Stars taste victory at home once again
By Steve Hunt
January 11, 2011
Once teams start clinching playoff berths in the Western Conference, all that will matter from Tuesday night's clash between Edmonton and the Stars is that the home team came away with two points thanks to a 3-2 win at the American Airlines Center.
But what won't matter is that Marc Crawford's squad won in truly ugly fashion. After taking an early lead following Brenden Morrow's 18th goal with about five minutes left in the opening period, the Stars doubled their advantage when Jamie Benn found the back of the net for his third goal in two games after some nice combination play by Steve Ott and Adam Burish, the first time this trio was paired together by Crawford.
However, in the third period was when things got interesting. The Oilers scored twice less than two minutes apart to tie things at 2-2, but a rocket launcher by James Neal from the right side with about 11 minutes left in the final frame proved to be the game-winner. But Neal's goal likely would not have counted were it not for the wonder of video review.
Neal's blast drew a considerable amount of iron and was hit so hard it ricocheted past center ice before landing in the Dallas end of the pond. But after a quick video review, it was determined that the Real Deal's shot had indeed crossed the line and was a goal, his third in five games.
Crawford couldn't have been happier.
"It was a super shot by James. Thank God we do have video review," the Stars head coach said. "It was so difficult to see whether it was in. Half the guys on the bench said it was and half of us thought it wasn't. Thankfully there was video review because it was in the back of net."
Even though the Stars got their first win at home in six games, this one was far from pretty. The undermanned Oilers outplayed Dallas for most of the night and the home team admitted they were pretty lucky to come away from this one with the full two points.
"It wasn't the easiest way to win," Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen said. "That was unfortunate, those couple of goals there quickly. After that, we started playing. We were just floating around there most of the game. It wasn't the way we wanted to win but it's still a win. So we'll take it and go to the next one."
Dallas captain Morrow acknowledged the win was no thing of beauty, but the bottom line is the two points they gained in the West standings.
"We talked a lot about that. We haven't lost them all, but we haven't won here for five and this would be six. It wasn't the way we drew it up," Morrow said. "Nealer got us a big one and we were able to hold on."
Crawford also discussed the most important thing, the mere fact that despite struggling for much of the night, his club was able to grind out a one-goal win and gain full points.
"Well, it is two points, two very important points for us. I think over the last six games, we have played better and not gotten two points," the Stars head coach said. "At the end of the day, there's nothing like winning."
At times, the game became a somewhat heated affair. There were several quality scrums and it was clear that this one had a feel similar to some of those epic battles these two teams waged back during the Ken Hitchcock era. And the dustup between Morrow and Edmonton blueliner Kurtis Foster after the final whistle had blown only served notice that the next time these two sides meet again, which just happens to be next week in Alberta, there promises to be plenty of physical play and likely fights.
But for now, the Stars get to enjoy a home win and now have several days to prepare for a Saturday visit by Atlanta, who will be on the second game of a back-to-back. Two days later the Los Angeles Kings, a team that has given Dallas fits at the AAC, make their second stop of the season in Big D for the final game of this three-game homestand.
Tuesday's win might not have been pretty but it does get the Stars two points closer to their ultimate goal, ending their playoff drought. While it's too early to tell how crucial the two points they gained will be in terms of their chances of making the postseason, racking up points at home is never a bad thing and Dallas did just that, gave the crowd at the AAC something to cheer about.