Andrew Raycroft was outstanding.
The Stars played a very good game in front of him, but this was one of those games where Dallas kept missing on scoring chance after scoring chance, and you just had the feeling as the game was going on that Buffalo was going to score a fluky goal and send the Stars into a reeling spiral of depression.
Raycroft didn't let that happen. He was solid on first shots, he was solid with traffic, he was solid cleaning up his own messes. That's pretty impressive for a guy who sat on the bench for the first eight games and had mop-up duty in the ninth. Raycroft ended with 34 saves and his eighth career shutout.
It was a pretty big deal.
``He had really good focus today,'' Stars coach Marc Crawford said. ``We saw it from him this morning with his concentration. He's a veteran he knows how to get himself prepared, and he played a solid game tonight.''
Just as important, the Stars played a solid game. After Crawford ripped the team for lapses in focus in recent games, the Stars were locked in on this one. Led by Brenden Morrow, they were intense and aggressive, but also very responsible defensively. Morrow hustled back a couple of times to break up plays, he drew a couple of penalties and he scored a power play goal. It was not a huge night statistically, but it was a huge night in showing that he responds well to criticism, and that the team can play an ``offensive'' style and still be good defensively.
``You have to learn through the adversity that you're faced with,'' Crawford said. ``I thought Brenden Morrow looked terrific. I thought our defensemen made some very smart decisions. I thought there was a lot of assertive, intelligent play.''
Jamie Benn had one of the great moments of the game when he forced Tyler Myers into a turnover at the blueline and then drove the net short-handed. Benn didn't score, but Steve Ott followed up and shoved the puck home for a 3-0 lead. Benn and Myers were junior teammates in Kelowna, so it was no surprise when Myers slammed his stick on the end boards after the game.
But as much as Raycroft and Benn were neat stories, the real story was the strong overall play at a time when it was needed. The Stars were told to change their game, and they did. They proved to themselves they can ``do it all,'' so to speak. Now, the Sabres are not a good team and they were playing on back-to-back nights with travel inbetween and their backup goalie in net, so you take that all with a grain of salt.
But the Stars would not have been happy going into a three-day break between games with an 0-4-0 start to a six-game homestand, so this was a pretty big win.
``That's the best part of tonight,'' Raycroft said. ``It's better to fight through one and have it go our way and feel good that we are doing the right things. We just have to stay focused and keep plugging away. That's the name of the game in this league, realizing your weaknesses and executing and getting better day to day. Those are good signs.''