NEW YORK -- Sometimes a scoreless hockey game fails to capture the contest's true beauty and excitement, one filled with tremendous scoring chances from both teams that are only snuffed out by superior goaltending for 60 breathtaking minutes.
It wasn't pretty, but Trevor Daley's game-winning goal late in the third period turned a 0-0 game into a 1-0 win for the Stars at Madison Square Garden. The defenseman's third goal of the season came with 4:59 left in regulation and was all that was required for goaltender Richard Bachman, who made 34 saves for his first career shutout in his second NHL start.
For the Stars, who missed the playoffs by two points last season, they'll take victories any way they can get them this season.
"They're all huge," Daley said. "Every point matters. It was tough. They didn't give you much out there. We stuck with it. We got a break and buried it. We're not going to score too many goals on that goalie down there. It was a hard battle. We stuck with it and came out on top."
The game appeared destined for overtime and perhaps an infinite amount of attempts in the shootout, but a turnover by Rangers defenseman Jeff Woywitka gave the Stars a break. Brenden Morrow picked up the discarded puck in the neutral zone and worked the puck to Mike Ribeiro. Eventually, the trailing Daley found himself alone in front of Rangers goaltender Henrik Lundqvist and beat him through the legs with a slick move.
"I tried to stay patient," Lundqvist said of how he tried to stop Daley. "I knew that Ribeiro was going to pass into the middle so I got into position and he kind of went side to side a couple of times and Daley finally threw it between my pads. Thinking back, I probably could've played it differently and made the save. It's frustrating not to come up with any points in this game."
The 24-year-old Bachman has been pressed into duty largely because of an injury to starting goaltender Kari Lehtonen, who has been exceptional this season but will miss at least another week with a lower-body injury. Bachman was stellar in his first career start Saturday, making 26 saves in a 2-1 victory in Los Angeles and earning himself a second start in New York.
He wasn't called upon Tuesday to make many difficult saves, with the Rangers (17-7-4, 38 points) getting a lot of their chances from the outside. Still, Bachman managed what was by far the biggest chance of the evening during a Stars power play late in the second period.
Brandon Prust and Ryan McDonagh broke out of the Rangers zone for a shorthanded 2-on-1 rush. Prust carried the puck down the left wing before feeding it across to McDonagh, who had his one-time blast turned aside by the outstretched catching glove of Bachman.
Bachman made another big save late with the score 1-0, but the save on McDonagh allowed the Stars (17-11-1, 35 points) to keep it tied and set the stage for Daley.
"We always take the shooter like every team does," Bachman said. "Luckily, he passed up closer to the blue line, so it gave me a little more time to get across there. I kind of saw his hips open a little bit and I was able to read the pass there a little more than if he was skating a little bit. Then I was just able to get the glove on it."
Bachman is now 2-0 this season with a 0.43 goals-against average and .983 save percentage in two starts and one relief appearance. They could be interpreted as surprising numbers for anyone, even if the sample size is an extremely small one.
Daley, however, hasn't been caught off-guard by Bachman's two excellent starts.
"We were talking about that," Daley said. "We're really not that surprised. He's shown every time he's been up and the last two years in the exhibitions, he's been great. He's living up to it."
Brad Richards, the former Star who was playing against his ex-teammates for the first time since signing a nine-year, $60 million contract this summer, felt the Rangers could've done more to penetrate Bachman.
"We didn't get enough in close. No rebound shots," Richards lamented. "At times, we didn't start that great. They defend well and they kind of lulled us into a quiet type of game. In the third we got more tempo, more aggression, but they defended well, too."
Richards had 5 shots and was caught on the ice for Daley's goal.
"I thought there were stretches when we could have been better," Rangers captain Ryan Callahan said. "But at the same time, I don't think it was a terrible night battle-wise. But at the end of the day, it's a loss."
It could've been much worse for the Rangers, who received a scare when Lundqvist crumpled to the ice after taking a high, hard shot off the left shoulder area from Stars defenseman Sheldon Souray, who possesses a cannon for a slapshot. Lundqvist stayed down for a bit, but remained in the game and made 27 saves.
The low-scoring game that was devoid of scoring chances for long stretches but filled with plenty of offsides and icings may not have been pretty, but it was exactly what Gulutzan expected. His players stayed patient, stuck with the game plan and they were rewarded with two points.
"That's exactly what we talked about in our pregame and this morning," Gulutzan said. "This is a grind game, and we have to grind it out, try to play them as much as we can, cycling and down low. We feel they have four good lines and we just wanted to make sure we utilized their bench a little bit and kept the game in the trenches so that we could give ourselves a chance on the road."
The Stars wanted to win ugly, and nothing is more beautiful in this League than two points.