Two goals. Seven shots on goal. +1. Three hits. Seven of eight in the faceoff circle (with the one loss coming in the final minutes).
All in just under twelve minutes of ice time.
There is much debate and consternation among Stars fans these days about who on the team should stay, who holds the most value for a trade for the future and who is forming the nucleus of this team moving ahead into next season and beyond.
After tonight, there should be no doubt as to who should be on this team for at least the next five years.
James Neal, Loui Eriksson and Jamie Benn put on a show tonight at American Airlines Center, starting a big game off with a powerful start and pumping life into the team immediately. It was important for a team that struggled with motivation just two night before in Columbus, and was facing a Coyotes team that has dominated the Stars for two straight seasons. The Coyotes were playing their second game of back-to-backs, and Dallas took advantage of a weary team on the road.
Neal put the Stars up 1-0 three minutes into the game and the Stars were off to the races from that point forward. When the Coyotes threatened to build momentum late in the first period, Neal hit a streaking Loui Eriksson who roofed a breakaway shot over Ilya Bryzgalov.
With the Stars nursing a two goal lead in the second, they kept their foot on the gas and received two big goals from rookie Jamie Benn who is not 4th among all NHL rookies in goal scoring.
Benn's emergence as a major threat at center has been the key to this semi-turnaround the past three weeks by the Dallas Stars, as he's slowly become more comfortable at a position he had never played before. Not only has he been a playmaker, scoring goals and feeding his linemates up the ice, but he's set the tone for the rest of the team with physical play and an attitude on the ice that was sorely missing the first four months of the season.
Notes from the Dallas Stars PR:
- Dallas is 10-2-0 in their last 12 at American Airlines Center. The Stars have registered at least one point in 17 of their last 20 games at American Airlines Center (15-3-2), and in 21 of their last 25 (17-4-4).
- Overall, the Stars are 7-4-0 in their last 11 games.
Marty Turco stopped all 34 shots he faced tonight in earning his third shutout of the season. Over the last three games, he has stopped 98-of-101 shots (97.0%) with a 1.01 goals-against-average (GAA). Over his last 10 HOME starts, Turco has a 93.0 save percentage and a 2.21 GAA.
- James Neal potted his team-leading 23rd goal of the season to go along with his 19th assist of the season. He has three points in his last three games (2-1-3).
- Loui Eriksson picked up his third assist in as many games as well as his team-leading second short handed goal of the season (third of his career). The three-game assist-streak ties his season-high and is one game shy of his career-high.
- Jamie Benn recorded his first multi-goal game of his career and third multi-point game of the season. He has three goals in the last three games (3-0-3) and five in the last 10 games (5-0-5).
Brenden Morrow earned his 17th assist of the season and fourth in his last five games (0-4-4).
Steve Ott collected his 12th assist of the season and 10th point in his last 13 games (4-6-10).
Karlis Skrastins gathered his ninth assist of the season and second in his last three games.
Matt Niskanen was credited with his 11th assist of the season.
Other notes from a big Stars win:
- Three straight games, and Marty Turco has been brilliant in all of them. If he maintains this level of play headed into the Olympics the Stars are going to be hard pressed to trade him at the deadline, especially if they are close to making the playoffs. He's confident, not taking big risks moving the puck and he's challenging shooters from the top of his crease. Consequently, the defensemen around him are looking more confident and are making strong pucks around the net. He deserved the win and he deserved the shutout tonight. Big game by Marty.
- Nicklas Grossman had an incredible game in his own zone tonight, showing once again how he's emerged as the top young defensemen on the Stars.
- The Stars have build a definitive home-ice advantage at the AAC, as the crowd is able to build off the team and vice versa. There has been some great energy the past couple of months at home, which is a complete turnaround from earlier in the season. It's also obvious how Marc Crawford is able to take advantage of the matchups he has with the last change, and the top line of Neal, Richards and Eriksson truly dominate for long stretches during games at home. The key is to get the same momentum going on the road.
- Karlis Skrastins is slowly building momentum of his own, as he has two assists and is a +5 in his past three games. He's playing strong defensively and he's making the right decisions on offense, pinching down and joining the rush at the right time.
- Oh yeah. Brad Richards with two more assists tonight. La di da da.
Three Stars Of The Game:
- Jamie Benn
- James Neal
- Marty Turco