LOS ANGELES – An outstanding performance from goaltender Richard Bachman in his first NHL start was just one of several positive developments for the Dallas Stars Saturday night.
Combine a stellar 26-save performance from Bachman with a goal and an assist from defenseman Trevor Daley, and the fact that Jamie Benn scored a goal to snap a five-game scoring drought and it all adds up to a mammoth 2-1 Stars victory over the Los Angeles Kings at the Staples Center.
After losing their last two contests while surrendering 10 goals, the Stars rebounded in a big way, playing much better defensively and receiving timely saves when needed from Bachman against a Kings team that lost its fourth straight.
“It was exciting. When the final buzzer goes off, you can breathe a sigh of relief, especially in a tight game like that,” said Bachman, who was recalled from AHL Texas on Nov. 27 after usual Dallas’ number one netminder Kari Lehtonen injured his groin. “It’s exciting, it’s fun. You always dream of getting that first win, and it was a dream come true tonight.”
The victory moves the Stars, now 16-11-1 on the season, back into first place in the Pacific Division, tied with Phoenix, and improves their road record to 7-7-0. In the second installment of an epic five-game road trip that traverses both coasts, that was important, since Dallas had been 1-5-0 in their previous six away contests.
The Stars’ power play unit was also central to the outcome, as Dallas matched a season-high with seven man-advantages, including four in the first period. And while the good news is the Stars did score one goal on the PP, the bad news is they squandered several opportunities and also surrendered a goal as well, with LA’s only goal, from Brad Richardson, coming shorthanded.
“I thought our power play struggled mightily there in the beginning and it wasn’t actually in the zone,” said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. “We couldn’t win any face-offs and then we couldn’t get in. We changed our breakout a little bit and got in and I thought the last two or three power plays generated chances and some shots, just nothing went in. It’s a thing that if we could get that thing going, we could save ourselves some energy.”
“I think we’re starting to figure it out,” said Benn. “They had a good PK plan against us at the start of the game, we made a change, got all five men back and it was a lot better.”
After one 10-minute relief appearance last season, the 24-year-old Bachman played the third period in place of Andrew Raycroft Thursday night and looked good in stopping all 11 San Jose shots he faced. That success continued with a stellar outing in this one, which didn’t surprise his coach or teammates at all.
“I’ve had Bacher here for a year and he’s a competitive guy and he’s pretty clean when it comes to rebounds and stuff and I thought he had a real good start for us,” said Gulutzan, who watched Bachman have an outstanding season at AHL Texas when both were there last year. “He looked like himself and I just told him before he went out there, ‘Hey it’s the same game. It’s the same game you’ve been playing.’ And he has that ability, that success he’s had to get drafted and in college and AA and then AAA success. He’s going through the natural progression. He’s a good goaltender.”
“He looked pretty calm back there for his first real start,” said Benn. “He’s a hell of a goalie, he’s really calm, played a great game and got a big two points for us. He prepared well tonight and played a great game.”
Bachman, who was particularly sharp with his ability to allow very few rebounds, probably earned himself another start on the road trip.
“That’s what I try to do, it really helps me out, it helps the D out,” said Bachman of his rebound control. “If you know where that puck’s going to be, it’s so much easier and a lot cleaner that way. The rebounds I did have, the D did an awesome job for me today, clearing them from in front, putting them back in the corner, getting it out of the zone - it was nice.”
“I think he deserves another start, most likely against the Rangers,” acknowledged Gulutzan, citing the Stars’ next game on Tuesday in New York. “We’ll give him that opportunity and see if he can run with it.”
Entering the final period holding a 2-1 lead, the Stars had a prime scoring opportunity while short-handed at 9:40 when a Dallas clear led to Steve Ott outskating everyone to the rolling loose puck in the LA zone. Catching up to it in the left face-off circle, Ott drilled a slap shot that Kings netminder Jonathan Bernier made a nice save.
Bachman made a big stop at 11:07 on Richardson’s uncontested wrist shot from the slot.
Bachman came up big again 1:30 later when Simon Gagne cut across the top of the crease all alone, and Bachman made a pad save on Gagne’s five-hole attempt. His sliding stop on Drew Doughty’s snap shot from the high slot seconds after that was clutch, as well.
The rookie goaltender then made perhaps his best save of the night when it really counted, with just 1:38 remaining in regulation, when Kings captain Dustin Brown raced into the Dallas zone on a partial breakaway and fired a high wrist shot from the top of the left face-off circle. Bachman got a piece of it with his shoulder and deflected it just over the crossbar.
“I got kind of lucky there,” Bachman admitted. “It hit the knob of my stick. You just try to be in the right position and fortunately for me tonight, it went my way.”
Los Angeles then pulled Bernier for an extra attacker, but an impressively strong defensive presence by the Stars prevented any real scoring chance. Sheldon Souray made a nice sliding block in front with 42 seconds left, allowing Radek Dvorak to clear the zone, and Nicklas Grossman also made an alert clear with six seconds on the clock.
Ott then beat Jarret Stoll on the ensuing defensive zone face-off and that was the end of it, except for some post-buzzer rough stuff.
“They were coming, we knew they were going to be coming, but the D did an awesome job keeping them to the outside,” said Bachman of the final 10 minutes or so. “And the few shots they did have from the middle, they were kind of forced to keep them low, which helps. They were battling, but we did a nice job playing the puck along the boards and getting it out.
“The whole thing was a great experience, it was fun. I just had a blast.”
Several early shots got Bachman into the game right from the start as he faced the contest’s first four shots on goal, which probably helped erase whatever butterflies still lingered.
His best one was a sparkling blocker save just 2:25 in, when he denied Gagne’s point-blank wrist shot from the slot following a defensive-zone turnover by rookie Tomas Vincour.
