DALLAS - Faced with a major dose of adversity, the Dallas Stars rallied and in the end, following a controversial call that went in their favor, pulled out a huge victory.
After rallying from a 2-0 first period deficit and with two of their best players forced to leave the game due to injury, the Stars were awarded a shootout goal from Steve Ott after a lengthy video review to secure a 3-2 victory over the Detroit Red Wings Saturday afternoon at the American Airlines Center.
It was just the second win for Dallas in their last eight games, after a disastrous road trip that left them 11th in the Western Conference standings. Despite the recent rough stretch, the club is now 10-2-2 in their last 14 contests on home ice.
Dallas, which lost the services of captain Brenden Morrow and veteran winger Jere Lehtinen early in the contest, is now 3-7 in shootouts this year and 5-11 in games that last beyond regulation.
For the Red Wings, who started the day ninth in the West, it left them 6-3-1 in their last 10 outings.
In the sixth round of the shootout, Ott managed to slip a deke between Detroit goaltender Jimmy Howard’s pads. Howard seemed to stop it partway over the goal line, with the referee at the net signaling no goal. Then the referee at the blueline called it a goal, so they went to the video review. Even though TV replays were not completely conclusive, following a lengthy review, the goal was upheld.
“I made a fake, kind of threw it in (between his legs), and I thought he saved it, but then at the last second, you could tell by my reaction, I thought I saw it cross the goal line as well,” said Ott, who took his first shootout attempt of the season. “It was tough, his glove was kind of there, too. On the JumboTron, they showed the one angle, I forget which one, it was kind of far away, you could see at least, I don’t know what you want to call it, 15/16ths of the puck over the line and the continued motion, I thought it was in.”
“No comment, because if I say anything, I’m just going to get in trouble,” was all Howard would say on the subject.
Because of the odd circumstances surrounding the situation, Detroit coach Mike Babcock was understandably upset.
“The video replay showed the puck didn’t go in the net,” Babcock said. “I thought that’s why we had video replay. The referee on the goal line called it (no goal), but then they determined I guess he was blocked out and the referee decided it went in the net. I don't know how a guy 20 feet away can make that decision when we have people in Toronto with video replay - that makes no sense to me whatsoever.”
Dallas then clinched the win when Detroit’s Patrick Eaves’ wrist shot from the slot flew past netminder Alex Auld and wide.
For a team that has been struggling any win was important, but the dramatic way this unfolded, and the way the club clawed back from the 2-0 deficit, made it even more crucial.
“It’s a huge momentum boost for us,” Stars coach Marc Crawford said. “It would have been a huge momentum boost if we had beaten St. Mary’s School for the Blessed Blind Deaf and Dumb, but we beat the Detroit Red Wings tonight, we came back from a two-goal deficit, we won in a shootout. There are so many positives that we can build on.”
“This can be a turning point,” Ott said. “A little over halfway through the season, you see yourselves dropping down in the standings after a tough road trip like that. The only way you get confidence is winning, especially when you beat a powerhouse like Detroit and rally the guys around. It’s not going to get any easier, but I know this team has got a lot of compete in here, and we want to make that push.”
Aside from stopping all six shootout attempts he faced, Auld was outstanding during the regular portion of the game as well, making 26 saves. It was Auld’s first win since Dec. 23, a span of three consecutive defeats for him.
“I like Alex’s game, his performance was great, I thought just being big in the net and he was exceptional in the shootout,” Crawford said. “I think he sensed today that this was an opportunity and he’s one of those guys that, given the opportunity, really enjoys the challenge.”
“He was awesome,” Ott added. “You need a goalie to make the saves he’s counted on to make, also steal a little bit extra ones, and that’s what he did tonight. He gave us a chance to win this game and Auldie was a huge part of that.”
“I thought Brad Richards was especially good tonight,” Crawford said. “I think he showed a lot of leadership when he saw the other two guys go down. He was very good on the bench, very good on the ice, very good on the face-off circle, he had terrific puck possession all night. When you possess the puck that long, the old adage, possession is 90 percent of the law. It’s true, when you’ve got the puck, good things happen. He was making lots of good things happen tonight.”
Trailing 2-0 entering the second period, the Stars got one back on a power play 2:37 in, on Richards’ 14th goal of the season. On a 2-on-1 rush with Ott, Richards carried into the left face-off circle before faking a slap shot that froze Howard. Richards then fired a wrist shot past Howard’s stick that ricocheted off Red Wing defenseman Brad Stuart’s stick in the crease and bounced in.
The goal was just their second on the man-advantage in their last eight games.
Auld made a sparkling glove save two minutes later to keep the Dallas deficit at one, when he denied Brett Lebda’s one-timer from the right side of the crease.
The Stars nearly tied it at 6:20 when Richards fed a slick between-the-legs backhand pass from behind the net out front to Neal, but Howard made a nice pad stop.
On another power play late in the period, the Stars had another opportunity when Matt Niskanen bombed a one-timer from the left face-off circle, but Howard was there for the save.
