When a rookie goaltender making just his second NHL start engages in a netminding duel with Olympic gold medalist Henrik Lundqvist, the smart money is usually on the New York Rangers’ star goalie.
Not this time. In his second straight start, 24-year-old Richard Bachman delivered another outstanding performance, making 34 saves for his first NHL shutout as the Dallas Stars marched into Madison Square Garden and ambushed the Rangers 1-0 Tuesday night.
Defenseman Trevor Daley snapped the scoreless tie with the contest’s lone goal at 15:01 of the third period and the Stars held on to win their second in a row, improving to 17-11-1 on the season and strengthening their hold on first place in the Pacific Division.
“That’s the way we have to play, especially coming in here,” said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. “We had to keep this game close and wait for our chance. We have to play hard to win and we’re accepting that game-by-game and every time we do get wins, a good road win like now, and at home, we realize the way we have to play. The teams that stick with it the longest are the teams that will be standing at the end, and we just have to continue to stick with it.”
“They didn’t give us much, but we stuck with it and got a break and buried it,” said Daley, who now has two goals and three points in the last two games. “You’re not going to score too many goals on that goalie down there as well. It was a hard battle, we stuck with it and came out on top.”
Facing former Stars leading scorer Brad Richards, who played in his 800th career NHL contest, for the first time since he left Dallas as a free agent, the Stars tightened up defensively and played a strong all-around game.
Their penalty killing unit nullified all four New York power plays, including two in the third period, and everyone appeared to have a lot of jump as they faced a Rangers squad that had been 14-3-2 in its previous 19 games.
“It was huge, the PK was huge,” said winger Eric Nystrom, a key penalty killer who also had several scoring chances. “We did a really good job and that’s just hard work and paying the price. Tonight we killed off some timely power plays and that’s the key to winning, especially on the road.”
Lundqvist, the identical twin brother of former Stars winger Joel Lundqvist, was excellent as well, making 27 saves, but the one player with the biggest impact on this game was Bachman.
“It’s huge, it’s a lot like playoff hockey and coming into this building on this road trip, the longest one of the year for us, it’s always nice to get two points,” said Bachman, who has now stopped 71 of 72 shots in his three NHL appearances over the last week for a ridiculous .986 save percentage. “They started shooting the puck a lot there in the second half of the game, in the third period a little bit, but our defensemen were doing a great job clearing rebounds that were loose in front and they were also boxing out so I was able to see the pucks very well tonight.”
“Whether it’s here now or last year when we had him in the American Hockey League, it’s his demeanor to be a calm guy and he’s very tidy around the net,” said Gulutzan, who coached Bachman at AHL Texas last season. “I thought tonight maybe, there was a few more things laying around him, but he made some huge saves. When you get saves like that in somebody else’s building, it lends itself to getting the two points.”
Perhaps the most impressive aspect of what Bachman’s done this past week is just how calm and laid-back he seems for a guy getting what is essentially his first taste of NHL action.
“It’s just a win. It’s a hockey game the same as I’ve played since growing up,” said Bachman, trying to keep his emotions on an even keel. “It’s fun being up here with these guys and I’m just trying to take it all in and do it one day at a time and see what happens from here. It’s amazing, it’s fun, I’m glad I finally got a chance to see Madison Square Garden, so that was fun too. I try not to get too nervous, I try to do the same routine, no matter where Ii am, no matter what game it is, it just calms me.”
“He’s a great goalie, he’s tough to shoot against in practice and he reads the play really well,” said Nystrom, who shares the team lead with 10 goals. “He’s been playing phenomenal and hopefully his head doesn’t swell up too much. He’s a very calm guy, he’s not a nervous character at all, he’s very laid-back and he’s got a little intensity to him and he’s really focused. He’s been awesome, you just want to keep him playing that way.”
As the clubs headed into the final period locked in a scoreless tie, the Stars generated the first scoring opportunity just 1:21 in, when rookie Philip Larsen’s wrist shot from the right point deflected off Loui Eriksson in the high slot, but Lundqvist made the save.
On the next shift at 1:53, the Rangers had a good chance of their own, as Bill Boyle, on the rush into the left face-off circle, pulled the puck to his backhand for a shot that clanked off the near-side goalpost.
Bachman came up with another big save at 4:58 while the clubs skated 4-on-4, denying Anton Stralman’s uncontested blast from the high slot.
A New York power play, with Tom Wandell sitting in the penalty box feeling shame for a very questionable interference penalty, sparked a flurry of scoring chances by both sides midway through the period, but the goaltenders stood strong.
At 10:09, Bachman made a sparkling sliding save on Michael Del Zotto’s one-timer from the top of the left face-off circle.
About eight seconds later, Nystrom stripped the puck from Dan Girardi at the Dallas blue line and took off on a breakaway. As he reached the slot, Nystrom ripped a hard wrist shot that appeared to nick Lundqvist’s glove and just missed the right post.
Shortly after that penalty expired, Lundqvist made a nice stop on Mike Ribeiro’s point-blank wrist shot, then about 40 seconds later, Bachman turned aside a booming slap shot from the right point by Steve Eminger.
