DALLAS - Maybe it’s the home cooking, maybe it’s being able to sleep in their own beds, perhaps even the clean water. Or not. But whatever it is, the Dallas Stars have been a completely different team at home lately.
After rallying from a 3-1 deficit, the Stars triumphed on Loui Eriksson’s shootout goal to pull out a dramatic 4-3 victory over the Calgary Flames Wednesday night at the American Airlines Center.
The win improves the Stars’ record to 23-19-11, still just in 10th in the West standings, but it moves them to within two points of eighth place Detroit, who lost earlier in the evening. Dallas, which opened a four-game homestand after some recent struggles on the road, is now a stunning 7-1-0 in their last eight on Texas ice and 12-2-2 in their last 16.
Meanwhile, Calgary, which is now tied with Detroit after gaining a point, lost its seventh straight game (0-6-1), a stretch in which they’ve been outscored 27-10.
Eriksson scored the only goal of the shootout on the Stars’ final attempt, making a slick deke to his backhand, evading Calgary goaltender Miikka Kiprusoff’s pokecheck attempt and then sliding the puck between his pads. Then Alex Auld made a big save on Flame captain Jarome Iginla’s wrist shot to clinch the Stars’ second straight shootout victory.
Auld was back in net for the Stars after Marty Turco started the previous two and he looked sharp, particularly as the game wore on, making 23 saves and denying all three shootout attempts he faced. He even earned an assist on the tying goal with a quick pass up into the neutral zone.
“I felt good in the shootout. I obviously have a little bit of confidence in that right now,” said Auld, who has now stopped 13 of 15 shootout attempts he’s faced this season. “That’s a key part,
feeling good, feeling confident enough to hold your ground and wait for the move you think is the one.”
“They’re ahead of us in the standings,” Robidas said of the Flames. “Obviously, after last trip, we were a little disappointed after the last game. But we decided to stay positive and look ahead and it’s a big home stretch for us coming up and we wanted to start it right.”
Trailing 3-1 late in the second period, Dallas pulled to within one with just 24 seconds left in the period with the benefit of a fortunate bounce, when Neal registered his 21st goal of the season. Robidas slid a soft shot/pass from the point that Neal, stationed in the slot, deflected off the inside of Calgary defenseman Jay Bouwmeester’s leg and just inside the left post.
“I really give our team credit because down 3-1, we very easily could have folded,” Stars coach Marc Crawford said. “We had everybody battling. The Richards line got it going with the goal by James and that was huge. I think coming into the second intermission only down one gave us some confidence. We knew that we got a lot of chances in the second period, especially late, and that we were ready to make a push.”
The Stars carried their strong play over into the third period and earned a prime opportunity to get back in the contest when Bouwmeester was whistled for boarding at 6:28, giving Dallas a 5-on-3 power play for 1:25.
They wouldn’t need that long to capitalize, with Richards scoring his 15th of the season at 7:35 to even up the contest. Richards boomed a one-timer from the top of the right face-off circle, but it was the fortunate ricochet off the stomach of Flame defender Dion Phaneuf that changed its trajectory and sent it over Kiprusoff’s shoulder.
Fully energized and riding a wave of momentum, the Stars continued to press after that, and Richards almost put them ahead with 9:30 left in regulation when he ripped a slap shot from the left face-off circle that Kiprusoff made a nice stop on.
Each team seemed to buckle down defensively after that, and the contest headed into overtime after the Stars outshot Calgary 11-3 in the third period.
Auld made a nice stop on Olli Jokinen’s backhander from the slot 2:10 into OT, and then at the other end, Kiprusoff denied Eriksson in close at 3:00.
Dallas extremely close to ending it with 1:20 left in OT, when Trevor Daley carried into the right circle and fed a backhand pass out to a charging Steve Ott in the slot, but with Kiprusoff out of position, Ott’s shot towards an empty net was blocked by Calgary defender Mark Giordano.
Kiprusoff then took two slashing penalties in the final 50 seconds, giving the Stars a 5-on-3 power play for the last 19.8 seconds, but they were unable to get another good chance before the buzzer signaled the start of the shootout.
“That goal right at the end of the second obviously gave us a lot of momentum,” Auld said. “Any time you score in the last minute, you tend to gain a little bit. We felt going into the third with a one-goal game that we had a good chance. Obviously, we got a couple of power plays and we were able to capitalize. We played really well in the third period. I think they had five or six shots even through overtime, so we did a really good job of keeping the pressure on them and limiting what they got.”
The Stars jumped on top early when Modano notched his 10th goal of the season just 3:58 in. A nice effort from Krys Barch, who slid a backhand pass out of the left corner while falling, set up Modano, who drilled a one-timer from the left circle that beat Kiprusoff past the glove.
The contest seemed to shift at 8:17 of the first period, when defenseman Mark Fistric and Calgary’s Eric Nystrom dropped the gloves. The two squared off seconds after Fistric nailed Nystrom with a crushing old-school hip check into the boards at center ice, but the crucial moment during the fight came when Fistric, in the process of punching Nystrom’s head, pulled off the Flame’s helmet and then whacked him in the head with it, before dropping it and continuing to punch.