The Stars began to find their legs after that, generating two power play opportunities, but were unable to muster much on the man-advantage chances.
A fight between Ott and former Dallas defenseman Willie Mitchell right in front of the Kings’ bench got the crowd riled up at 11:34.
The Stars nearly jumped on top 37 seconds later when Dvorak fired a slap shot from the top of the right face-off circle that nicked off the top of Bernier’s glove and clanked off the crossbar.
A Justin Williams high-stick on Vernon Fiddler led to another Stars power play and Dallas would capitalize on their third opportunity, as Benn notched his seventh of the year at 13:35. Michael Ryder set up the play by side-stepping LA defender Jack Johnson in the right circle before feeding a pass across the top of the crease to the charging Benn, whose stick was tied up but angled his skate to re-direct the puck over Bernier. There was a video review to determine Benn did not use a ‘distinct kicking motion.’
“I just drove to the net there and got a pretty greasy goal, but it’s one we needed and it was good for the confidence,” said Benn, who had gone six games without a goal. “I wasn’t that confident (about the video review) actually. I kind of jammed on the breaks there and my foot was aiming towards the net there, but we got a break and it was one we needed.”
“That’s what we talked about here, I think, a lot,” said Gulutzan regarding Benn getting back on track offensively. “We said to him, ‘One has to go in off your butt or your foot or whatever,’ and sometimes that’s all it takes for these good players to get going. It’s nice to see. He went hard to the net, got rewarded for it and sometimes that’s what it takes.”
The Stars, despite being outshot 8-7 in the period, probably should have been able to build more than a 1-0 advantage with no less than four power plays, but that one-goal edge still represented just the third time over their last 12 games that they emerged from the opening period with the lead.
On their fifth power play, 7:56 into the second period, the Stars nearly increased the lead when Souray’s patented bomb of a slap shot from the point was deflected in front by captain Brenden Morrow past Bernier, but it pinged off the right goalpost before bouncing back under the netminder, who smothered it.
The Kings had a prime chance to tie it at 10:51 when Gagne led a 3-on-1 rush into the Dallas zone, but Stephane Robidas, the lone defender back, made a great defensive play by taking away Gagne’s passing options and then getting his stick on Gagne’s shot attempt, deflecting the puck out of play.
The next Stars power play, their sixth of the night, ended in disaster when the Kings tied the game 1-1 with a shorthanded goal at 13:58. Anze Kopitar stripped Ryder of the puck at the LA blue line and he and Richardson sped into the Dallas zone on a 2-on-0 breakaway. Richardson carried it in and wound up tucking a short shot between Bachman’s pads and in.
“I was thinking too much on the back door, I probably should have been playing (Richardson) a little stronger than I did,” Bachman admitted. “But you got to give him credit. He faked it like he was going to pass, got me to look that way and then made a nice move and tucked it in there five-hole. It was a nice move.”
The goal was the first one Bachman surrendered in NHL play, covering 63:33 of playing time and 30 saves before one got by him.
Los Angeles almost struck again at 15:04, but Slava Voynov’s wrist shot from the top of the right face-off circle, which was deflected in front by Stoll, clanged off the far post.
The Stars jumped ahead again 1:40 later when Daley notched his second goal of the season at 16:44, representing a bonus goal from the fourth line. Vincour carried into the LA zone and his wrist shot from the high slot was blocked, but the puck bounced right to Daley following up the play. Daley’s subsequent wrist shot from the slot pinballed off the left post into the crease and off the back of Bernier’s left skate before trickling over the goal line.
“It was a great shift by Wandell, Dowell and Vincour there, and Trevor stepped up to the plate and made a good shot,” Benn said of the fourth line’s winning goal.
“I think that fourth line played well, too, tonight,” added Gulutzan. “They scored. So I think we have to utilize everybody and if you look at teams like Minnesota (who is first overall in the NHL right now), they’re doing the same thing. We have to utilize that and guys have to embrace that. That’s the sell for us, but our big guys are picking it up now. I thought Ribby’s line was very good tonight and that’s what we need. If we get everybody going at some point, then maybe our team could go on a little bit of a run like we did earlier in the year.”
The Stars will now get three days off in order to make the cross-country trip to New York, where they will then play three games in four nights against the Rangers, Islanders and New Jersey Devils. The Big Apple portion of the road trip begins Tuesday night (6 pm start, FSSW) when the Stars visit Madison Square Garden to face Brad Richards and the Rangers.
- Daley hadn’t recorded a point since Nov. 12, a span of eight games played (and three missed due to injury), before his first multi-point game of the season. His goal also marked the first one from a Stars defenseman in 13 contests.
- Benn’s goal snapped a five-game point drought, and was just his second in the last 14 games.
- Vincour’s assist gives him three points (one goal, two assists) in the last four games after recording none in his first eight contests of the season.
- Tom Wandell, who assisted on Daley’s goal, now has three points (one goal, two assists) in the last three games.
- Souray led the club with a season-high total of nine shots on goal. He also topped the squad in ice time, logging 24:33.
- The Dallas power play unit is now 3-for-15 over the last four games, which followed a 0-for-22 drought over the previous eight-plus contests. The Stars’ penalty kill successfully nullified all three LA man-advantage situations, boosting its recent kill efficiency to a stellar 92.6 percent (25-for-27) over the last nine outings.
- The Stars had been outscored 12-5 in first periods over their previous 11 games.
- Dallas is now a perfect 8-0-0 when leading after two periods this season, and a stellar 9-2-1 in one-goal games. The win also pushes their record against Pacific Division clubs to 5-5-0.
- The start of the game was delayed 11 minutes due to the Kings’ pre-game ceremony retiring the number nine jersey of former star player Bernie Nicholls.