At last -- That wasn't a monkey Marty Turco got off his back -- it was a gorilla.
The former University of Michigan star had never won a regular-season NHL game at Joe Louis Arena. Through his first 11 appearances with the Dallas Stars, he was 0-8-2 and had had some of his worst performances at "The Joe."
But all that changed Thursday night, when he made 22 saves to lead the Stars to a 4-2 victory against the Red Wings in Detroit. It was the season-high third win in a row for the Stars and moved them into a tie for the last playoff spot in the West -- but more important, their goaltender finally got a victory in Detroit.
''I've had zero wins here this century,'' joked the 33-year-old, who had success in Detroit when he played at the University of Michigan. ''I don't want to date myself at all, but it has been a long time.
"But the way our team is playing can't really overshadow anything that I did or accomplished."
After winning just eight of his first 23 games, Turco is 13-5-3 in his last 21.
'"He's just like the rest of our team," Dallas coach Dave Tippett said. "We started slow, but he's been coming on.
"I think the biggest difference was that we played better in front of him.''
After a terribly slow start, the Stars now have 51 points, putting them right in the mix for the final playoff berths in the West.
"It's been a long time coming, but the way we played was the most positive sign and it feels good," Turco said. "It's big the way we played and our mentality tonight. We like to have the structure we showed tonight, and the power play came through for us. We showed some good work ethic against a good team in a tough place to play. I like the way our team is playing."
Nabby gives up nothing -- Two games, two shutouts for Evgeni Nabokov. Not a bad way to come back after a perhaps-undeserved non-trip to the All-Star Game.
Nabokov stopped 24 shots for his second shutout in three nights and 27th win of the season as the San Jose Sharks blanked the Phoenix Coyotes, 2-0. Nabokov made Christian Ehrhoff's power-play goal early in the second period stand up until Marcel Goc hit the empty net with 14.3 seconds left.
"He makes it easy," defenseman Doug Murray said. "He's always there to back you up. It's a comfort -- you can really focus on your own game."
Nabokov has stopped all 55 shots he's faced in the Sharks' first two games after the break. He said he hasn't made any changes from his pre-break routine, but that with the season heading for the two-thirds mark, the games themselves are changing.
"I think it's a matter of concentration," he said. "I didn't do anything different. I still have the same routine. But the games are a little bit different right now. The games are a little bit tighter, and we have to adjust -- we did adjust to it in the two games after the break. I think that's what's different -- the mentality of the game, the dynamics of the game are a little bit different right now."
Nabokov, the Vezina Trophy runner-up last season, hasn't given up a goal in the last 169:14, a franchise record.
"He's been great the last two games," coach Todd McLellan said. "He's as sharp now as he's been all year."
Measuring up -- Even without Martin Brodeur, the New Jersey Devils have moved into the elite of the East.
As they near three full months without their franchise goaltender, the Devils are on a roll. They made it seven wins in a row when Jamie Langenbrunner's goal 1:11 into overtime gave New Jersey a 4-3 victory at Boston.
Of the seven wins, a victory over the conference-leading Bruins easily was the most impressive.
"They're the team that everybody needs to measure themselves against, and rightfully so," said Langenbrunner, who had his second-straight two-goal game. "They've had a great year, and we just wanted to see if we could play with them. I think we proved a little something to ourselves tonight, that if we're on top of our game we can."
The Bruins trailed 2-0 after two periods, but got goals from Chuck Kobasew, Marc Savard and Dennis Wideman to take the lead. However, Brian Gionta's pass went off Patrik Elias' skate and into the net with 1:45 left in regulation, giving Langenbrunner the chance to be the OT hero.
Boston coach Claude Julien was philosophical after a game that saw a variety of odd-looking goals.
"Our guys did a good job of getting ourselves back in the game," Julien said. "It was a game where you really have to work hard to score goals. There wasn't a ton of pretty ones."
"You don't get many nights like that as a coach where you walk out and feel pretty good about almost every component of how the game went," DeBoer said. "Now it's going to be up to us to reproduce that."
The Panthers got two first-period power-play goals, two at even-strength and one on Radek Dvorak's third-period penalty shot as they improved to 7-1-3 in January.
"Probably our best 60 minutes of the season from a system point of view and how we want to play," DeBoer said. "I think we've done a good job of playing to our identity in spurts and at times. Tonight it was the full 60 minutes. I thought we were good from the goaltender on out."
The Canadiens, who had four starters in Sunday's All-Star Game at the Bell Centre, lost for the fourth time in a row and the second time in three nights in the state of Florida.
A frustrated goaltender Carey Price, one of those four All-Star starters, hurled his equipment bag in disgust in the locker room before speaking to the media after the game.
"You go from having the best time of your life to the worst time of your life," Price said. "We've got to pull together. We can't start pointing fingers now or you'll never dig yourself out of the hole."
Time is tight -- With the calendar about to turn from January to February, teams with playoff aspirations know they can't waste chances to win. The Carolina Hurricanes didn't.
The Hurricanes used Eric Staal's goal with 1:36 left in regulation to edge Tampa Bay 3-2 -- their fifth win in a row over the Lightning, including four this season.
"We talked about it before the game, (that) this is a huge 30-something games for us," Staal said, referring to the Hurricanes' remaining 32 games. "We've got to win. ... We've got to bring our consistent work ethic and effort every night. Our defense did a tremendous job tonight of blocking shots -- they did good with the sticks, real solid."
