DALLAS - It was an exciting, back-and-forth affair, but in the end, the Dallas Stars showed that they have what it takes to compete with the NHL’s best.
Led by two goals and an assist from Steve Ott, the Stars outlasted the Central Division-leading Chicago Blackhawks 5-4 Tuesday night at the American Airlines Center.
Facing a team that entered the day with the NHL’s fewest goals allowed and was tied for first overall in the NHL with San Jose and New Jersey, the Stars improved their record to 17-11-11 on the year.
The Stars are now 7-1-2 in their last 10 home games and 9-2-4 in their last 15, while the Blackhawks lost for just the second time in their last nine contests.
“It’s huge. We beat one of the best clubs in the league and I thought we were full value for it,” Stars coach Marc Crawford said. “We had a great battle. When you look at the statistics, they show you why we won; we outblocked shots 2-to-1 and hits, we were just so much more physical than them. I thought we had good battle all night. We scored a couple of power play goals, a big one by Steve Ott and he made no mistakes about the breakaway chance.”
In addition to Ott, whose breakaway goal snapped a 4-4 tie 4:07 into the third period for the game-winner, the Stars were led offensively by Mike Ribeiro, who contributed a goal and an assist, while Mike Modano and Loui Eriksson also scored. Brad Richards registered two assists.
Marty Turco was back in goal for the Stars after sitting out last two contest, one with the flu, and was outstanding. Yes, he allowed four goals, but he made 33 saves, with a good number of them difficult and was named the game’s third star.
“That was a really good team, playing really well, especially on the road,” Richards said. “We stuck with it, Marty made some big saves to keep us in the game. We scored some opportunistic goals that other teams have been doing to us lately, and we did that tonight to them.”
The Stars showed plenty of resilience in this one, rebounding multiple times from adversity to pull out the victory. Chicago goals less than a minute apart turned a 2-1 Stars lead into a 3-2 deficit late in the first period, but Dallas responded by scoring twice within the first 1:32 of the second to take back the advantage. Then, when the Blackhawks tied it again 4-4 with just 3.5 seconds left in the second period, that could have heralded a big momentum swing for Chicago, but the Stars came out strong in the third, netting the game-winner less than five minutes in.
“We’ve got great leadership in the room and I think you saw the response from the key players,” Crawford said. “Morrow, Ott, Lehtinen, Robidas, Ribeiro, they all played great in the third period. They played with their bodies on the line. It was their determination and desire to win. It was a great job by a lot of players, there weren’t any passengers tonight.”
Trailing 3-2 entering the second period after being outshot 21-8 in the first, the Stars evened it up just 57 seconds in on Eriksson’s 13th of the year. Richards outbattled Jonathan Toews for the puck behind the Chicago net and slid a pass out front to Eriksson, whose quick wrist shot squeezed between goaltender Cristobal Huet’s pads and in.
Dallas struck again just 35 seconds later on a fluky goal by Ott to regain the lead. On the rush into the Blackhawks’ zone, Ott tried to pass into the slot for Ribeiro, but the puck ricocheted off the skate of Troy Brouwer and hopped past Huet at 1:32.
That goal, while hardly Huet’s fault, prompted a Chicago netminder change, with Huet coming out and Antti Niemi going in.
“We had to do something,” Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “They were going in too easily. It was an easy call.”
The Stars continued to play well and press, outshooting Chicago 9-5 throughout the period, but it was the Blackhawks delivering the devastating late blow. With just 3.5 seconds left in the second, Patrick Kane was credited with his second goal of the game after his wrist shot from the slot rode up Turco’s pad and over him. While Turco did end up catching the puck in his glove, it was clearly over the goal line, making it 4-4 heading into the final period.
Enjoying a power play early in the third, the Stars almost surrendered a short-hander when Duncan Keith’s long pass sprung Marian Hossa on a breakaway 2:55 in, but Turco came up with a big save to keep it even up.
Later on the same man-advantage, Dallas broke through for the go-ahead goal, as Ott notched his second of the game and seventh of the year at 4:07. After taking a lead pass at the Chicago blue line from Trevor Daley, Ott split between ‘Hawk defenders Niklas Hjalmarsson and Brent Sopel, sped into the slot and fired a wrist shot over Niemi’s glove into the upper corner.
“Daley made a pretty good, solid play, and it kind of went through the D-man,” Ott said of the play. “I’ve missed a lot of breakaways this year so I was thinking shoot right away and it definitely found a lane.”
The Stars thought they’d gone up by two at 7:44 when rookie Jamie Benn appeared to score, but the goal was waved off. Tom Wandell fired a high wrist shot from the top of the right face-off circle, and Benn executed a nifty deflection in front, but he hit the puck with his stick clearly over the crossbar, so it was deemed a ‘high-stick’ and nullified the goal.
