM.