There are those games in the regular season that show what a team is truly made of—games when a team clearly has its back against the wall, but due to outside influence the team is, to a degree, called to a higher purpose.
Tonight was one of those games for the Stars.
Meeting the NHL0best New York Rangers would be no easy challenge, especially for a team that has struggled greatly all year. On top of the issues on the ice add in the surrounding drama of Sean Avery’s return to the Big Apple. But the Stars overcame the challenge and showed the Ranger faithful there is some fight in the Stars, regardless of the team's record.
The first period set an evenly-matched tone for the entire game. The Stars' Loui Eriksson would take a tripping penalty 25 seconds in, setting up the Rangers' Markus Naslund with a power-play goal at 58 seconds. Assists on the goal came from Michal Rozival and Scott Gomez. At 10:50 of the period, the Rangers' Brandon Dubinsky and the Stars' Brandon Crombeen took matching two-minute minors—Crombeen for roughing, and Dubinsky for elbowing.
The Stars would get their shot on the power play in the second period. Ryan Callahan of the Rangers took a two-minute tripping penalty at 4:13, and during his visit to the sin bin he witnessed Dallas’ Brenden Morrow score at 5:28, with assists from Fabian Brunnstrom and Brad Richards.
At 7:31, the Stars' Niklas Grossman took a two-minute minor, but New York was unable to convert on it. To close out the score sheet for the second, Dubinsky took a two-minute tripping penalty at 8:58. The Stars would not convert with the extra attacker.
The third period did not disappoint, as the Stars' Mike Modano scored to make it 2-1 at 8:03. Assisting on the goal were Brandon Crombeen and James Neal. The only penalty for the period was on New York’s Michal Rozsival for interference at 11:40.
Dallas was outshot by New York 29-27, but the Stars put together a solid effort, and got to relax on Broadway knowing they beat a good team and played a strong game.
"We've had a frustrating start, but tonight things went our way," Morrow said in the recap on the Stars' website. "We kept working on making things go our way, and finally it did tonight. We just found a way to keep pushing and win the game. We're going to try and build confidence off this one and continue jelling together as the group we know we can be."
As for Sean Avery, he can enjoy being back in New York with a smile on his face.
"It was nice to get back, and to get back and start something with my new team," Avery said. "I've got a big dinner ticket to pick up now. I was enjoying the boos just as much as the cheers. I'm with a new organization that I'm excited about."
Ken Armer is a senior hockey writer and Community Leader for the NHL and Dallas Stars. He can be reached via his profile or by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org