Then a minute and a half after Bachman made a nice save on Artem Anisimov’s wrist shot from the left circle, Daley broke through for his third goal of the season. Following a New York turnover by former Star Jeff Woywitka in the neutral zone, the Stars barged into the Rangers zone on the rush. Ribeiro dished a nice pass from the left circle into the slot, where a charging Daley held onto the puck for a moment, made a nifty move and slid a quick shot between Lundqvist’s pads.
“I just got a pass back from Ribeiro and I managed to beat him,” Daley said of the play. “I wasn’t (thinking). I don’t know, it was just one of those things. I had some time and held on to it. I don’t know what got into me. Normally, I probably just would have shot it.”
“Dales has been really good at picking his spots and he picked it there,” said Gulutzan. “They had a little bit of a breakdown, they had a turnover, and he jumped in and we made a play. That’s what you want out of your offensive guys.”
The Rangers made a late push for the equalizer, with their best opportunity coming with 3:22 remaining when Derek Stepan drilled a slap shot from the left point that Bachman stopped through a screen.
After pulling Lundqvist for an extra attacker with 1:10 left, New York was unable to battle through the Stars’ tight defensive zone coverage and didn’t get another legitimate scoring chance before the final buzzer.
There weren’t many scoring chances through the first period, but there were some good defensive plays, such as Larsen’s ability to block a shot from Del Zotto as the Rangers sped into the Dallas zone on a 3-on-1 rush at 7:19.
Bachman made a gutsy move when he charged out of the crease to chase a loose puck in the left face-off circle at 12:37 and managed to get there just as Alex Goligoski and NY’s Carl Hagelin crashed into him. The collision, which knocked off Bachman’s mask, resulted in a goaltender interference penalty on Hagelin.
While the Stars were unable to capitalize on the man-advantage, they did get a prime chance shortly after it expired. Nystrom, who grew up on nearby Long Island, slipped around Girardi and cut in front all alone, but Lundqvist made a nice save on his high chip shot at 14:59.
The Rangers nearly snapped the tie while on their own power play with 1:57 left in the period when Marian Gaborik launched an uncontested wrist shot from the left face-off circle that zipped over Bachman’s shoulder but pinged off the crossbar and out of play.
Directly off a face-off just 3:16 into the second period, the contest’s first fight occurred as Jake Dowell dropped the gloves with New York’s Brandon Prust.
Richards had a prime chance at 4:47 while New York was on the power play, drilling a one-timer from the slot, but Bachman came up with a big stop through a screen.
The Stars generated a great opportunity of their own 1:30 later when Goligoski’s wrist shot from the left point was re-directed in the high slot by Michael Ryder, and appeared headed for the upper corner of the net, but Lundqvist managed to get his glove on it.
Shortly afterwards, with the Stars pressuring again, Sheldon Souray unleashed a bomb of a slap shot from the top of the right circle that Lundqvist stopped with his shoulder, but probably wished he hadn’t, as it clearly stung him and left him down on the ice in pain for several seconds, even causing the officials to blow the play dead.
As Dallas continued to push the pace, Larsen jumped up and joined the rush, received a nice cross-ice pass from Ryder and fired a wrister from the high slot at 12:59 that forced Lundqvist to make a strong save.
The Stars had a late power play, but while they buzzed around the New York zone almost the entire two minutes, it was the Rangers who had the best scoring chance. Racing into the Dallas zone on a 2-on-1 rush with 2:01 left in the period, Prust fed a pass across to Ryan McDonagh, who blasted a one-timer from the high slot that required a spectacular glove save by Bachman.
“We have a little rule, we always take the shooter, but luckily he passed up closer to the blue line, so that gave me a little bit more time to get across there,” said Bachman of the pivotal save. “I saw his hips open up a little bit because that reads pass a little bit more than if he skated in a little bit, so I was just able to get the glove on it.”
The Stars continue their five-game epic road trip by heading out to Long Island Thursday night to take on the Islanders (6 pm start, FSSW). Besides Eric Nystrom returning home, the story for the Stars will be how they can shut down Matt Moulson, who scored four goals in the Islanders’ 5-4 win in Dallas on Dec. 3.
- Ribeiro’s assist on the winning goal leaves him with five points (one goal, four assists) in the last five contests.
- Captain Brenden Morrow’s assist gives him three points (one goal, two assists) in three games since returning from a six-game absence due to an upper body injury. In the 10 games prior to the injury, he also recorded just three points (one goal, two assists).
- Eriksson skated in his 400th career NHL game, finishing second on the squad with three shots on goal.
- Third line center Vernon Fiddler led all Stars with four shots on goal.
- Defenseman Mark Fistric served the final contest of his three-game suspension for his crushing hit that left Islanders rookie Nino Neiderreiter with a concussion on Dec. 3.
- After killing all four New York power plays, the Stars’ penalty killing unit is now a stellar 29-for-31 over their last 10 outings.
- The win gives the Stars an outstanding 10-2-1 mark in one-goal games this season.