As big as the 6-3 score was for both the Stars and Sharks Tuesday in a huge San Jose victory at American Airlines Center, the big story is that both Loui Eriksson of Dallas and Niclas Wallin of San Jose left the game and did not return after hits to the head.
Eriksson was hit in the head when he and Douglas Murray collided in the second period. Wallin went into the boards on a hit from Jamie Langenbrunner. In addition, Steve Ott appeared to receive an elbow to the head from Dany Heatley in the third period. Neither Murray nor Langenbrunner received penalties for their hits, while Heatley received an interference penalty for his hit.
That fired up Ott, who issued a pretty strong statement.
``Colin Campbell has his hands full, that's for sure,'' Ott said in regards to the NHL's chief disciplinarian, who will have to review the game. ``The Loui Eriksson hit, I think that is prototypical. He's reaching for the hit. The big guy knows what he is doing. He's bearing down and finishing the check. He did it again on [Tomas] Vincour and elbowed him right in the face. My head is killing me from the light right now from Dany Heatley's little cheap shot. If this doesn't get looked at, I don't know. I guess when you're used to being on the other end and being suspended like I have in the past, it's pretty evident where this stuff should go in a hurry.''
Murray called the situation a hockey play and said both he and Eriksson were going for the same puck.
"Well, when it comes to Eriksson, it's a 50/50 puck,'' Murray said. ``If he pokes it by, he's getting a breakaway, so as far as I remember the situation, I went to play the puck and the body at the same time and I hit him. You never try to hurt a guy, but it's unfortunate."
Crawford said he expects the league to take a serious look at it. Eriksson, who is second on the Stars in scoring with 63 points, did not return to play. Crawford said Eriksson will be evaluated on Wednesday.
"That's one that they'll have to look at, and I am sure that they will,'' Crawford said. ``We're hopeful that Loui is going to be alright. He is not feeling good right now, and we'll see where he is at tomorrow. You want to take those hits out of the game.''
Crawford added there were other hits that concerned him:
``There were a lot of physical plays in the game tonight and we didn't capitalize on it in the end,'' Crawford added. ``We had those power plays at the end, from their head hits, they missed the one on Murray from Vincour and that was definitely an elbow to the head, and the one on Heatley that they did get, you wonder why it's only two minutes.
Ott said the plays need to be looked at, especially at a time when the NHL is studying ways to prevent concussions and hits to the head.
``I don't care if Heatley makes $10 million or if Murray makes this, it's time to get this out of the game as fast as we can and protect guys,'' Ott said. ``We've got guys in there that are going to be icing heads. You only have one brain, so let's honestly start figuring something out.''
Here is San Jose coach Todd McLellan on Wallin's status: "Well, obviously, he didn't return. He went head first into the glass and he'll be evaluated tomorrow when we get home and we'll go from there."
The game was a gut punch to the Stars for a number of reasons.
One, the Stars had a chance to close in on the Pacific Division-leading Sharks and really put pressure on a San Jose team that was struggling. Two, the Sharks had played in Chicago the night before and took a 6-3 loss there. And three, Dallas forged a 2-0 lead in the second period and had the opportunity to seize control of the game.
McLellan said it was a huge win for the Sharks, who had been struggling.
"We challenged them after the effort that we had last night,'' McLellan said. ``We haven't had to do that much lately. We, being coaches, were disappointed, but you could see it in the players' eyes that they were even more disappointed. To come back, fall behind, and then battle back in the game, is pretty rewarding, especially against a team that plays that hard."
Joe Pavelski, who had four assists, said the win was significant.
"I think we responded,'' Pavelski said. ``We capitalized on their mistakes. They shot one over the boards, and it ends up in the back of their net then right away. We just have a lot of confidence now and momentum's a little bit more on our side. It's kind of what happened to us last night in Chicago. We were going right and make a mistake or two and it ends up in our net."
Ott, Murray fight: Ott took an instigator penalty for fighting Murray after the hit on Eriksson. He was lost for 17 minutes with a fight, instigator and 10-minute misconduct.
``We could have used Steve Ott to kill the penalties,'' Crawford said. ``I think he tried like heck not to get an instigator penalty, but they viewed that it was, so you just have to deal with it as the game goes on.''
The Ott fight certainly seemed like the right thing for Ott to do at the time, and Jamie Benn fed Toby Petersen for a short-handed goal while San Jose was on the ensuring power play, so the Stars certainly didn't lose momentum from the fight.
Benn has a goal and two assists: He pushed his point streak to eight games, which is the longest active point streak in the league right now. Benn has 7 goals and 4 assists during the streak.
Benn also now has 20 goals, and the Stars become one of seven NHL teams that have four 20-goal scorers. He did take a delay of game penalty when he accidentally shot a puck into the stands on a penalty kill. San Jose then scored on the ensuing 5-on-3 power play.
``He was marvelous tonight, he really was,'' Crawford said. ``Nobody feels worse than he did to put it into the stands, but he played hard all night, and made plays, scored goals, killed penalties, was good on the power play. There were lots of positives with him.''
Stars fall to seventh place: San Jose jumps to 40-23-8, good for 88 points and three points over Los Angeles and Phoenix in the Pacific Division. Dallas falls to 37-25-8 (82 points) and is back in the mire that is the playoff bubble in the West, sitting in seventh place.
The Stars are also 1-2-1 in the first five games of their season-long, seven-game homestand.
``Oftentimes, it's a very brief lapse in your play that costs you at this time of the year, and that's something that we'll have to rectify,'' Crawford said. ``It kind of was a helter-skelter type of game, with all the head hits. Sometimes you wish your team performed at the optimum level, but the emotion of the game and the energy of the game sometimes takes it away. I thought tonight the combination was all those elements.''