Stars Capitalize on Huge Opportunity, Stun Washington 4-3 in SO

If you had told me around 5 pm today that the Dallas Stars were going take two points from the hottest team in the NHL tonight, I would've laughed, patted you on the head and walked away. 

All of you would've done the same thing to me. Only I would've made you slap me. 

Yet, the slumping Stars defied all the odds and outlasted the Washington Capitals 4-3 in the shooutout, riding Marty Turco's 49 saves the whole way. But we'll get to him in a bit. 

The case could be made that this was the biggest win of the season. I find it hard to disagree. With these two points, Dallas moves into 10th place in the Western Conference. They sit 4 points behind Detroit for 8th, and with the Red Wings playing the 9th place Flames tomorrow night, things may have suddenly gotten very interesting in the playoff race. This win wasn't just about points or positioning, though. This was a huge confidence boost for a team struggling mightily as of late. 

Much more on this very satisfying Stars victory after the jump........

In case you were wondering, yes, this was the same team that had just allowed 17 goals in three games. Those were the same forwards that couldn't buy a goal. Those were the same defensemen Stars fans have been mortified by lately. And that was the same goalie that had seemingly destroyed whatever confidence fans had left in him.

So what happened? That, friends, is what happens when you mix a solid penalty kill with a timely power play and outstanding goaltending. It was the whole package, something the Stars have dearly missed in since the Olympic Break. 

Think about it: Haven't we been harping on the defense, both on their unaggressive play around the net and their overall lack of offense? Haven't we all been saying that when the defense plays well, the offense doesn't produce? Haven't we been criticizing Marty Turco all season for giving up the softie when momentum has finally shifted in the Stars' favor?

Well, tonight we saw the Dallas Stars come together and fix those problems, if only for one night. The defensemen were active in front of Marty and didn't make many mistakes, while Trevor Daley notched a goal. With the defense playing solid, the power play finally took flight and grabbed the momentum when it had the chance. And Marty Turco made 49 saves and stayed calm and poised when the team desperately needed him too.

It was refreshing for the fans to watch, but it had to be refreshing for the players as well. You could tell in the last two games that they were frustrated and tired of getting blown out. They showed some resolve tonight in coming back from a 2-0 deficit to beat the hottest home team in hockey, no small feat.

Considering the last three games, it's hard to believe that just a win Wednesday in Buffalo would allow us to consider this a successful road trip. But here we are.

Some other quick thoughts:

  • What a performance by Turco. The shots on goal after the first period were 19-5, over 12 shots after the first half of the opening period. After the second, the Stars were getting outshot 42-16. And yet still only two goals past Turco. He was fluid, he was quick across the crease and he was clutch when they needed him to be. (And I'm not counting that second Ovechkin goal, because there was really nothing he or Robidas could do about that one.)
  • Karlis Skrastins looked like a pre-Olympics Karlis Skrastins. Moving him alongside Robidas probably had a lot to do with that, since I imagine he needs someone he can trust out there if he was going to get back to form. (I'm looking at you, Niskanen.) He seemed incredibly active in his own zone in the early stages of the game, and that quickly turned into a shutdown pair. When (or if) Grossman gets back, Crawford might want to consider keeping Robidas and Skrastins together and putting Grossman with someone else. Daley perhaps? We shall see.
  • Hate to state the obvious here, but when Brad Richards is on his game, the Stars' offense picks up. When you don't hear from him, the team's play reflects that. It's that simple. That's how much he affects this team. Hopefully this gets him on a roll again, because they're going to need him for that six-game home stretch.
  • Quick Trivia! Which current Dallas Star has recently won an Olympic Gold, but hasn't scored since January 8th?


Defending Big D's 3 Stars: 

1.  Marty Turco - Were you really expecting anyone else? His 49 saves broke a personal record for most saves in a regular season game, a remarkable feat considering the Capitals have the most potent offense in the NHL right now.

2.  Alex Ovechkin - He hadn't scored in over a month, it was a Caps' 5-on-3....of course he was going to score. Oh, and for good measure, of course he was going to tie it in the final minute or so. It's Alexander freaking Ovechkin.

3.  Brad Richards - Broke out of a mini slump with a goal and an assist, both at crucial points in the game.

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