Chicago very nearly tied it with 5:08 remaining in regulation. Turco stopped Kane’s spinning wrist shot from the left circle, and Toews pounced on the rebound, but his backhander pinged off the far goalpost before Turco smothered it.
As the clock wound down, the Stars continued to press and forecheck, preventing Chicago from pulling Niemi for an extra attacker until 55 seconds remained. Aside from a fairly routine Turco save on Patrick Sharp’s wrist shot from the right sideboards with 33 seconds left, the Blackhawks never seriously threatened to tie it before the final buzzer.
“It was unfortunate to give up that goal late in the second, not the recipe you want to use, but we did a good job,” Richards said. “Otter scored a big goal for us on the PP there. We’d like maybe to have more zone time, but it was a win.”
A high-sticking penalty on Richards just 1:13 into the contest put Chicago on the power play and the Stars’ PK unit almost weathered the storm, but surrendered the game’s first goal with just three seconds left in the advantage. Dustin Byfuglien blasted a one-timer from the top of the left face-off circle that Turco stopped, but Brouwer was right on the doorstep to tap home the rebound at 3:10.
The Blackhawks pelted Turco with 11 shots on goal over the first five minutes of the opening period before the Stars even registered one, but that one came on Dallas power play and ended up in the net. Brenden Morrow fed a nice cross-ice pass from the right sideboards to a charging Modano in the slot, and Modano’s fierce wrister zipped over the sliding Huet at 5:14 for his sixth goal of the season.
Chicago continued to press and held an incredible 17-2 edge in shots through the first 12 minutes of the period, but the game was still 1-1 thanks to Turco’s heroics.
With 7:41 left in the period and Dallas on another power play, the Stars nearly went ahead when Benn clanked a scorching wrist shot from the right face-off circle off the goalpost.
The Stars did jump ahead 2-1 with 4:23 left in the opening period on Ribeiro’s 10th goal of the year. On a 1-on-1 rush into the Chicago zone against Hawks defenseman Brent Seabrook, Ribeiro made a couple of nifty moves before circling around the net and stuffing the puck inside the right post before Huet could slide across.
“They got off to such a scary start with all of their shots on the power play,” Crawford said. “Answering back when they scored, I thought we did a terrific job of that tonight.”
That Dallas lead was short-lived, however, as the Blackhawks answered just 1:13 later on another power play. After Turco stopped Toews’ wraparound attempt, Kane pounced on the loose rebound at the lip of the crease and flipped it over Turco.
Chicago seized back the lead less than a minute later on Colin Fraser’s first goal of the season. Following a Stars giveaway in their own zone, Kris Versteeg delivered a spectacular no-look backhand pass back between his own legs over to the charging Fraser and he drilled it inside the far post with 2:11 remaining to make it 3-2.
The Stars remain home for their annual New Year’s Eve game, facing off against the Anaheim Ducks (7:00 pm start, FSSW) on Thursday as part of the Big D NYE ‘10 celebration.
- Modano had gone four games without a point before his goal. It was the 549th goal of his career, moving him past Michel Goulet and tying him with Ron Francis for 25th on the NHL’s all-time list. The game was Modano’s 1,600th of his NHL career, all with Dallas, combining regular season (1,426) and playoffs (174).
- Ott now has three goals and an assist in his last two games after going three contests without a point.
- With his goal, Eriksson now has 13 points (four goals, nine assists) over his last 10 games. Eriksson tied defenseman Matt Niskanen for the team lead with four shots on goal.
- Ribeiro had gone seven games without a goal, although he did register six assists over that span.
- With his two assists, Richards now has 592 career points, moving him past former Minnesota North Star Al MacAdam for the most ever by a player born in the small Canadian province of Prince Edward Island. Richards also has seven assists in his last five outings.
- Defenseman Stephane Robidas’ assist gives him six points (two goals, four assists) in his last six contests. Robidas once again demonstrated his grit and leadership by suiting up with a full face shield after suffering a broken orbital bone in practice Sunday and undergoing a ‘procedure’ Monday to repair it. Skating in his 600th career game, he still logged a team-high 25:44.
- Even Turco picked up an assist, on Ott’s game-winner, giving him two assists on the season and extending his franchise record to 20 for his career.
- Daley earned an assist in his first game back in the lineup after missing five contests with a shoulder injury.
- Captain Brenden Morrow also returned to the ice and collected an assist, after sitting out the previous game with the flu.
- Winger Jere Lehtinen skated in his 840th career game, all with the Stars, moving him past former teammate Sergei Zubov into sole possession of third place on franchise’s all-time list. He now trails just Modano and Neal Broten (992).
- For Chicago, Kane extended his goal-scoring streak to five games and now has seven over that span.
- The Stars went 2-for-5 with the power play against Chicago’s league-leading penalty killing unit, after going 1-for-12 in their previous four outings.
- The Stars are 18-4-2 in their last 24 home meetings with Chicago, outscoring them 96-57 over that span.