All of a sudden, there’s a race for the top seed in the Western Conference.
It wasn’t long ago that the Detroit Red Wings
were running away with the National Hockey League’s best record, while the Dallas Stars
were battling just to separate themselves from a pack of teams fighting for the last playoff spots.
After Marty Turco
stopped all 28 shots the Red Wings tested him with Sunday and Niklas Hagman
scored early in the third period, the Stars skated off the ice at American Airlines Center with a 1-0 victory that left them just eight points behind Detroit for first place in the West.
"It would be tremendous to catch them," Hagman said. "Anything is possible."
The result was indicative of both teams’ fortunes of late – the Stars won for the ninth time in 10 games, while the Wings’ losing streak reached a season-high six straight. Turco earned just his second career win in 16 decisions against Detroit, which lost to Dallas for the first time in three meetings this season.
"That team's had my number so it was satisfying to beat them," Turco said after registering his second shutout of the season and the 32nd of his career. "Now I'm focused on evening things up against them."
"It's not like he's not trying, he's trying his tail off," Dallas coach Dave Tippett
said. "But it was good to see him get results. He had saves at the right time. This has to help him get momentum against this team."
Turco preserved the shutout and his 201st NHL victory with several key stops in the final minute of the game. He made a sliding stop on Detroit’s Bret Lebda with 48.8 seconds remaining, then denied Johan Franzen
with 34.8 left.
"I'm running out of words to describe how Marty is playing," Hagman said. "At the start, middle and definitely the end, they had good chances. I don't know how he managed to get some of those saves. We've always had a tough time against Detroit. It was a huge win."
Red Wings coach Mike Babcock turned to backup goalie Jimmy Howard
after Chris Osgood
lost four straight and was pulled from his last two starts. Howard, called up due to Dominik Hasek
’s hip injury, hadn’t started an NHL game since facing Atlanta on Dec. 13, 2005, but made 30 saves and engaged Turco in a scoreless duel through two periods.
"We had lots of chances," Detroit's Tomas Holmstrom
said. "A loss is a loss. Howard gave us a chance to win, but we came up short. It's terrible, what can you say? We have to find a way to get out of this slump."
The Red Wings were given a chance to break through early in the third period when Steve Ott
was sent off for tripping. The Stars killed the penalty, though, and scored the game’s only goal moments later.
With Dallas controlling the puck in the offensive zone, Hagman was parked to the left of Howard when Jere Lehtinen
took a shot from between the circles. Howard made the save but couldn’t control the rebound, and Hagman scored from a sharp angle at 3:13 for his career-high 21st of the season ( 700K
"Lehtinen drove it toward the net and they forgot about me on the back door," Hagman said. "I got a good bounce and it was easy for me to put in."
Both sides had ample opportunities to strike first during the first 40 minutes. The Red Wings outshot the Stars 11-9 in the first period, but Mikael Samuelsson
hit the left post on an early breakaway. Turco made a stick save on a Pavel Datsyuk
shot ( 700K
) and robbed Franzen with a glove save in the second period ( 700K
Howard fought the puck early, but the Stars failed to capitalize.
"The first couple of shots came off him like crazy, but that's just a kid being nervous," Babcock said.
There may be a general sense of anxiety pervading the Wings’ locker room now that their stranglehold on the rest of the Western Conference appears to be loosening.
Material from wire services and team media was used in this report.