The Dallas Stars aren't expecting Fabian Brunnstrom to equal the output from his NHL debut in every game, but his hat trick on Wednesday was certainly a good sign for the rookie.
One night after Brunnstrom became the third player in NHL history to score three goals in his first game, the young Swede and his Stars teammates will look for a second straight victory Thursday when they visit the St. Louis Blues.
Dallas signed Brunnstrom in May after he was courted by several teams, and it was somewhat of a surprise that the 23-year-old left wing wasn't in the lineup for the Stars' first two contests, which both ended in defeat.
It turns out his debut was worth the wait, as he torched the Nashville Predators for three goals - including the game-winner with 3:25 to play - as the Stars won 6-4. Only Alex Smart of Montreal (Jan. 14, 1943) and Real Cloutier of the Quebec Nordiques (Oct. 10, 1979) had notched hat tricks in their debuts.
"I wanted to play and be part of the team, but this team has really good players so you have to earn your spot," Brunnstrom said. "I felt comfortable out there from the start. It was fun, but the most important thing was that we won the game."
Dallas (1-1-1) has racked up plenty of wins in recent seasons, earning five straight playoff berths and averaging 105 points over that span. But after losing in six games to Detroit in the Western Conference finals last season, the Stars got off to a slow start in 2008-09, losing 5-4 in overtime to Columbus and falling 3-1 at Nashville last week.
Brunnstrom helped energize them Wednesday, when Mike Modano added two goals and an assist and Brad Richards assisted on two of Brunnstrom's tallies.
"He's doing things beyond the goals that make you feel good," Dallas coach Dave Tippett said of Brunnstrom. "He's a good player who will continue to improve."
St. Louis (2-1-0) looks like it could be an improved club after missing the playoffs for a third straight season in 2007-08. The Blues fell behind 3-0 after the first period in Toronto on Monday, but scored twice on a five-minute power play in the second and won 5-4 in a shootout.
Veteran Paul Kariya had a goal and an assist, giving him six points through three games, and St. Louis' power play continued to punish opponents. The Blues are 7-for-14 on the power play to lead the league after ranking last in the NHL (14.1 percent) last season.
"The power play, which wasn't very good last year, has been clicking for us, and the boys just worked so hard for it all summer long," goalie Manny Legace said. "It's nice to see them get a reward for it."
St. Louis didn't reap many rewards against Dallas last season, going 1-2-1 and scoring just once in 18 power plays.
Legace has long played well against the Stars, however, going 5-3-1 with two ties, a 1.84 goals-against average and two shutouts in his career. Dallas goalie Marty Turco has been nearly as good against the Blues, going 9-4-1 with a tie and a 1.88 GAA.
The game begins a seven-game homestand for St. Louis, which went 20-15-6 at the Scottrade Center last season and won its home opener 5-2 against Nashville Friday.