That earned Fistric a five-minute match penalty for ‘intent to injure’ and ejection from the contest. Because Nystrom picked up an extra minor for unsportsmanlike conduct, Calgary’s 27th-ranked power play unit went on a three-minute major advantage and scored two goals just 23 seconds apart to take a 2-1 lead.
“Those things happen every now and then and you can never tell in a fight. Guys just let go when fights happen,” Crawford said of the incident. “It’s unfortunate that Mark Fistric got the ejection from the game. He doesn’t have a history of anything like that. I thought it was accidental, but the referee has got to call it how he sees it.”
First, Phaneuf boomed a one-timer from the top of the right face-off circle after receiving a nice cross-ice pass from Jamie Lundmark, beating a scrambling Auld over the blocker to tie it at 11:04.
Then after Auld stopped Dustin Boyd’s point-blank shot, Iginla notched his 22nd goal of the year when he collected the rebound cutting across the top of the crease and swept a backhander past the sprawling Auld at 11:27.
“The adversity came when we were on the penalty kill,” Crawford added. “You want to start your kill off really well and we were guilty of not clearing the puck. On that second goal, we made a really critical mistake. We just got on the wrong side of the Flames forwards and that allowed their defensemen with the big shots to have a long time and great opportunities.”
Right after the Stars killed the rest of the advantage, they had a golden opportunity to even it up again. On a 3-on-2 rush into the Calgary zone, Ott slid a pass from the left circle into the slot for a charging Brian Sutherby, but Kiprusoff made a sparkling pad on the resulting one-timer.
Auld then came up with a key stop on Iginla’s blast from the top of the left circle with 5:17 left in the period to keep it a one-goal game.
Entering the second period trailing 2-1, the Stars had to kill off another power play and Auld came up with a nice pad save on Phaneuf’s one-timer from the left circle at 8:43.
About two minutes later, Auld denied Curtis Glencross when the speedy Calgary winger fired a quick wrist shot from the right circle on a 2-on-1 rush.
With 8:46 remaining in the second, the Stars came oh-so-close to tying it when Modano slid a pass out from behind the net to rookie Jamie Benn in the slot, but Benn’s scorching wrist shot clanked off the crossbar and ricocheted out of play.
Just 23 seconds after that, Calgary upped their lead to 3-1 on Jokinen’s 11th of the year. Auld stopped Iginla’s blast from the top of the left circle, but left a rebound that the charging Lundmark got a piece of. Auld saved that as well, but the rebound was still loose in the crease and Jokinen pounced on it, somehow managing to slither it under Auld’s leg and just over the line.
The Stars ratcheted up the intensity level after that and almost got one back with 3:00 left when Eriksson curled out from behind the net at the right post, but Kiprusoff stopped his wrap-around attempt, and then made a scintillating stop on Eriksson’s rebound chance.
Dallas continues its homestand Friday night with a match against the Colorado Avalanche (7:30 pm start, FSSW), who dismantled the Stars 4-0 in Denver last Sunday.
- The Stars are now 4-7 in shootouts this year and 6-11 in games that go beyond regulation.
- Modano now has four goals and one assist in his last seven games after going scoreless in the previous six outings. The point was Modano’s 1,349th of his 21-year career, tying him with former Maple Leaf Mats Sundin for 25th on the NHL’s all-time points list. Modano missed on his shootout attempt, leaving him 0-for-4 this season.
- With his goal, Neal tied Eriksson for the team lead with 21, and now has four points (two goals, two assists) in the last five games.
- Robidas now has four assists in his last four games. With Fistric missing most of the game, Robidas logged an unbelievable 30:47 of ice time to lead all players in the contest.
- With his assist on Neal’s goal, Eriksson now has a career-high 28 on the season, surpassing the 27 he earned last year. Eriksson, along with Richards, led the squad with six shots on goal. With his shootout goal, Eriksson is now 2-for-5 in shootouts this season.
- Fistric’s assist on Modano’s goal snapped an eight-game point drought, even though he only ended up skating three shifts for a total of 2:59 of ice time before his ejection.
- The Stars outhit the Flames 55-33, with Ott leading all players with nine in the contest while Neal registered seven.
- Captain Brenden Morrow returned to the lineup after a four game absence due to an upper body injury. In 18:11 of ice time, Morrow delivered six hits while recording one shot on goal and two blocked shots.
- Veteran winger Jere Lehtinen was a game-time decision, but sat out his fifth straight contest with an upper body injury. He is still listed as day-to-day.
- The Stars’ power play unit ended up 1-for-5 on the night, after they had gone just 1-for-10 over the previous three games.
- The Dallas penalty killers nullified just two of four Calgary power plays, leaving the PK unit just 15-for-26 over the last eight games.
- The Stars win leaves them 16-6-6 against Calgary in their last 28 meetings.
1 - 0 DAL