DALLAS - The Dallas Stars hope this is the beginning of a new trend.
After battling inconsistency for most of the season, the Stars, powered by a 22-save shutout from goaltender Marty Turco, defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 2-0 Monday night at the American Airlines Center for their second win in a row.
It was only the second time this year that Dallas had won consecutive games, and it pushed their season record to 11-6-6 and represented the franchise’s 1,400th all-time regular season triumph.
“Right now, the thing for us is to keep putting points on the ledger and tonight we got a couple of huge ones,” coach Marc Crawford said. “We’ve won two in a row now, and we get the chance to try and string together three on Wednesday.”
Even though the Hurricanes entered the day with the NHL’s second-worst record, they were 3-0-2 in their previous five outings and put up a good fight.
In the third installment of a four-game homestand, the Stars delivered a strong performance on special teams, scoring both goals on the power play and killing off all four Carolina man-advantages, including a 5-on-3 for 1:38 midway through the third period.
“The big turning point in the game for us, the big minute in the game, was the 5-on-3 kill,” Crawford said. “Marty made a couple of really good saves there. When you’re getting those saves, you’re killing penalties, you’re scoring on the power play and not taking a lot of penalties, you’re going to get rewarded for your efforts. That was a pretty complete game for us tonight.”
“We played well enough to win and I thought our penalty kill played great and ended up being the difference,” said Turco, who registered his second shutout of the season and 38th of his career. “Then you just look at our PP, which has a pretty simple mentality but an effective one. There was a lot of talk of us not winning two in a row and we came out with an effort that deserves a small streak. I thought everyone played really well.”
Brad Richards scored a goal and assist, while rookie Jamie Benn snapped a 13-game goal drought to provide the Dallas offense.
“They played a pretty good game,” Richards said of the Hurricanes. “Their record doesn’t indicate how hard they play and we did a good job. We deserved to win, but it wasn’t by any means a foregone conclusion.”
Ahead 1-0 entering the final period, the Stars had an early opportunity on the power play after Carolina was whistled for their second too-many-men penalty of the night, and Dallas capitalized on it. Richards unleashed a tricky wrist shot from the point that appeared to deflect off Hurricanes defenseman Joe Corvo in front while Brenden Morrow provided a screen in front of goaltender Manny Legace.
“We’re shooting more, we’re getting our shots through,” Crawford said regarding the power play unit, which has scored seven goals over the last five games. “The other thing we’re doing very well is we’re getting a good net presence. Morrow and (Steve) Ott have done a terrific job in that area. You can’t have a power play that is successful unless you have a strong net presence.”
Shortly afterwards, penalties to Krys Barch and Karlis Skrastins put Carolina on the 5-on-3 power play for 1:38, but the Hurricanes were unable to get one past Turco. His best save on the sequence came 4:44 into the period when Ray Whitney fed Brandon Sutter for a re-direction from the left side of the crease, but Turco flashed out the pad to make the stop.
Dallas enjoyed three more power plays later in the period, including two separate calls on Carolina’s Erik Cole in the final 3:20, but the Hurricanes enjoyed the better scoring chances, as Turco was forced to make big saves on Tim Gleason, Chad LaRose and Sutter over the final three-plus minutes.
Then with 1:03 remaining, Whitney sped into the right face-off circle and whipped a wrist shot past Turco but it clanked off the far goalpost and out.
“He was battling some pucks and fighting for rebounds,” Morrow said of Turco’s performance. “Everyone’s buying in and blocking shots and playing pucks. And when everything else fails, Marty’s been excellent and he’s a big reason for the win tonight.”
The captain Morrow got the home crowd of 16,243 fired up almost immediately when he squared off with Gleason for a fight just 25 seconds into the contest.
“We haven’t played very well back-to-back at home and there might have been some personal things there too,” Morrow explained, “but it’s more to kind of get the tempo.”
Dallas had the game’s first good scoring chance just over seven minutes in while on a power play. Winger Jere Lehtinen, still looking for his first goal of the season, fired a quick one-timer from the slot that Legace made a nice pad save on, but left a juicy rebound in front. Lehtinen darted in and lifted a backhander up and over the fallen Legace, but the puck clanked off the far goalpost and then landed right on top of Legace’s chest, where he managed to cover it up.
