CALGARY – The Dallas Stars benefited from a little addition by subtraction Tuesday night.
Rookie Fabian Brunnstrom scored the game-winning goal and Marty Turco made 36 saves as Dallas beat the Calgary Flames 3-1, capping an emotional day that saw the NHL suspend Stars forward Sean Avery indefinitely for inappropriate comments made hours before the game.
Brunnstrom’s breakaway goal at 7:53 of the second period broke a 1-1 tie. Sent in alone after collecting a long Trevor Daley pass, his initial shot was stopped by Miikka Kiprusoff, but he reached across with one hand on his stick and hit enough of the bouncing puck to swat it over the goal-line.
It would be all the offence that goaltender Marty Turco would need as the struggling veteran played one of his best games of the season, making 36 saves. It was just the third time all season and second time since Oct. 20 that Turco has held the opposition to less than two goals.
Avery was suspended indefinitely by the NHL prior to the game for conduct “detrimental to the League or game of hockey” after the outspoken forward made disparaging comments to the national media about Flames defenceman Dion Phaneuf after the Stars’ morning skate. Phaneuf is dating Canadian actress Elisha Cuthbert, one of Avery’s ex-girlfriends.
For his antics, the Stars’ penalty-minute leader was immediately sent home by the team.
Turco applauded his teammates’ ability to put the Avery episode behind them and earn a much-needed road victory.
“You have to really appreciate the effort and focus of this club with all that’s gone on, never mind today’s unfortunate incident shining on our club,” said Turco. “The way we did play, and focus, and played our game plan better than we have in a long time.”
Turco was at his best in the third period, making 15 saves as Calgary pressed but couldn’t get the tying goal.
“He had to make some very good saves for us. They’re a hard team around the net and Marty held his ground and played real well,” said Stars coach Dave Tippett.
The 33-year-old Turco, making his 13th straight start, had allowed 15 goals on 100 shots in his previous four games.
“He’s a guy that cares deeply about this team,” said Tippett. “There was some over-try in him for a long time. He was trying to find his game by over-trying. Now he’s in there, doing what he does best, playing a strong game and giving our team a chance to win.”
Calgary outshot Dallas 37-22, and gave Turco full credit for the victory.
“Turco played well,” said Flames forward Craig Conroy. “Everyone was talking ‘well, he’s struggling, he’s struggling’ but he didn’t look like he was struggling to me.”
Loui Eriksson, with his team-leading 12th goal into an empty net, and Toby Petersen also scored for Dallas (9-11-4). The victory allowed the Stars to climb out of sole possession of last place in the Western Conference and pull even with the Edmonton Oilers and St. Louis Blues.
David Moss scored the lone goal for Calgary (14-10-1). The Flames, which had won five of their previous six, blew a chance to move past idle Vancouver into top spot in the tight Northwest Division.
After all the off-ice controversy earlier in the day, the game itself had an anti-climactic feel to it, especially in Avery’s absence. The teams combined for just five minor penalties, and Phaneuf’s only concern after the game was his team’s inability to generate offence against Turco.
“We put pucks to the net on a goalie that played well,” said Phaneuf. “If you don’t get traffic on him, you don’t get pucks there, you’re not going to score goals.
“It’s a frustrating game for our team with the opportunity to go into first place.”
Dallas wraps up its mini two-game road trip Wednesday night in Edmonton, without Avery.
The Stars struck first at 6:14 of the first period. Stephane Robidas had his shot kicked out by Kiprusoff but the rebound into the slot landed right on the stick of Petersen, who rapped it in the open side.
The Flames tied it at 1:44 of the second when Moss jammed in Adrian Aucoin’s rebound just one second after Calgary’s lone power-play opportunity expired.
“We weren’t quite as sharp as we have been lately,” said Flames captain Jarome Iginla, who saw his six-game point streak come to an end. “Maybe that’s part of not capitalizing on our scoring chances. I thought we could have had a few more. They played a good road game.”
One positive for the Flames was the continued effectiveness of its penalty killing. Calgary was perfect on four penalty kills and has now held opponents scoreless over their last 19 power plays.
Calgary now heads out on a four-game road trip – its longest of the season so far – beginning Friday night in St. Louis.
Notes: With no extra healthy forwards available, the Avery suspension forced Dallas to play seven defencemen with D Doug Jannik moving up to play on the fourth line. D Andrew Hutchinson saw his first action as a Star since being acquired Sunday in a trade with Tampa Bay. … Dallas has picked up points in 18 of its last 22 games versus Calgary. … The Flames’ upcoming four-game road trip will be their only trip longer then two games until mid-February. Calgary’s longest remaining road trip is a seven-game run in March. … Iginla had two goals and six assists during his six-game point streak. Curtis Glencross saw his point streak end at five games (three goals, four assists).