DALLAS – An inspired effort in front of their inspiring new leader helped spark the re-invigorated Stars to a much-needed win.
Playing in front of new owner Tom Gaglardi for the first time, the Stars looked energized and enthused in an impressive 4-1 win over the Edmonton Oilers on Monday night at American Airlines Center.
Hours after he took official control of the team and moments after he received a standing ovation from the Stars faithful before dropping the ceremonial first puck, Gaglardi watched his new club have an extra gear in playing its best game in almost two weeks. It was a complete and gritty effort from a team that had limped into the contest having lost its direction during a five-game losing streak.
“He spent a lot of money, so it’s good we didn’t disappoint him here at home the first game,” captain Brenden Morrow said with a chuckle. “It’s been a long time coming, and it feels good to get another win. We stuck to our structure and won the battle at the blue lines. We had some cycles going and got some scoring opportunities from it.”
“The guys were playing for themselves obviously, but we talked with Tom this morning, and he had a great message for our guys,” coach Glen Gulutzan added. “You could tell in the pregame skate that our guys were a little lighter on our feet and a little more confident. It’s a nice way to start to own a hockey franchise.”
Dvorak capped the festive night off with a short-handed, empty net goal with 84 seconds to go, his first tally as a Star.
“We’re a hard-working club and we laid the body the whole night,” Ott said. “It’s about time we got back on that winning way, and we couldn’t do it in a better fashion than in front of a new owner.”
The game was eerily reminiscent of some of the hard-hitting and physical encounters these two teams used to be involved in back when they seemingly met in the postseason every year in the late ‘90s and early 2000s. Dallas finished with 47 hits, with many being of the bone-rattling and glass-shaking variety.
Jamie Benn set the tone with a thundering check on Edmonton defenseman Tom Gilbert just 9 seconds in, and the Stars continued the banging against an Oiler team that was looking to build on a resounding 9-2 thumping of the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday.
“I’m not going to lie to you, it feels pretty good to kind of get a gulp of air,” Gulutzan said. “I thought our players played real hard tonight. We got a real good team effort, were physical, and played hard. I’m real happy for the guys.”
In all, the Stars looked like the team that surged out of the gate with an 11-3 mark rather than the one that had struggled to score for over 194 minutes during a stretch in their five-game skid.
“It’s a positive feeling in the room, and we know what we got,” said Mark Fistric, who delivered numerous thunderous blows in the game, including leveling Oilers center Anton Lander in the second period along the boards. “With a new owner coming in, he has faith in us. We had a good meeting this morning to come out and get back to what we started the season with.”
Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the top overall pick in the 2011 draft, scored, and Nikolai Khabibulin finished with 31 saves for the Oilers, who have lost six of their last eight after stringing together six straight victories.
“We need everybody -- it’s all hands on deck -- to get wins,” Gulutzan said. “It’s a tough league, and we’re going to need that consistently.”
Up by a goal after the first period, the Stars pushed their lead to 2-0 on Ott’s third of the season midway through the second stanza. Along the left boards at the blue line, Morrow deftly dumped the puck behind the net, where Mike Ribeiro retrieved it. Ribeiro then quickly slid a pass out to Ott in tight, and Ott rammed it home.
The point was Morrow’s 500th of his NHL career.
Nugent-Hopkins scored his eighth of the season with 4:36 left in the second to close the gap to 2-1. The scintillating 18-year-old rookie was able to corral a bouncing puck in the slot away from Sheldon Souray before whipping it past Lehtonen.
But Ryder restored the Stars’ two-goal lead 50 seconds later when he sent a wicked snap shot from the slot into the top-right corner, capping a 4-on-1 break. It was Ryder’s first goal in six games, and gave Dallas a 3-1 edge entering the third period.
The Stars struck first on Petersen’s first goal of the year 8:30 into the game. After some good work on the forecheck, Petersen was rewarded when he accepted Tom Wandell’s short pass in the bottom of the right circle and then deposited a wrist shot in to stake the Stars to a 1-0 lead.
“It was a really good start for our team, and we had everyone involved,” Souray said. “We were doing the little things that had made us successful at the beginning of the year. We need that kind of effort from everybody, and we got it.”
The Stars resume their four-game homestand Wednesday when they host the Los Angeles Kings (8:30 p.m., FS-SW). The Kings defeated Dallas twice in a five-day span back in October. Los Angeles has won three of four heading into its game Tuesday at St. Louis.