DALLAS - On Groundhog Day, it seemed like old times at the American Airlines Center.
Goaltender Marty Turco delivered an outstanding, 40-save performance, while veteran center Mike Modano provided a goal and an assist to power the Dallas Stars to a 4-2 victory over the Minnesota Wild Tuesday night.
Despite being outshot 42-18, the Stars won for the ninth time in their last 11 games at home to improve their overall record to 25-20-11. With every point at a premium, the Stars, who began the day in 10th place in the Western Conference standings, tied with Anaheim and one point ahead of the Wild, needed to win this one to stay in the playoff hunt.
Turco, who returned to the crease for just his third start in the last nine games, was incredible, setting a new season-high with his 40 saves, to give the Stars their 12th straight triumph over the Wild at home.
“I saw the puck pretty puck pretty good,” Turco said of his 16th victory of the season. “I was excited to get back in there and was remembering some of the nuances and rituals that take place. It felt really good to get back out there. The guys played a good, solid game, and we got the lead and it gives them a chance to fire more pucks at the net. Personally, you just look at it exactly the way it is. It’s just one game, and an opportunity for us to get two points and for me to try to do what you always want to do, and that’s just to give these guys a chance to win.”
“It was huge,” coach Marc Crawford said of Turco’s goaltending. “That many shots, it’s not the exact formula that we’d like, although I never felt like we were out of control of the game.”
For Modano, getting some days off from practice lately has had a big impact on his play, helping provide some extra jump he’s been showing in his skating stride.
“It’s been a good stretch,” said Modano, who now has nine points (seven goals, two assists) in his last 10 games. “I’ve felt better, I feel like I’m getting some good looks on net, and getting some quality chances and shots that have been finding their way through some legs and the goalies. So it’s been a good run, I’m feeling a little better, opportunities have been following me around, rebounds have been there, some guys have made some good passes to free up some shots, so it’s been a good half-dozen games or so.”
“It makes a difference for him,” Crawford said of Modano’s periodic rests. “Mike’s going to be 40 years old this year. He has really good instincts for the game, he’s still got a real creative mind, and he’s such a good skater that he gets by. We have to manage him as best as we possibly can and I know he appreciates the time off.”
Twice the Stars answered Minnesota goals with quick ones of their own, and in the end, that proved to be the difference, as they never allowed the Wild to build on any momentum they might have gained by scoring. Modano’s goal with 24.4 seconds left in the second period, coming just 25 seconds after Minnesota cut the Dallas lead to 2-1, was especially crucial.
“The timely scoring that we had, the two goals directly after their goals - you can’t replace that,” Crawford said. “As much as you score on your opportunities, but the way you score, it just takes the wind right out of the opposition.”
“It’s huge shifts, huge shifts,” said Minnesota coach Todd Richards of the Stars’ ability to answer. “When you score or whether the other team scores, those are real important shifts from the fact that you battle, you’re down 2-0. You battle, you finally get one, 2-1. There’s some life now on the bench. There’s a minute to go in the period and we give up a goal. That was huge.”
The Stars got on the board first when Neal notched his team-leading 22nd goal of the season at 11:00. After some sustained pressure in the Wild zone, Karlis Skrastins drilled a slap shot from the top of the left face-off circle and Neal executed a nifty deflection in front to beat Wild netminder Wade Dubielewicz.
One minute later, two of the NHL’s top four body-checkers dropped the gloves, as Steve Ott (fourth in hits with 185) squared off with Minnesota’s Cal Clutterbuck (first with 221). Otter tagged Clutterbuck with several roundhouses and clearly had the edge in the bout.
The Wild ratcheted up their level of play after that, but Turco was equal to the task in the Dallas net. He made a sparkling save on Mikko Koivu’s deflection in front of Marek Zidlicky’s slap shot from the right point with 4:59 left in the period. Turco then denied Nick Schultz’s deflection of Koivu’s shot with 1:36 left.
Overall, despite taking a 1-0 lead into the dressing room, the Stars were outshot 14-4 in the opening period.
Minnesota kept the pressure on early in the second, but once again, Turco was equal to the task. With the Wild on a power play, he stopped Andrew Ebbett’s deflection in front of Eric Belanger’s shot from the top of the left circle at 5:09, then made a fabulous sprawling save on Owen Nolan’s rebound attempt.
A minute and a half later, Turco made another impressive save on Clutterbuck’s wrister off the rush from the left circle.
The Minnesota barrage left the Wild with a 23-5 advantage in shots at the midway point of the period, before Ott drilled a one-timer from the high slot with 9:27 left that Dubielewicz turned aside.
The Stars ended up with a 5-on-3 power play for 11 seconds, and while they didn’t capitalize on that short window, they did get one on the second power play, as Richards recorded his 16th goal of the year. With captain Brenden Morrow providing a screen in front, Richards bombed a one-timer from the point that beat Dubielewicz over the shoulder at 12:54.
“It was good to get that with back-to-back power plays there, and with a 1-0 game, it’s good to get a two-goal lead in the second so we could get a little breathing room,” Richards said.
