Happy Homecoming Week

The Dallas Stars with the help of Shawn Horcoff are quickly improving. Photo Courtesy: Dominic Ceraldi
The Dallas Stars with the help of Shawn Horcoff are quickly improving. Photo Courtesy: Dominic Ceraldi

By Will Martin

There were a couple of different angles one could take to best describe the 5-2-2 run the Dallas Stars currently are enjoying.

The Dallas Stars are exhibiting a bit of a Cardiac Attack mode when playing. In light of three straight road wins in Ottawa, Boston, and Detroit some of these headlines rang loudly in my head:

1. Texas Sized Senator Veto!

2. Throwdown In Motown

3. Ruff And Uncut

4. Seguinomics Rides Again

5. Eakin Out A Road Win

6. Scream And Shout Again: Another Shootout Win!

7. BENN A Factor!

8. Opportunity is Lehtonen Few Chances!

9. Yo Detroit: All Hope Nill And Void.

10. We Road A Star And Got Real Far.

As Lindy Ruff was preparing to take to the road after a tough overtime loss to the Avalanche on November 1st the Stars coach was hoping to get some offensive production from some of the newer faces on the club. That would occur in Ottawa when Ray Whitney, Valeri Nichuskin, and Antoine Roussel would get their first scores of the season.

Of course, part of the deal when you’re a young squad is learning to keep what you have. Not to squander what you possess. Last Sunday’s game in Ottawa was one where the Stars were 9.3 seconds away from a victory before Bobby Ryan broke his stick with a blast to tie up the game at 3.

“”We’re going to have to learn how to win. Again, we made it tough on ourselves,” Ruff said. “We’re going to have to fix a few of those mistakes that we made and get a greater understanding of when you are up 2-0 in a game what kind of opportunities you want to give up.”

It was a Jamie Benn goal in the shootout that gave the Stars a 4-3 win and 2 points.

“It’s obviously big to get those two (points) and start our road trip off on the right foot,” Stars captain Jamie Benn said. “It wasn’t an easy two points, we didn’t help ourselves out too much. We gave up some plays, but we found a way to win in the shootout.”

Valeri Nichuskin played 19 and half minutes and got some hearty kudos from Coach Ruff.

“He’s really come along. Tonight I thought he dominated skating-wise, physically,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “He made the play right off the bat at the start of the game where (Jamie) Benn could have converted and late in overtime could have finished it himself.”

In keeping with the homecoming theme Sergei Gonchar had a chance to come home and get a win over his old teammates. Next up on the docket was Boston where the World Series hangover was still in evidence.

How would Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverly do in their return to Beantown? Quite nicely, thank you! Prior to the game Tyler Seguin had to overcome a miserable night north of the border where he would go 1-13 on faceoffs. How does this happen?

“You are going to have to get lower, you are going to have to get stronger, you are going to have to get kicked out a couple times,” Ruff said. “It’s a one-on-one compete, it’s a form of competing. Get mad, get mad. Watch (Cody) Eakin go into the faceoff circle, and he’ll get a foot off the ice. He’s bound and determined, and you’ve got to look like that every time, especially on a night when you are having a tough night.”

There would be none of that in Boston. Tyler Seguin and Rich Peverley would figure big time in the route of-what else?- the shootout. It went four rounds before the game was determined in Dallas’ favor for a 4-3 win.

Tyler, Rich, how did it feel to perform so well in your old home?
“Anytime you score a goal it feels good, whether it is in a game or in a shootout, that win even feels better for me,” said Seguin.

“It was nice to have that opportunity to go against Tuukka (Rask, Boston goaltender), it was fun,” said Peverley. “But to be able to come out with two points is a real big confidence boost for our team.”

Was this a game both of you were looking forward to?
“I knew where this was on the calendar, my first time in Boston, obviously the win for me personally but for this team,” said Seguin, who along with Peverley, were playing against the Bruins for the first time since being traded to Dallas in July. “It was a great identity win for us. They were one of the best third period teams in the league, have been for a while. We found a way.”

Jamie Benn would get the scoring started for Dallas before the Bruins answered back with a score of their own 38 seconds later by Torey Krug following a nice feed from Reilly Smith.

