Apparently all the Dallas Stars needed to snap a five-game losing streak was to play a road game against the league's top team at home. Before Tuesday night the San Jose Sharks had lost just two games in regulation at home all season. Now that number is three.
With one of their best all-around team efforts of the season the Dallas Stars beat the Sharks 4-1 that stopped a disastrous slide down the standings. It was the type of game the Stars needed, one that proved this is still a group of players that can come together as one, who stick up for one another and fight their guts out for a full 60 minutes. It was an emotional game and win for the Stars and it was one of the better-feeling victories this team has had in a long while.
From the start it was obvious which team on the ice wanted to win more. After being outscored 4-0 in the past two games in the first period, Dallas put the pressure on early against the Sharks, outshooting them 13-5 in the first. The Stars went up 1-0 with James Neal scored off a rebound off Shark goaltender Brian Boucher. The score was possible due to Fabian Brunnstrom's tenacious work with the puck behind the net, who stymied several defenders while working the puck to the front.
The Sharks tied the game just under three minutes later on a power play goal by Joe Thornton. The Sharks used the man-advantage to show off their incredible passing skills, and were able to get the Stars scrambling before getting the goal off a tip-in from the doorstep. It was the closest the game would ever be.
From the point, the Stars could have let the tying goal get them down. Yet the team dug deep yet again and played a strong second period, which was dominated by special teams play. Mike Modano scored in the final seconds of a full two-minute 5 on 3 for the Stars when he belted a perfect Mike Ribeiro pass over Boucher's shoulder.
The Stars played a perfect game that foiled the puck movement and transition scheme the Sharks love to play. Rarely was San Jose ever able to cleanly gain the zone with the puck and was frustrated all night long by a relentlous Dallas Stars forecheck. It harkened back to the days of just a few months ago, when all four lines on the team played up to the same high level and was able to maintain pressure on the opponent for a full game.
Marty Turco was solid and even spectacular at times but more importantly, the Stars did not have to lean on him to win. After showing signs of fatigue late last week, Turco was back to his sharp, puck-moving self and was in constant control of himself and rebounds all game long, something that didn't happen against Anaheim and St. Louis. Turco also notched his fifth assis of the season, tying Eddie Belfour's franchise record for points in a season by a goalie.
It was the ultimate team effort that was the perfect remedie for the losing ways that was plaguing this team. This was never more evident that seeing the look on James Neal and Brian Sutherby's faces when they each scored in third period, icing the game for the Stars. They were looks of pure excitement, of accomplishment and most of all joyful relief. This team knew they were on the precipice of falling away from their playoff hopes.
For one night at least, the Stars revived them with a great win over the number one team in the NHL.
Notes on the game:
- Because of Nashville and Anaheim each getting points tonight the Stars only move up into 10th spot with the win. However, at 67 points they are still with three points of 6th place Columbus.
- Fabian Brunnstrom responded to being scratched Sunday with arguably one his best games of his NHL career. He skated hard and was never afraid of the physical play of the Sharks, using his size and puck skills to create chances. His tenacity behind the net directly contributed to two goals by the Stars.
- Joe Pavelski was hit with a match penalty for attempt to injure during a late scrum in the first period. Replays were unable to show any clear head-butt, which is what was reported he received the penalty for.
- Both James Neal and Mike Modano snapped a 15+ game goalless streaks.
BW's three stars of the game:
James Neal, Dallas: After playing perhaps the worst week of hockey of his career (or at least the unluckiest), Neal set the tone early with a hard working goal. He was a presence all over the ice tonight, netting four hits, four shots, two goals and a +3 rating.
Mike Modano, Dallas: The Stars' all-time franchise leader in nearly everything was the catalyst for an incredible team effort. He flew all over the ice and generated numerous scoring chances, leading the team with six shots on goal. His game-winning, power play goal in the second period was a snapshot of a Mike Modano of ten years ago.
Marty Turco, Dallas: After getting three days rest Turco returned invigorated and crisp, never looking out of control as he made several great point blank stops on the Sharks.