A big hit by Ott led to the Stars getting on the scoreboard first midway through the period. First, Ott laid a crushing hit on Carolina’s Patrick Dwyer - his second devastating check of the night after he leveled Joe Corvo earlier - and Tom Kostopolous took exception, cross-checking Ott away from the play to earn a visit to the penalty box.
The Stars needed just 24 seconds of power play time to capitalize, as Benn netted his fourth goal of the season at 9:30. Richards drilled a slap shot from the top of the left face-off circle that Legace stopped, but Morrow got to the rebound in front and slid it over to a wide open Benn off to the right of the crease and Benn roofed it over the sprawling Legace.
“I was just in the right place at the right time,” Benn said. “Our power play was moving it around pretty good there, just got a shot and it came right to me.”
Dallas had an 11-4 edge in shots on goal with about three minutes left in the period, but a late Carolina power play helped the Hurricanes close the advantage to 11-8 heading into the second.
Leading 1-0 less than a minute into the second, Turco kept it that way with a sparkling blocker save on Joni Pitkanen’s wrist shot from the slot
The Stars then dodged a major bullet at 6:37 of the period when an apparent Carolina goal was waved off. Pitkanen fed a nice cross-ice pass to a hard-charging Whitney, who angled his skate to collect the pass and the puck ricocheted off him and before he could tap it forward with his stick, rolled past Turco inside the far post. After a lengthy video review, the officials ruled it no goal due to ‘a distinct kicking motion’ by Whitney.
“The ref on the ice made the call that it was a goal, but they reviewed it (at the NHL headquarters) in Toronto and felt it wasn’t a goal,” Carolina coach Paul Maurice said. “That was it. On the road, that’s a huge call against us.”
“Obviously, they deliberated for awhile,” Turco said of the play. “To me, he tried to kick it up to his stick, therefore he kicked it, and he just missed it with his stick, and I actually doubted myself at first, thinking I just missed it, but realized our D-man touched it on the way in. But we didn’t have possession of it, so it’s the right call. That’s why replay is important, they get it right. It’s nice they take the time to look at it.”
The Stars complete their four-game homestand Wednesday when St. Louis comes to town (7 pm start, VERSUS) for the first time this season. Dallas beat the Blues, who are 8-9-4 on the year, in St. Louis 4-1 on Oct. 24. The highlight for that game will be the ceremony before the game to honor Brett Hull’s recent induction into the Hall of Fame, so if fans want to see it, they should be in their seats by 6:50.
- Benn, who had registered just one assist in his previous six games, scored his first goal in 13 contests. “I’m still feeling pretty good, it’s just the way it goes sometimes,” Benn said of the drought. “As long as you put in a good effort, I got a good bounce tonight, hopefully it’ll keep coming.”
- Richards’ two points gives him six (one goal, five assists) in the last two games and eight (one goal, seven assists) in his last four. He also led the club with five shots on goal.
- Morrow’s assist on Benn’s goal snapped a six-game scoreless streak. He also led the squad with seven hits.
- With his assist on Richards’ goal, Ribeiro now has five points in his last five games (two goals, three assists).
- Defenseman Nicklas Grossman was a late scratch, due to a lower body injury. He is currently listed as day-to-day. Taking his place in the lineup was Jeff Woywitka, who sat out as a healthy scratch eight of the last nine games.
- Second-year winger James Neal, who leads the Stars with 11 goals on the season, sat out the second game of his two-game suspension for delivering a hit from behind to Columbus’ Derek Dorsett last Thursday.
- After going 2-for-8, the power play unit is now 7-for-27 over the last five games.
- The PK unit rebounded from killing just 7-of-12 opposition power plays over the previous two games, a stretch which followed 17 straight kills over the prior five contests.
- With the win, the Stars are now 9-1-1 on home ice against the Hurricanes franchise since relocating to Dallas in 1993 and are 13-6-3 against them overall. The Stars have not lost to this franchise since Feb. 11, 1996, when they were still the Hartford Whalers.