The curse is over. The Dallas Stars are victorious on the second night of a back to back for the first time this year, breaking an 0-9-2 mark. The win extends the Stars' winning streak ovr the Minnesota Wild at the American Airlines Center to a perfect 16-0-0 dating back to the 2002-2003 season.
More importatnly, of course, the Stars retain possession of eighth place with the win and move to 68 points on the season, having won three games in a row for the first time since mid December when Richard Bachman broke into the league on that long road trip. Dallas now sits two points ahead of Calgary, Colorado and Los Angeles, after being three points back and in 10th place as recently as Tuesday Morning.
The scoring started with tremendous work by Tom Wandell to skate the puck out in front and whip a shot on net that Backstrom couldn't control. Wandell found his own rebound and slammed it home past Backstrom for his goal fifth goal of the year. After killing off an interference penalty that had everyone in the building scratching their heads a little (a portent of things to come), the Stars struck again when Michael Ryder made a fabulous pass to Loui Eriksson in the slot, who out-waited Backstrom and finished the play off for a 2-0 lead.
The Stars added to their lead early in the second when Radek Dvorak found Eric Nystrom open in the slot where he beat Nicklas Backstrom, and ended his night. The Stars would kill two Wild power plays to round out the frame.
Carrying a 3-0 lead into the third made for blissfully boring hockey until about 10 minutes in when Steve Ott took an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, followed by another one from the bench, giving the Wild a two-man advantage and their first goal of the game. Kari Lehtonen took a 123:55 shutout streak with him into the third period but that Devin Setoguchi goal snapped. Sheldon Souray took a cross checking minor seconds later and the Stars had to kill off a second two-man advantage for Minnesota.
Tom Wandell would ice the game at 4-1 with an empty netter at 19:07.
The Stars played the third period with five defensemen after Philip Larsen sustained an injury to the head in the second period off a Matt Cullen slapshot. His status going forward is unknown at this time.
The Wild roster was given a little bit of a shakeup when Marek Zidlicky was traded just an hour before game time for three roster players and two draft picks to the New Jersey Devils. Justin Falk came into the lineup for the Wild instead and recorded a -2 rating on the night.
More thoughts on this one after the jump...
- Balanced scoring. That's what the offensively challenged Stars need right now, especially with Jamie Benn out, and that's what they got tonight. Tom Wandell got it started out there with Vincour and Petersen, the Ribeiro line got theirs, and Eric Nystrom scored his 16th of the year. Couple that with the Wandell and Garbutt goals the other night and a game tying tally with Ott, Burish and Garbutt on the ice in Chicago, and they've got a pretty nice little stretch of contributions coming from all corners of the lineup. Steve Ott talked on the radio today about the team wanting to play for each other, to keep the team together with the deadline coming. Maybe it's a coincidence but it looks like an extension of that.
- Philip Larsen took a puck to what looked like the top of his helmet late in the third period and the play was blown dead immediately. It was a very hard slap shot by Matt Cullen that brought him down and the arena went silent as he picked himself up. Even with the helmet he sustained some kind of cut high on his forehead and was visibly shaken. Larsen had a concussion earlier this year when Milan Lucic hit him in the New Years Even game. He missed nearly a month after that with concussion symptoms. That's a scary thing given what happened tonight, and we'll wait to hear what the Stars say in the coming days. Losing a valuable piece like Larsen going forward with Grossman already gone is not an attractive proposition for a team still hoping to make the playoffs.
- For those that like this kind of things: There was only one scout here tonight, and that was someone from the Canucks. Let your imaginations run wild! Still, it seems odd that there aren't more scouts here given the situation, and there aren't more scouts here in general throughout the season. Dallas is such a central location. Maybe not where hockey is concerned. Either way, there's not much happening around here and not any chatter. Prepare yourself for what could be a very quiet trade deadline day, in this guy's opinion.
- Adam Burish's contributions don't often end up on the score sheet but I like what he's bringing to this team right now. The hustle is there, the penalty killing, the energy they need to sustain shift to shift momentum... It's crucial at this time of year. We don't really like to venture into the world of the "intangible" very much, but he's bringing those things in concert with Tomas Vincour and Ryan Garbutt and it's making a big difference.
- The Stars entered the game having earned just two power plays total in their last three games. In four of their previous five games they had earned just one or fewer power plays. By the time Nick Schultz took an interference penalty in the second period the Stars had gone 96 minutes without an advantage.
- The Wild has six power plays to Dallas' two. That's not going to work on Sunday against the Canucks.
- I wrote the other day about "clear victories" (win by two or more goals without aid of an empty netter) and how hard they've been to come by. The win over Montreal was the Stars 11th of the season and just their second in the span of 20 games. Now they have three "clear victories" in a row.
- Ott-Wandell-Burish line were used as a power play unit tonight, and what's more, they were used as the primary unit on the Stars' second try as the Ribeiro trio had been out there for a while previously. The unit then took a penalty (Daley) to end the power play. This is one of those ripple effects of Jamie Benn not being in the lineup, and it won't better any time soon as he's been declared out for Sunday's game and only 50/50 for the Wednesday contest against the Penguins. The Stars
- Some dude proposed to his girlfriend on the big screen tonight in the second period. She said yes and looked thoroughly embarrassed. I'm given to understand that women would generally prefer otherwise, guys, so... Don't do that if you can avoid it. (It's still fun to see, though)