The unbeaten Dallas Stars are in position to match the best start in franchise history, thanks in large part their play on the road and their domination of Pacific Division opponents.
The Stars will be tested again in both situations Tuesday night when they visit the surging San Jose Sharks.
Dallas (5-0-0) is trying to open the season with six straight wins for the first time since setting the club record in 1996-97. The Stars' last three victories have come against their Pacific rivals, including Sunday's 4-3 shootout win over Anaheim.
Sergei Zubov and Jussi Jokinen scored in the shootout, while Zubov also had a power-play goal in regulation to lift Dallas.
"It's a nice thing to shoot for," said Stars center Mike Modano, who collected his 700th assist in the game and is one of four players remaining from that 1996-97 team. "You want to see how far we can take a good start like this.
"So far, we've found different ways to win games - getting leads, shootouts, coming from behind - and that's good. You just find ways to win games and worry about the X's and O's later."
One of the ways for the Stars has been their continued strong play away from home. Dallas was 25-12-4 on the road last season, second-best in the NHL, and has carried over that success. The Stars have played all but one of their first five games on the road, and will conclude a four-game trip Tuesday.
"Everybody goes through stretches like this in the schedule, and this is what we live with in the Pacific Division," coach Dave Tippett said. "We have a lot of travel, but fortunately we've been sitting out in L.A. for a couple of days. It's good to get as many as we can out of the way while we're out here."
The trip has been a memorable one for Dallas goaltender Marty Turco. He made 36 stops Sunday and is among the league leaders in wins (five), goals-against average (1.56) and save percentage (.948).
Turco is 11-2-2 with a tie and a 2.13 GAA in 17 games against the Sharks, posting his second-highest victory total against any opponent.
He will face a challenge in a San Jose team that has scored 21 goals, among the most in the league. The Sharks (4-1-0) are coming off their best offensive performance of the season in Friday's 6-4 win over Vancouver.
San Jose was trying to kill off a 5-on-3 Vancouver advantage early in the third period when Curtis Brown took off on a breakaway as he came out of the penalty box and scored the go-ahead goal, the team's first short-hander of the season.
"The biggest thing was we wanted to kill the penalty off," said Brown, who had a goal and an assist in the victory. "You never dream of something like that happening, especially down two men."
Although the Sharks were shut out on all six of their power plays Friday, they have converted nine of 36 opportunities (25 percent) this season.
They may have trouble matching that success rate against the Stars, who have killed off 34 of 38 power plays.
San Jose is opening a tough three-game homestand during which it will face Dallas, Detroit and Minnesota. The Sharks went 2-1 on their just-completed road trip.
Dallas won the 2005-06 season series with San Jose 4-2-2, with half of those games decided after regulation. Modano had two goals and seven assists in seven games against the Sharks.
San Jose center Patrick Marleau, tied for the team lead with seven points this season, had three goals and seven assists in the series.
|Mar 04 '07||SJS 4 at DAL 0||C. Brown|
|Feb 18 '07||SJS 2 at DAL 5||J. Lehtinen|
|Feb 01 '07||DAL 4 at SJS 2||J. Lehtinen|
|Jan 30 '07||DAL 3 at SJS 2 - SO||M. Ribeiro|
|Dec 31 '06||SJS 4 at DAL 2||P. Marleau|
|Dec 21 '06||DAL 3 at SJS 0||J. Halpern|
|Dec 04 '06||SJS 0 at DAL 1||M. Modano|
|Oct 17 '06||DAL 0 at SJS 2||M. Michalek|