Saturday, February 12, 2011
There are 82 games in a season. But, to say that a game is a game is just not true.
Invariably, a few games are going to jump off the page. Some, you see when the schedule is released. But, others are big because of who you are playing AND when you are playing them.
And, last night at the AAC, the Stars found them in the middle of a rare situation where they desperately need a win - but they also desperately wanted to play well against the Chicago Blackhawks and their old pal, Marty Turco.
It was one of those match-ups amongst the 82 where you anticipated it for several days. Wow, Turco - in between the pipes of the Stanley Cup Champions - in Dallas. It is almost too much for you brain to process.
Meanwhile, the Stars have been reeling. About January 20th, the Stars were in the driver's seat. Sitting high atop the division and seeming to be sitting pretty with a bit under half of the way to go. But, things went bad in Western Canada. They got worse in Boston and Philadelphia. And, they didn't exactly heal themselves with an Overtime loss to Phoenix the other day.
San Jose had reeled in the Stars. The rest of the division was also waiting by the door. Questions were being asked, but no answers given. The idea of being in crisis was a legitimate concern. Would the Stars give it all that they had earned this season back?
On top of it all, the building was full. After several ice-affected games, the AAC was pulsating with life. Another chance to show off what this team is all about and to feel the energy of a full arena in Dallas.
The table was set for something special. Until the game began.
And then, things went horribly wrong. Turnover - goal. Turnover - goal. And before the the period was over, the Blackhawks scored a third. And what appeared to be a fourth - a puck that Kari Lehtonen had pulled back from the goalmouth with an amazing glove save while moving to his left at the last second to stone Brent Seabrook. From the replays I saw, it looked like the Stars were given a major reprieve by the executioner on that call. If the puck was not 100% over the goal-line, it was 99.5% over. Nevertheless, what a save, and we found out later what a break in the game that would be.
In the 2nd period, with the Stars down 3-0, Mark Fistric unloaded a big hit on Fernando Pisani - leaving Pisani motionless for sometime. A scary hit, but again, it appeared to be a legal one from where I sat. Certainly the ruling of interference made no sense given the puck was on Pisani's stick. Regardless, Fistric had to serve time, and the Stars again rallied around the cause and
killed off the penalty.
And the game began to shift. It's tough to say exactly how the game went from one of the most one-sided affairs in favor of Chicago to a game that the Stars crawled back out of the grave to salvage - but the fact of the matter is that it did shift.
Robidas scored. Brad Richards then had one of the most amazing 5 seconds of hockey I can remember fired a slap-shot that dropped a Chicago defensemen from in front of Turco, retrieved the rebound and fired a second slap-shot past Turco with seconds left in the 2nd period. It threw the arena into a frenzy. 3-2. And the Stars were struggling back.
The 3rd period started with a shift from the Ribeiro/Morrow/Langenbrunner trio, and by the end of the shift, the game was tied as Langenbrunner missed a wide open net, but the puck ended up in the crease where Brenden scored a Brenden goal, fighting for the puck and knocking it into the air. The puck, in slow-motion, went up and then down onto the back of Turco. Then, it rolled off his back and over the line. 3-3. And the roof was shaking again.
The rest of the 3rd and Overtime was just spectacular. The lower level was on its feet. The electricity was wonderful. Stars fans were joined by a fair amount of Chicago red, and the energy shifts with each rush up the ice and each save on either goal was playoff-like. Neither goalie would concede the rest of the way in open play.
So, it came down to a shootout. As great as the night had been, it wouldn't have been the same if they didn't get the 2nd point.
Stars coach Marc Crawford tabbed Morrow to start the shootout. A rather odd idea, but it was Morrow vs Turco. That made to much sense. Best buddies, but now, as sports will sometimes order, they have been forced to square off. And Morrow squeezed the puck barely through Turco's legs.
Richards and Ribeiro would also score - with #63's finish another masterpiece of his subtle genius. And the Stars would win 4-3 in the shootout.
A recap like this is not something I often supply on this blog. But a game like this was not something we see very often.
The game was great. The circumstances made it vital. And the arena was something that made me optimistic that a night like this is still very possible.
1 of 82? Hardly. 2 badly needed points. And a gust of wind into the sails of the troops.
What a night.