This was easily the oddest game the Stars have played in all season long.
Until James Neal's wayward shot in the third period somehow found it's way past J.S. Giguere, the Stars were engaged in one of their more frustrating games in recent memory. The revamped line combinations needed about 20 minutes or so to get going, but once Brad Richards and company found their rhythm the only thing between them and at least a two goal lead was some great goaltending a whole lot of bad luck. The Stars moved the puck well, excuted perfectly in transition and peppered Giguere with 18 shots in the second period. Yet the rebounds constantly escaped the Stars' reach, shooters double clutched on wide open shots and several would-be tap ins became inexplicable whiffs.
After putting 30 shots on net through the first two periods, the Dallas Stars needed just two to get a lead in the third.
James Neal's goal early in the third broke the seal, when his blind toss at the net bounced off Giguere, off a passing Wisniewski and into the net. It was an extremely ironic score for a team that had gone with out a goal for over four straight periods despite a high number of shots. Just over a minute later, Steve Ott threw the puck in front from the low corner and that somehow found it's way through Giguere as well. In the space of 71 seconds, the Dallas Stars had erased a week of frustration with two of the flukiest goals you'll ever see.
The Stars held on late in the third as the Ducks pressed before Brenden Morrow's empty net goal put the game away. It was an odd way to win a game in which the Stars' dominated, but at this point they'll take it any way they can get it.
Highlights, stats and more thoughts on the game after the jump...
- On Wednesday night's podcast, we talked about the impact the shake up of the lines might have on Steve Ott and James Neal. Specifically, we were of the opinion that Ott's physicality and ability to create to pressure off of the forecheck was an element that had been missing from the Dallas Stars lately and even on the top line. Neal's confidence looked deflated after his suspension and he was invisible on the ice despite playing next to Brad Richards. Tonight, both Ott and Neal had their best games in weeks and I'd say that even if they had not scored two of the luckiest goals they'll ever have in their careers.
- Overall the Stars once again had balance between from the top line down to the fourth, after five games of frustration with Crawford trying desperately to find the chemistry his team briefly showed against New Jersey. Depending on what happens against Edmonton this could be a combination of what we see moving forward. Even if they stumble on Saturday, I'd still like to see Crawford try and stick with this combination to at least establish a rhythm. The Stars were far from perfect against the Ducks, but after a slow start they showed a cohesiveness and determination we have not seen on a consistent basis.
- He played just under ten minutes and didn't show up on the stat sheet at all, but Fabian Brunnstrom looked much, much better on the ice than he had before his shoulder injury. Razor mentioned it during the broadcast as well, but Brunnstrom was confident and physical with the puck and made several good plays on defense. The fourth line overall executed their job perfectly; don't make any mistakes on defense and maintain as much pressure as possible on offense.
- The Stars had 30 shots on goal through two periods and no goals. This is a continuing trend, but tonight it was just horrifically frustrating to witness. We've written this week about the Stars' goal-scoring woes the past month, but it's not for lack of effort. Yet despite the Stars statistically peppering the opposing net nearly every game, it doesn't feel as if they're maximizing their offensive potential and it's showing on the scoreboard. The biggest issue is not with the amount of shots or even shot selection (although that's not perfect, either), but the inability of the Stars to cash in on the rebounds they're working so hard to produce. Whether it's a bouncing puck, poor positioning or just not beating a backchecking forward to a loose puck the Stars are failing time and again to get to the second chance shots.
- Now that Jamie Benn and Mike Ribeiro look to be actually willing to shoot the puck again, perhaps the problems stated above won't be as big of an issue.
- Finally, completing just the odd night from all angles was Marty Turco. After being knocked silly in just first minute and then looking incredibly sluggish on the Koivu goal, Turco rebounded to have a great, great game. He controlled his rebounds, found the puck through traffic and moved well around his crease. After a couple of games in a row of sub-par performances in net, apparently all Turco needed was good elbow to the head to get refocused.
Notes, courtesy of the Dallas Stars:
• With tonight's win, the Stars' have registered at least one point in each of their last five games at home (4-0-1), and in nine of their last 10 games (6-1-3).
• James Neal scored his team leading 12th goal of the season.
• Steve Ott scored his third goal of the season.
• Loui Eriksson earned two assists - his seventh multi-point game of the season. He also has points in two of the last three games (0 goals, 3 assists).
• Brenden Morrow's goal gives him a five-game goal streak - a new career-high (was 4 games, twice). He also has points in six consecutive games (5 goals, 1 assist).
• Mike Ribeiro's assist gives him points in three of the last four games (1 goal, 2 assists).
• Marty Turco turned aside 26-of-27 shots on goal for his ninth win of the season.
• Tonight marks the Stars' first win of the season when trailing after the first period (1-4-3).
• THREE STARS OF THE GAME: 1) Marty Turco, 2) Steve Ott, 3) James Neal.
DBD's Three Stars of the Game:
Jamie Benn, Dallas: After a couple of weeks of disappearing a bit, Benn had a big game with six shots, four big hits and a team-high three takeaways.
Steve Ott, Dallas: This is what the Stars need from Ott every game: big hits, strong physical presence with an offensive edge and an attitude that had been lacking on the team.
Marty Turco, Dallas: A bad goal early but he rebounded admirably to stop 26 straight, including nine in the third period.