Ott and Clutterbuck squared off for round two with 4:32 left in the second, moments after Clutterbuck leveled Richards with an open ice hit. Ott came in and engaged Clutterbuck in another fight and once again inflicted considerable damage.
“I think that it’s the right message for our team,” Crawford said of Ott’s actions. “You’re sending a message that you can’t hit that guy and it’s been around forever. I thought it really did give us a boost, and the fans too, there’s not many sitting down when that happens.”
Because Ott picked up an extra penalty for roughing, the Wild went on the power play, but again Turco stood tall, denying Belanger’s slap shot and Guillaume Latendresse’s rebound chance with 2:55 remaining.
On another power play about two minutes later, Turco’s magic bubble was broken as Latendresse struck for his 17th goal with just 49.1 seconds to go. Stationed in the slot, Latendresse re-directed Brent Burns’ slap shot past Turco to make it 2-1.
But the Stars answered just 25 seconds later, as Modano’s 13th of the year was like a dagger to the heart of the Wild. On the rush into the Minnesota zone, Modano received a cross-ice pass from Morrow and blasted a one-timer from the right circle off Dubielewicz’s glove and in.
“Jamie made a good play just to create a turnover, and Brenden made a good pass, so I had all the time in the world,” Modano said of the goal. “In that area, with that much time, you hopefully get
it off good, and I got some good wood on it.”
Entering the final period with a 3-1 lead although they were being outshot 29-12, the Stars continued to rely on Turco. He made a scintillating pad save on Kyle Brodziak’s wrister from the right circle at 6:35 to keep the Stars up by two.
As the Wild kept pressing, they finally broke through again with 3:57 remaining in regulation as long-time Star-killer Andrew Brunette collected his 15th goal. Koivu flipped a pass from behind the Dallas net out front into a maze of bodies and Brunette swiped it past Turco just inside the right post.
But while the Wild got a big dose of momentum, the Stars struck back just 53 seconds later as Benn scored his 11th with 3:04 to go. He retrieved a Zidlicky turnover in the neutral zone and sped acrossthe Minnesota blue line on a 2-on-1 rush with Ott. Benn then unleashed a scorching wrist shot from the high slot that beat Dubielewicz over the glove hand.
“We were on our heels in the third, and let them come at us; you could kind of see that coming,” Richards said. “They scored, but to go right back, and force the issue and score was huge. We did it twice tonight after their goals. That’s probably why we won the game, those two shifts after those goals.”
The Wild pulled Dubielewicz for an extra attacker with about two minutes left and then had a 6-on-4 advantage when Ott was whistled for interference with 56 seconds remaining, but could not get another one.
Former Star Antti Miettinen did blast a one-timer from the point off the goalpost with 20 seconds left, but that was as close as Minnesota would come.
After going 3-1-0 on their four-game homestand, the Stars head back out on the road for four of their next five contests heading into the Olympic break, starting with a visit to Columbus and former coach Ken Hitchcock’s Blue Jackets on Thursday (6 pm start, FSSW). Columbus, with a 22-26-9 record starting the day, currently reside 14th in the West. The Stars will be looking to break out of their recent road struggles, which has seen them fashion a 1-9-3 mark in their last 13 away contests.
“We’ve played well here at home all four games, in some shape or form, we’ve had good aspects to our game and we have to carry it on,” Crawford said. “We’re playing better and we’ve got to carry it on. There’s no doubt if we’re going to make the push we want to make, we have to make more hay on the road.”
- Modano’s goal was his seventh in the last 10 games and his 556th career regular season tally, moving him into a tie for 23rd on the NHL’s all-time list with former Boston great Johnny Bucyk. He also was credited with t he game-winning goal for the second time in the last three games, his 92nd of his career, which ties him for 10th on that all-time list with Anaheim’s Teemu Selanne, Jeremy Roenick and Mark Messier. With his two points, Modano now has 1,353 in his career, pulling him into a tie with former Montreal great Guy Lafleur for 24th in that category.
- Benn now has four points (three goals, one assist) in his last six games after going the previous six without a point
- Richards, who had just one goal and one assist in his previous six outings, collected his 26th power play point of the year with his goal, tying him for the NHL lead in that category. He led the club with five shots on goal.
- Morrow’s assist on Modano’s goal gives him assists in three straight contests following a five-game pointless drought. Morrow also picked up a roughing penalty to give him 1,000 career penalty minutes.
- Eriksson, who had registered just one assist in his previous five games, earned an assist on Richards’ goal to extend his scoring streak against the Wild to eight games (four goals, nine assists).
- Skrastins had recorded just one assist in his previous 20 outings before earning his eighth assist of the year on Neal’s goal. He also registered a game-high four blocked shots.
- Center Brian Sutherby sat out the contest after injuring his shoulder in the previous game. Warren Peters was recalled again from AHL Texas to take his spot in the lineup.
- In beating the Wild in 12 straight contests in Dallas, the Stars have outshot them 47-24.
- The Stars went 1-for-3 on the power play, after going just 1-for-13 over their last four games.
- This was the first time in 235 games (since March 2007) that a goaltender other than Niklas Backstrom or Josh Harding appeared in the Minnesota net. Backstrom is out with the flu, and Harding, who backed up on the bench, is dealing with a hip injury.