It's kind of difficult to measure how important that game was.
With wins for Nashville (4-3 in OT vs. Boston), Calgary (5-2 over Colorado) and Phoenix (3-1 over Edmonton), Dallas needed these points. In addition to handing points directly to Chicago had the Stars lost, they would have been pushed down by other teams who are winning.
Ask LA how it feels about its home loss at the hands of the Blues.
It would not have been pretty for Dallas had the other option popped up. Combine the possible lost points with the panic that had already gripped the masses in Starsville from the two-game losing streak, and you might have had a full-fledged fan meltdown.
Instead, you have a burst of confidence, a belief that they could actually win a series against the Blackhawks (an opponent they could face in the first round), and good feelings all about. Marc Crawford pushed all of the right buttons in assembling his lines and defense pairs, and the team simply looked great in just about every aspect.
Crawford made what appeared to be an odd choice of Steve Ott and Jamie Langenbrunner with Brad Richards (who was missing his long-time linemates James Neal and Loui Eriksson) and that line was great. Richards had two assists, and the trio was solid all night.
Crawford also moved Jamie Benn around (as he has done pretty much every game) but he also let him ride out a great deal of the game on a line with Mike Ribeiro and Brenden Morrow. That trio also was excellent. Benn now has scored in nine straight games (8 goals, 5 assists). That expands his personal best in scoring streaks and also is the longest active streak in the league.
Ribeiro and Morrow each had two assists and finished plus-3 on the night.
And the coaching staff also adjusted the defense pairs. Stephane Robidas and Nicklas Grossman were put back together, and they had a great night against a very talented Chicago offense (tops in the NHL entering the game). Grossman finished with five hits, and each defenseman was plus-2. For Chicago, the top line of Patrick Kane (2 shots on goal), Patrick Sharp (2 shots on goal) and Jonathan Toews (zero shots on goal) finished with just four shots on goal.
In the mean time, Alex Goligoski slid down to a pairing with Karlis Skrastins and played 24:22. He had five shots on goal and finished plus-2.
All in all, it was the kind of balance and trust this team has displayed when it has played its best games.
And that is a pretty good feeling _ for a day at least. They will have an optional practice in Frisco on Friday and then play host to the Flyers on Saturday. They then end this season-long homestand next Wednesday against Anaheim.
"It was a very strong game from start to finish," center Brad Richards said. "There were a lot of good things, and we never really had to put a lot of stress on ourselves or anything extraordinary. We caught them on a few things that you normally don't, and if you don't take advantage of them they can hang around the game, and then you never know what can happen."
And as for it being a huge win, Richards added:
"From here on out over the next 11 games, every time we win one it'll be the biggest one. It's good for our locker room, because this is a little bit how it feels like when you're in a (playoff) series. You lose a couple of heartbreakers, but you're still in it and you have to forget it and get back on the horse and win a big one."
Here's a long, but interesting quote on the team defense from Marc Crawford:
"It was very good. We were really pleased with the way everybody pitched in defensively. I thought you look at key elements in our game tonight where we need to have big performances from _ our defense, our penalty killing and our goaltender, and we got all of those things. And then we got the added output from our forwards being very adherent to how we have to play in the defensive zone. They came back hard. They made good clears coming out of the zone. They counter-pinched and did some good things against a very good offensive club in Chicago and we didn't give them a great deal. Our penalty killing, I think that was probably the strongest penalty kill game we've had this year and it was a difference-maker. Kari had to make a couple of saves but we were in lanes. We sacrificed the body for shots. We were good off face-offs. We were good in the all the areas you have to be good in and that's great when you get a result like that. It can really springboard our play. If we continue to have really good defensive play, we have enough offense. So we've got good offensive tools here and they showed it tonight."
Days off could be working: The Stars took Wednesday off, and it paid off with great energy in Thursday's game, so the team will study more days off in the future, Crawford said:
"If they keep playing like that, we'll be giving them a lot of days off here going down the stretch,'' Crawford said. ``Right now, it is about making sure that you get any bit of energy that you can. The off days are important for the players that they rest, they recharge their bodies, that they eat right, that they drink the right fluids going into their body and that they get the right amount of rest. They're not going to learn a great deal right now about how we play. How we play is pretty set in stone. We'll try with video and some other things to point certain nuances of our game out that will help us to improve it. But it is important for our guys to recapture and recoup their energy as quick as they possibly can. Tomorrow will be optional for our team. There's some guys that need to skate and there's other guys that don't at all. They need to rest."
Lehtonen sets franchise record for assists: One of the knocks against Kari Lehtonen is he doesn't really handle the puck much. One of the attributes of Marty Turco is that he has changed the way the NHL plays with his puck-handling ability. It was ironic, then, that Lehtonen set a franchise record for goalie assists in a season when he picked up his sixth of the year on the first goal of the game. It was actually a perfect example of a Lehtonen assist. He made a save, and the rebound went straight to Brad Richards, who turned it into a breakout pass en route to Steve Ott's goal.
Then, later in the game, Turco came on in relief and tried to move the puck past the forecheck. Instead, Jason Williams picked it off and deposited it into an open net.
It was the classic difference between the old and the new.
Segal gets bloodied in a fight and then scores a goal: Brandon Segal was recalled from the Texas Stars on Thursday and returned to the lineup after playing 30 games in the AHL. He was sent down to save money, and now is back after taking a hit for his team. That earned a lot of respect from Marc Crawford, who said after the morning skate: "He played well this year and really was a victim of circumstance when we picked up Jamie Langenbrunner. He was one guy that could go down and save us some money. He was a political decision more than a hockey decision."
Segal then earned more respect from Crawford after he sustained a black eye and bloody face during a first-period fight and then came back to score a third period goal.
"Like my father always used to tell me: `It's not the guys that get black eyes that should be embarrassed, Marc, it's the guys that never get them.' He said that after I got punched out one night in junior hockey. He stuck with it tonight and scored a big goal. That would be one that my father would be proud of. I'm sure Brandon's pretty happy. He's a popular guy. The guys were all happy to see him come into the dressing room after he cleared waivers this morning and it's nice to see him contribute. He stayed with it today, did a lot of good things in the game in the limited minutes that he got, and that's what we need. We need performances from everybody, and if you play six or seven minutes, make sure they're impactful and his were."