Heading into the final period down 2-1, Dallas went on the power play again early, but although they were unable to score, they generated significant momentum. Howard made a huge pad save on Neal’s backhander in front at 2:10.
Then about a minute after the power play expired, the Stars evened it up on Eriksson’s 19th goal of the year at 3:53. Rookie Tom Wandell set it up after controlling the puck behind the Detroit net, then curling out into the right circle before firing a wrist shot that Howard stopped, even with Krys Barch in his face. But the rebound squirted out front where Eriksson quickly deposited it with a backhander inside the left post.
Continuing to press over the next 10 minutes, the Stars had several other chances. At 7:17, Toby Petersen found himself all alone in front, but his backhander towards an open net was knocked aside by the diving stick of Detroit defender Brett Lebda.
Howard then made a sparkling stop on Trevor Daley’s wrist shot from the right circle off the rush two minutes later.
At the other end of the ice, Auld was just as sharp, making a nice glove save on Nicklas Lidstrom’s slap shot from the left point with 5:04 remaining in regulation.
Dallas thought they’d taken the lead with 3:32 left, but Daley’s booming one-timer from the right point clanked off the left goalpost and stayed out, setting the stage for overtime.
Neither team could muster much in the way of OT scoring opportunities, each generating just one shot on goal, sending the contest to the shootout.
“I think it shows a lot of the resolve in the room and after the first, we came in here and we really believed in the way we were playing,” Auld said of the team’s comeback. “Really, they scored on probably their only two chances of that period and when that happens, I think you can take some confidence out of that and believe in what you’re doing and believe it’s going to come. That being said, it is a challenge when you haven’t been winning and you haven’t had those results, so I feel like we did a great job sticking with it, and that’s a great sign for us.”
The Red Wings struck first, as Todd Bertuzzi collected his 13th goal of the season just 5:10 in. On the rush into the Dallas zone, Bertuzzi received a lead pass from Henrik Zetterberg, cut around Stars defenseman Jeff Woywitka in the right face-off circle, and chipped a backhander over Auld’s pad for the early 1-0 lead.
Dallas almost got that one back at 7:49 when Lehtinen stripped Derek Meech of the puck in the neutral zone and raced in on a breakaway. Lehtinen’s lethal wrist shot from the slot beat Howard past the blocker but clanked off the crossbar.
Detroit pushed its lead to two less than two minutes later, when Brian Rafalski found the back of the net on a power play. With Mike Modano in the penalty box for a questionable slashing call, Zetterberg’s pass from low on the right side of the crease deflected off Stephane Robidas’ stick in front and rolled to the other side, where a charging Rafalski popped it past the diving Auld’s stick for a 2-0 lead at 9:30.
Eriksson had a good opportunity with 3:31 left in the period when he unleashed a quick wrist shot from the slot, but Howard made a nice glove save.
Detroit then hit a post of their own, as Stuart blasted a slap shot from the right point that whizzed through a maze of legs before pinging off the left post with 1:33 to go.
In a case of how statistics can be deceiving, the Stars actually outshot the Wings 11-7 for the period, even though Detroit seemed to outplay them and went into the first intermission up 2-0.
“We didn’t feel like it was a 2-0 hockey game,” Richards said. “We’ve been through some rougher times here of late, and we knew with that crowd out there and the way we finished the first, that with one goal we would be back in it. We put our minds to it as much as we could defensively to help Auld out and keep everything on the outside. Obviously, they’re a good team, they’re going to get chances. Auldie took care of that, and we got back in the game and found a way to win.”
Dallas is at home again Monday, facing off against the Minnesota Wild (7 pm start, VERSUS). After a slow start to the season, the Wild have been hot lately, working their way up to 10th in the West, two points ahead of the Stars, so it is an important battle to regain some ground in the race.
“Minnesota has caught us, so that’s going to be a game that definitely has playoff implications,” Crawford said, “and we’re at the point in the season that we have to start thinking along those lines.”
- With his goal, Richards now has three goals and three assists in the last six games. After his shootout attempt was stopped by Howard, Richards is now 2-for-9 this year in shootouts.
- Eriksson has now tied Neal for the club lead in goals with 19 and has seven in his last 10 outings, along with three assists. In this game, Eriksson and Neal tied with Daley for the club lead with four shots on goal.
- With his assist on Eriksson’s goal, Wandell snapped a 10-game point drought and a stretch of 21 games with just one assist.
- Barch’s assist on Eriksson’s goal was his first point since Nov. 25, a span of 16 games played.
- Lehtinen left the contest late in the first period with an upper body injury after just six shifts and 3:15 of ice time and did not return. He is currently listed as day-to-day.
- Morrow also left the contest early in the second period with an upper body injury, although TV replays showed him favoring his left leg after blocking a shot late in the first. In just 6:18 of ice time, he contributed one shot on goal, one hit and the one blocked shot. He is also listed as day-to-day. “It’s not that serious,” Morrow said afterwards.
- The Stars were 1-for-3 on the power play, leaving them 2-for-6 over the last two contests after going 0-for-22 in the previous six outings.
- Dallas ended up winning the season series 3-1-0 against Wings this year, and have won their last five over them at home.