Like a punch-drunk palooka gamely staying in the ring despite getting pounded, the Dallas Stars have been showing their mettle during a recent four-game home stand. Coming off a three-game losing streak at Chicago, Detroit and Washington, the Stars overcame a third period deficit to win a shootout battle against Minnesota, then posted shutout victories over Pacific Division rivals San Jose and Phoenix, respectively.
Coach Dave Tippett’s charges have been going at it sans injured, physical forwards Eric Lindros and Brendan Morrow, and only recently welcomed blue-liners Trevor Daley and Darryl Sydor back into the lineup. Mike Modano, who netted the game’s only goal off a crisp pass from defender Philippe Boucher versus San Jose, left that game in the second period with a leg injury and did not return against the Coyotes.
The 1-0 nail-biter thrilled the home fans at American Airlines Center. Goalie Marty Turco showed solid form that many in Big D would love to see from him when the flowers bloom in April and May, and the home team prevailed despite being outshot by a two-to-one margin (25-13). First, he robbed Patrick Marleau with nine minutes left. His toe stop while stacking the pads on Jonathan Cheechoo’s slap-shot from the right circle was even more spectacular with 6:38 left, smothering the puck right on the goal line. He also made a great glove save on a backhander by Joe Pavelski in the slot that was heading for the lower right-hand corner.
“It was a grinding win and everybody played really well to make sure we were on top at the end of the game,” said center Stu Barnes, who took, every face-off deep in the Stars’ end during the game’s waning minutes. “They are a talented team and really came at us. We held our own and Marty made the saves we needed.”
The Stars continued their gritty play two nights later. They got a first period goal from defenseman Sergei Zubov and held off Wayne Gretzky’s struggling sextet until forward Mike Ribeiro and Boucher scored in the second and third periods, respectively. The Stars were outshot, 25-17, but Tippett insisted that “shots were misleading in this game because we were not giving up too many chances. Our kids are competing well and Marty is on. Every game we come into, we expect to win and the injuries just give others an opportunity. They’re playing well and Marty has been solid in net.”
Turco’s twin whitewashes give him three for the season and 27 for his career, tying him with Ed Belfour for the most in franchise history. Dallas also has posted three straight goose eggs against Phoenix this season, marking just the second time in club history and the first in 39 years that the franchise has blanked the same team three straight times.
“There’s no explanation really,” Turco said of Dallas’ defensive dominance against the Coyotes. “I think the first two games they weren’t playing as well. I think more than anything, they haven’t been able to get much sustained pressure against us. We’re making hits and sacrifices to get the puck out of our zone.”
Dallas remains within ten points of Pacific Division leading Anaheim and fourth overall in the Western Conference.