At one point the Bruins were in the power play and peppered the Stars net with shots. Which included a 15-1 advantage before Dallas would outshoot Boston 35-21. Trailing 2-1 late in the third Vernon Fiddler was awarded a penalty shot after getting hooked by Dennis Seidenberg.  The Fiddler would sing and deliver a blast past Tuukka Rask to tie things up at two before the former Bruins brought home a second straight road victory 3-2.

Kari Lehtonen stopped 34 of 36 shots while Lindy Ruff was quick to talk about another intangible.

“I thought the leadership of our team was fantastic after the first period,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “I give it all to (Jamie)Benn and Fidds. What Fidds did in the first, and even the penalty killing with Horc (Shawn Horcoff) and all those guys. Those guys deserve a lot of credit. You can say all you want as a coach, but I think those were the guys out there that went and changed the game. Fidds made the biggest difference late with the penalty shot.”

Having a hunch about one of your players also helps, right Coach?
“Just really played a hunch that maybe he knew Rask better than some of our guys,” Ruff said. “I even asked Tyler how he felt, and he said he felt good shooting on him. I thought that was a great answer. Sometimes it’s a hunch. When we got through the first three, I just thought Pevs might be the next best guy.”

Then it was on to Detroit. A place that hasn’t always been kind to the Stars. Completing the trifecta of homecomings was a return to the arena that was a part of Jim Nill’s life for almost two decades.

Would we see a third straight road game go to a shootout?

No, not quite but it was awfully close. Once again playing catchup as the Red Wings jumped out to a 2-0 lead at the Joe Louis Arena. Shawn Horcoff would get the Stars on the board with 20 seconds left in the first period, assisted by Ray Whitney.

Detroit’s scores were courtesy of Adam Almquist and Todd Bertuzzi from two Henrik Zetterberg feeds.

Jamie Benn would even things up at two with a goal that began at the blue line. Benn’s mastery on the ice glided him past numerous Red Wings before whistling a shot past Jimmy Howard. Pavel Datsyuk placed Detroit ahead with 8:26 left on a third assist from Zetterberg and a 3-2 Wing lead.

As Dallas has demonstrated all week coming from behind is something they don’t mind. With 2:44 left in regulation the Stars went on a power play, Kari Lehtonen was pulled from goalie for a 6-4 advantage. Cody Eakin was not going to be denied with 1:10 left in the game. That power play was the Dallas’ first in five games.

It was almost a scoreless overtime. With 19 seconds remaining in the extra frame it was Valeri Nichuskin who got behind the net and found Rich Peverley coming from the left boards for a pass at the slot that Peverley fired past a screened Jimmy Howard for a 4-3 Stars win. More importantly a 3-0 week on the road. A 5-2-2 record in the last nine games.

“Val made a nice play to me, I just tried to come off and there was a lot of traffic in front,” Peverley said. “I don’t think he (Howard) saw it.”

Jamie Benn how do you feel about this game road trip?
“It’s going to give us a lot of confidence,” said Benn. “Our road record wasn’t too good before we came on this trip and we got three pretty big wins in three pretty tough buildings. …It’s not pretty, but we’re finding ways to win and that’s all you can ask for.”

Dallas now improves to 8-6-2 with the Chicago Blackhawks making the first of three visits to Dallas in the next month. This is certainly a team on the rise.

“It’s huge not only for our confidence, but in the standings and for us to build off to know that we have the capability to play like that every night,” said Eakin. “It’s going to help us climb.”

“It was a hard-fought game. We expected that,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “The chances were low for both teams. Their marquee player scored a marquee goal and our marquee player scored a marquee goal. It was a little bit see-saw. We did a lot of good things. We finally got a power play goal. We did a lot of good things and it turned out to be a real good road trip.”

The loss for the Red Wings was the 4th straight at home. Unheard of.

The Stars are now 5-5 on the road this season. Dallas improved to 5-2 against the Eastern Conference. Equally impressive is how EIGHT different Star players would make the 9 goals over the last week on the road. Four straight overtime games and the seventh straight game for the Ruff boys in which the outcome of the game win or lose was by 1 goal.

Heck of a week. Hell of a homecoming. An exciting start to the season for the Dallas Stars.