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Total team effort lifts Stars to 'best, most complete' win of season

From Pavelski chipping in a pair of goals to Dowling earning his first, Dallas' victory over Calgary was well deserved

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

CALGARY, Alberta -- Of all the things said by the Stars this week, maybe the most important was "We win as a team, we lose as a team."

Wednesday's game against the Flames was maybe the best example of just what this team would like to do on a regular basis.

Dallas played a smart, careful, boring first period -- just like it tends to do on the road. It then ramped things up in the second, outshooting Calgary 18-6, and getting a key power-play goal from Joe Pavelski. And then the Stars closed things down in the third thanks to good team defense, a huge goal from Justin Dowling, and the goaltending of Ben Bishop.

The end result was a 3-1 win over the Calgary Flames at an important time of the season.

 

[WATCH: All Stars vs. Flames highlights]

 

"I thought that might have been our best, most complete effort -- definitely our best road game of the year," Stars coach Jim Montgomery said. "Everybody contributed, everybody excelled at their roles. We could have had a lot of goals tonight, but we just kept playing. Even in the third when they kept coming after us, I thought our poise in the D-zone was great."

Video: DAL@CGY: Bishop makes beautiful back-to-back saves

The win pushes the Stars to 9-8-1 and 8-1-1 in their past 10 games. It has not been an easy rise, as injuries and performance have created all sorts of challenges along the way. Montgomery criticized Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin for their lack of scoring after a 3-2 overtime loss to Winnipeg Sunday, and then apologized Tuesday for issuing an "emotional" response. He then put Seguin and Benn on a line with Dowling and juggled most of his other lines.

The line created some strong scoring chances, and Dowling scored his first career NHL goal, a beautiful toe drag that ended up being the game-winner.

"That line was really good for us," Montgomery said. "I thought Seggy and Jamie had great looks from really dangerous scoring areas, they kept possessing pucks."

The trio finished with nine shots on goal, and helped drive possession in the second period. Seguin and Benn then were used as penalty killers in the third period and helped keep Calgary at bay. It was a game where every line, every player was paying attention to details, getting sticks in the lane, blocking shots, taking the body.

"It was a great team effort," said goalie Ben Bishop, who finished with 24 saves. "I haven't seen an effort like that in a long time as far as guys laying out and blocking shots. Just down the line, a lot of guys laying their body on the line for two points."

Video: DAL@CGY: Pavelski sticks with it, stuffs home PPG

The points are important. Dallas still hasn't put itself in playoff position after a 1-7-1 start, so every win in crucial. Doing it on a four-game road trip through Western Canada when they have a game in Vancouver on Thursday night means a lot.

"I like what we saw," said Pavelski, who had two goals. "We were on them early and then when they had their push, we had a lot of guys kind of sacrifice. It was just one of those games where you need guys getting in lanes and blocking shots."

For a team missing Roope Hintz, John Klingberg, Mattias Janmark and Roman Polak because of injury (and also losing Andrew Cogliano to a lower-body injury in the third period), that's important. Nick Caamano was called up from the minors to fill in for Janmark, and Dowling was moved up to the top line to help spark Seguin and Benn.

The 29-year-old Dowling said he had to just play his simple game to fit in with his linemates.

"I don't think I've got to play the game any differently when I'm playing with those guys," he said. "I've got to do the dirty work and let their skill take over. I thought we played well today. I thought we had our chances."

Video: DAL@CGY: Dowling beats Talbot for first NHL goal

The best, of course, was when Dowling got sprung down the right wing. He broke in, toe-dragged to pull Cam Talbot out of goal and then tucked in a beautiful shot that gave the Stars a 2-0 lead.

"I tend to do that a lot in practice," Dowling said of the move. "I don't know if it just comes natural or instinct. When I got to the blue line, I thought I've got to do that move because I've had success in practice. Thankfully, it went in."

Thankfully, for a lot of reasons. The Stars have been pushing for consistency and battling pressure since the slow start. To have a player like Dowling come up big in front of his friends and family was something the entire team enjoyed.

Ironically, Dowling's mom missed the goal.

"I didn't realize my mom was in the beer line when I scored my goal, so she didn't even see it," Dowling said with a laugh after the game. "That's why we've got TV and highlights. She'll see it eventually."

Video: DAL@CGY: Pavelski hits the empty net for his second

As will all of Canada, which makes the moment pretty special for Dowling's Stars family, as well.

Bishop continued to lower his GAA and raise his save percentage, and the Stars continue to play a brand of hockey that seems repeatable. That's a pretty big statement when you consider all they have been through.

"Guys have been playing honest hockey, not cheating the system," Pavelski said. "We play a lot of one-goal games, and that's fine."

Especially if they can find a way to win as a team.

"It's been a good little stretch, but we're not out of the woods by any means," Pavelski said. "This team's got higher standards than that."

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.

Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for DallasStars.com and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika, and listen to his podcast.

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