Chicago Blackhawks @ Dallas Stars
When the trade deadline arrived that year the 2007-2008 Dallas Stars were rolling along at a frenetic pace to the tune of second place overall in the Western Conference and 85 points before February's final game had even been played. They didn't exactly need help, but new Co-GM's Les Jackson and Brett Hull had to take recent events into account.
A pair of first round upsets at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche followed by a crushing seven game loss to the Vancouver Canucks the season before had produced quite the "one and done" reputation for the Stars. Nothing but the second round would do, so a proven playoff performer in Conn Smythe winner Brad Richards was acquired to do the job.
An above-capacity crowd was on hand the night of February 28th for Richards' first game in a Dallas uniform against the (then) fledgling Chicago Blackhawks, and the ensuing record-setting assist clinic by the new arrival produced one of the most purely fun and entertaining nights of hockey this city has ever seen - And gave hope that 2008 would be different.
Dave Tippett would later say (in his Dave Tippett way) of Richards' debut that "It was a good, solid first outing."
Continued with highlights after the jump...
Blackhawks @ Stars 2/28/08 (via NHLVideo)
Richards would play with Antti Miettinen and Niklas Hagman at even strength, with the odd combination of Modano thrown in the mix at times. In just their second shift of the game Richards would put a perfect puck on Hagman's stick to tie the game at one early on.
In nearly 20 minutes of clock time straddling the first and second periods the Stars would score five unanswered goals (Hagman, Modano, Hagman, Eriksson, Daley) with Richards assisting on three of them. The team traded goals with Chicago in the third period and Richards added two more primaries on Hagman and Lehtinen tallies.
Richards' five points were a career high for him in a single game. The five assists in one game was a first for a Dallas Stars' player, and it matched a North Stars' franchise record. The Nik Hagman hat-trick was also a career first.
A fact you probably don't remember from that game: Adam Burish fought Brenden Morrow at 15:18 of the third period. He was g iven 5 for fighting, 2 for charging, 2 for instigating and a game misconduct. The Stars would score on the ensuing power play, as well as surrender their second short handed goal of the night.
The Stars 2-7-2 swoon immediately following this one has no bearing on the validity of it's place in this list or it's immense memorability (Ask any season ticket holder about regular season games they remember specifically and this one's bound to come up), but it is an interesting side note. The team had such a large cushion in the standings that they were able to absorb a catastrophic late season slide and still finish 5th. Little did anyone know at the time that catastrophic March's would become a regular thing.
In a vaccuum this game was one of the best times many have had at the American Airlines Center, and will be remembered, perhaps falsly, given their month of March that came next, as a precursor to the team's 18 game run into the post-season where they fell, injured and exhausted, to the eventual champs.
In our memories it felt like a little taste of the glory that was to come in May. Further games in this countdown will feature more competitive matchups - The excitement from this one came largely from the Richards debut, which by the end of this night felt a lot like finding a bag full of cash in your hall closet. I bet.
Patrick Lalime, who allowed 5 goals on 13 shots, would remark after the game that "That's what happens when you make mistakes against a team like that."
"A team like that", he said. Those were better times, and that was a heck of a fun game.