I don't think it was on the promotions schedule at all, but apparently it was retro night at the AAC tonight! It had to be right? I mean just look at what happened in the game...
There was Marty Turco looking like the very reliable Marty Turco we had grown to love stopping virtually everything shot his way in an effort to preserve a Dallas win.
There went Mike Modano off to score yet another clutch goal when his team absolutely needed it and it ended up being a game winner of course - the 92nd game winning goal of his career putting him past Wayne Gretzky and into a log jam at 10th on that all-time list. (How awesome is that by the way? Anytime you can pass Wayne Gretzky in any list involving an offensive category, you've had a helluva career in my books!)
There were the Stars roaring back each time it looked like the opposing team may creep back into the game. Both Wild goals tonight were answered within a minute of them being scored. Modano's game winner came 25 seconds after Guillaume Latendresse had put the Wild up on the scoreboard with about a minute left in the second period to restore a Stars two goal lead going into the second intermission. Jamie Benn scored 53 seconds after Andrew Brunette made it a mere one goal lead with under five minutes left in the game. Stars fans barely had a chance to say "uh-oh here we go again..." because just before they got to say 'we' the Stars were celebrating another goal.
And in keeping with the retro theme, there was the trademark Stars suffocating defense limiting the Wild to just 42 shots on... err...
Well ok it wasn't all perfect tonight and tonight's win won't bring back flashbacks of the glory seasons from about ten years ago and tonight's game may not even truly appease fans who have the towel throwing arm cocked back and ready to move forward, but make no mistake about it; tonight was a huge win for your Dallas Stars. It keeps them in arms distance of that 8th and final playoff spot and keeps them in shooting range of a higher seed should one of the teams in those spots falter down the stretch.
Lets get the bad out of the way first...
Yes the Stars gave up WAY to many shots tonight and puck pursuit seemed to be the biggest culprit as to why. Both persuit of the puck in their own zone and pursuit of the puck when they tried to chip it into the Wild zone. The Stars defense did seem to do a good job in terms of limiting really good chances for the Wild and there were not as many scramble plays in front of the Stars net as you'd expect in a game that saw 42 shots against. The Wild to their credit almost seemed to return to their Jacques Lemaire ways as they played a trap game very effectively and it helped the Wild pile up those shots. Thankfully they weren't able - and in a way you can say not allowed - to take advantage of such a huge gap in shots and time in the Stars zone.
The Stars fourth line may as well have just phoned in their games from home tonight as Warren Peters, Fabian Brunnstrom and Krys Barch were practically invisible. In a game where chippy play was the theme of the night and the other three lines were playing quite well and very active, it's almost a shame to think any time was wasted putting them on the ice at all. Not seeing Fabian with any kind of impact at all isn't a surprise, and we're starting to expect very little from Barch as well.. But Warren? C'mon man we're a expecting a little bit more from you!
On the flip side though, as I mentioned the other three forward lines were solid and all of them chipped in somehow to the win. Jamie Benn, Steve Ott and Brenden Morrow have been golden ever since they were put together on a line. They just click and maybe it's because all three are the same kind of player in various skill levels. All can muck it up and grind out the opponent but they also can produce offensively, create chances for each other and finish plays. They also can get right into the face of their opposition when the going gets rough as Ott so expertly demonstrated in two separate demolitions of Cal Clutterbuck. Of the last few games, this line has been the most fun to watch on a nightly basis and can easily be that second line help that the first line of James Neal, Brad Richards and Loui Eriksson need to take pressure off them.
Speaking of that line, they were the line that fueled the Stars engine again. Neal led off the scoring in the first period with a beautiful deflection goal in front of a swimming Wade Dubielewicz. Richards blasted a 2-0 goal from the blue line while on the power play and in the process put himself in a tie for the league lead in power play points. (I'll say it again, Hart Trophy for Brad anyone?)
What can we say about Mike Modano right now other than he's been amazing? Is his recent outburst in scoring due to the fact that the Stars coaching staff has finally realized they have to give him proper time off between games or is it because Modano wants to stick it in the faces of USA Hockey who are looking more and more foolish by the day for leaving him off the team? Maybe it's the fact Modano knows this is his last year and he'll be damned if he doesn't get one more taste of playoff hockey... Whatever it is, it's damn good to have THAT Modano back and scoring for the Stars.
And that brings us to Marty Turco who in a word tonight was great. Maybe it was the time on the bench that helped him, maybe it's knowing that one poor game opens the door back up for Alex Auld to take another run at starting a string of games, maybe he too has decided that he'll remind everyone in the NHL that he hasn't lost the talent to win games for his team... Again, whatever it is that is making him tick, hopefully he keeps that up and we'll see just how far along he and the rest of this team has come two days from now...
Ah yes, Thursday night in Columbus. The Stars have been well served by this latest little home stand going three wins and one loss, but right now it's the road games that are the ultimate judge for this team and this last one before the Olympic break should prove to be just as big as tonight's game was.
Your Defending Big D Three Stars:
3rd - Steve Ott: Just like he did tonight, when he plays on the edge and doesn't cross over it he's one of the best on the ice.
2nd - Mike Modano: GWG and playing like he's in his early 30's, not 40's.
1st - Marty Turco: Welcome back old reliable Marty! Stay around for a while will ya?