DETROIT – After 18 years in the Red Wings’ organization, Jim Nill wasn’t ready to gloat over his new team’s victory Thursday night at Joe Louis Arena.
Returning to The Joe for the first time since accepting the Dallas Stars’ general manager job, Nill allowed himself to walk down memory lane more than a few times Thursday as he reminisced with old friends and colleagues within the Detroit organization.
“I never had an opportunity to come back here just to see the staff, the players,” Nill said. “I saw a lot of the guys at the draft, but I never saw the players and just the staff around Joe Louis. … It was a big part of our life.”
But the big thing Thursday were the two big points that the Stars managed to salvage in a 4-3 win when Rich Peverley buried a snap shot with 19-seconds left in overtime.
And true to form, Nill remained classy as ever in triumph.
“It’s a big win for us,” said Nill, who held posts from right wing to assistant GM with the Wings’ franchise. “Detroit’s a great team and we respect them. It’s just a big character win for our young guys.”
The Stars trailed the entire game, and even spotted the Red Wings a two-goal lead in the second period on goals by Todd Bertuzzi and Adam Almquist. But the young Stars roared back on goals by Shawn Horcoff and captain Jamie Benn.
“I think that was a huge goal for Shawn Horcoff with 20-seconds left in the second there, and that really got us going,” Peverley said. “It put us in reach there and obviously Jamie’s goal was highlight reel, one of the best I’ve seen all year. … I think we did a good job of being persistent, and it showed.”
The Stars are in the midst of a brutal stretch, playing nine of 12 games on the road. They’re half way through it, and with Thursday’s win the Stars are 4-1-1 in their last six games.
“We got a little bit behind the eight-ball at the start of the season,” Nill said. “The West is tough and we have to get wins. We’re on the road here. We go back home for one more game and then we’re on the road for three more out West. So it’s imperative that we get wins here. It’s a big win for us because Detroit’s a great team.”
Nill hopes the Red Wings’ blueprint for success over three decades will have similar results for the Stars’ organization, which last qualified for the playoffs in 2008 when they were knocked out in the Western Conference finals by Detroit.
“My goal is to make the Dallas Stars like the Detroit Red Wings,” Nill said. “It’s not going to be easy to do, because they’ve done a great job here, but that’s where we’re headed.”
For Peverley, who was part of Nill’s first big transaction over the summer, the win was something special.
“It’s nice to get it for (Jim),” said Peverley, who along with Tyler Seguin, was acquired in a four-player trade with the Boston Bruins. “He was here for a longtime and I think it probably meant a lot to him.”
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