"It's been a long time coming, but the way we played was the most positive sign and it feels good. It's big the way we played and our mentality tonight. We like to have the structure we showed tonight, and the power play came through for us. We showed some good work ethic against a good team in a tough place to play. I like the way our team is playing." -- Dallas Stars goalie Marty TurcoThe Hurricanes now have 53 points, one behind eighth-place Florida in the East.
It was a big loss for Tampa Bay, which has been playing better but needs to get on a major roll to make up a 10-point deficit.
"The margin of error is so small now that a loss like this, especially to a team we're trying to catch, is a huge loss," Lightning center Jeff Halpern said. "Every loss right now is a big loss."
Kid stuff -- With the playoffs no longer a realistic goal, the New York Islanders are using the rest of the season to give their young players a chance to show what they can do. The line of Josh Bailey, Kyle Okposo and Blake Comeau gave the Atlanta Thrashers an eyeful.
Okposo scored a pair of goals, both set up by Bailey and one on a play started by Comeau, as the Isles ended a 14-game road losing streak with a 5-4 victory at Atlanta. Bailey's brilliant passes twice gave Okposo open nets -- the second time with 7:21 remaining in regulation after the Thrashers had cut a 4-0 deficit to 4-3.
"I was very pleased with the way (the Comeau-Bailey-Okposo line) played," coach Scott Gordon said. "I think we saw tonight the abilities of Josh to be able to find people when it doesn’t look like there's an option for him."
The Isles shocked the Philips Arena crowd by scoring four times on 20 shots in the opening period. The Thrashers got four pucks past Yann Danis in the third period, but it wasn't enough.
"Just because we had a good third doesn't mean anything," Atlanta center Rich Peverley said. "We didn't get a point out of it. You shoot yourself in the foot going down 4-0. I think it was a lack of effort by the whole team."
Booster shot -- Maybe all the Ottawa Senators needed was some new blood.
Playing in just his third NHL game, rookie Peter Regin scored an unassisted goal with 1:57 left in regulation, breaking a 1-1 tie, as the Senators beat the St. Louis Blues, 3-1. Regin, a 22-year-old native of Denmark, swept behind the net, came out into the right circle and whipped a shot between goaltender Chris Mason and the post.
"It's something I've dreamed about since I was a kid," Regin said. "A dream come true for me."
Regin admitted he misfired a bit on the shot.
"I tried to shoot it high, but missed and the puck went low," he said. "That's often how you score, you miss the puck a little."
"I think it's a matter of concentration. I didn't do anything different. I still have the same routine. But the games are a little bit different right now. The games are a little bit tighter, and we have to adjust -- we did adjust to it in the two games after the break. I think that's what's different -- the mentality of the game, the dynamics of the game are a little bit different right now." -- Sharks goalie Evgeni NabokovThe goal should earn Regin some more playing time as coach Craig Hartsburg tries to get his struggling team back into the playoff race.
"Peter showed speed, showed skill and good poise with the puck," Hartsburg said.
Blues coach Andy Murray didn't have many nice things to say about his team.
"I didn't like what I saw," Murray said. "I thought for the significance of the game and having three days of practice, that our sense of urgency and intensity was not at a level we needed."
Home-ice disadvantage -- The Colorado Avalanche were counting on an eight-game homestand to help them mount a playoff charge. It's not working out that way.
With three games left, the Avs are 1-4 after a sloppy 7-4 loss to Toronto. Two nights after the Leafs couldn't put the puck in the ocean, they seemingly couldn’t miss against former teammate Andrew Raycroft, who gave up three third-period goals after John-Michael Liles tied the game at 4-4 just 3:10 into the period.
Colorado thought it had tied the game moments later, but the apparent goal by Milan Hedjuk was disallowed when Ryan Smyth was called for interfering with Toronto goaltender Vesa Toskala.
"I didn’t see much contact there," Hedjuk said. "Just maybe a little bit, but it looked like a regular goal to me, but the referees had a different opinion. I don't want to say it was a turning point but it definitely would have helped us."
The Avs fell to 23-25-1 and are now four points behind a quintet of teams tied for the last two playoff spots in the West. They know they can't afford to fall much further behind.
"It's very frustrating," Smyth said. "This was a big game for us to turn, hopefully the season around. Obviously it’s not a dire situation, but it’s getting pretty close. We're just over halfway and we know how crucial games are at this point in the year. If we want to get ourselves back in the playoff mix, we have to find ways to win."
Rested and ready -- How much rest is too much? For the Los Angeles Kings, an eight-day All-Star break worked out just fine.
The Kings were among the last teams to resume play after the break, but showed few signs of rust Thursday night as they beat the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2 at the Staples Center. The Kings got goals from Dustin Brown and Jarret Stoll in a 1:45 span late in the first period and never looked back.
Coach Terry Murray said the play of goaltender Jonathan Quick, who made 31 saves, was vital to the victory.
"That eight-day break is nice to have, you get rested," Murray said. "But professional hockey players getting away for eight days from intense competition means your timing is off, that's all there is to it, and your goaltender has to save you. Quick came up with some big stops tonight."
The Kings have struggled to score for most of the season, but now have 16 goals in their last three games, all victories. Murray said the emphasis against Chicago, which won 3-2 at Anaheim on Wednesday, was simple: Shoot the puck early and often.
"The focal point of the game was a quick-shot attitude the whole night," he said. "Anywhere in the offensive zone, we wanted to get the puck there as quickly as possible, let's not look for an extra play."
Contact John Kreiser at email@example.com.
Material from wire services and team online and broadcast media was used in this report.