DALLAS – Marty Turco and the Dallas Stars won’t play at home again until March 2, and they left a good impression on their fans with one of their most complete efforts of the season.
Turco made 34 saves for his 39th career shutout, rookie Jamie Benn had his first two-goal game, and the Stars snapped the road-weary Phoenix Coyotes’ season-best six-game winning streak with a 4-0 victory Saturday night.
James Neal scored his team-high 23rd goal, Loui Eriksson scored short-handed for his 22nd goal of the season, and the Stars improved to 10-2 in their last 12 home games in the second meeting between the teams in Texas in less than a week.
“Tonight was our best performance by everybody in a long time,” Turco said. “There wasn’t anything that was missing for us. And when we score four goals, I like our odds.”
Turco was sharp in his third consecutive start en route to his third shutout of the season. During his last three games, Turco has stopped 97 per cent of the shots he’s faced and has posted a 1.01 goals-against average.
“He was strong, he made some real big saves,” Stars captain Brenden Morrow said. “The guys did a good job of cleaning up in front of him and when it did get by, he was athletic enough to reach behind and make that second save.”
Before the current stretch, backup Alex Auld had started six of eight as coach Marc Crawford looks for a hot goalie to spark a playoff push.
“Definitely (Turco) is feeling good about himself right now,” Crawford said. “You can see it in his body language, in the way he moves the puck, and it couldn’t come at a better time for us.”
The Stars open a three-game trip Tuesday night in Chicago trying to get back on track on the road, where they’re 1-10-2 in their last 13. Then they’ll be on the Olympic break until March 2 when they host the Los Angeles Kings.
“This is a huge road trip,” Stars forward Steve Ott said. “Our road record has been shameful. We need to change that.”
Phoenix won the first three games of the season series, including a 4-2 decision on Jan. 31, by a total score of 12-6 under former Dallas coach Dave Tippett.
The Coyotes, who wrapped up a four-game trip, beat Chicago 2-1 in a shootout on Friday night, and they were outworked by the Stars in the opening period.
“Our whole group looked tired tonight without a doubt,” Tippett said. “Last night’s game took a huge toll on us. We went to overtime, then late travel. And you’ve got a fresh team sitting here, you know they’re going to come hard at you.”
Tippett, Dallas’ coach from 2002 until he was fired last June, took over the Coyotes in late September, and his new team has emerged as surprise contenders despite relocation threats, low payroll and a bankruptcy filing.
The Stars were able to focus after Thursday’s announcement that owner Tom Hicks is exploring a possible sale of the team. Hicks has already agreed to sell his baseball team, the Texas Rangers.
Ilya Bryzgalov made 31 saves for Phoenix after getting Friday night off.
Dallas came out hitting and Neal got the Stars on the board at 3:36 of the opening period when he converted Eriksson’s goal-mouth pass.
Neal’s long lead pass sent Eriksson in on a breakaway and Eriksson scored his second shorthanded goal of the season at 18:33 of the first period, stretching Dallas’ lead to 2-0.
“We came out and were physical right off the bat,” Neal said. “We wanted to get bodies to the net and shoot it. We need that if we’re going to make a big run for the playoffs. It was a good way to finish off at home.”
Benn’s backhander off a rebound made it 3-0 at 2:37 of the second period, and he added a power-play goal from the right circle 3:51 later.
NOTES: Stars C Mike Modano (knee) was back in the lineup after missing the previous game. … D Mark Fistric (lower-body injury) was among the Stars’ scratches and is day-to-day. … Dallas C Mike Ribeiro (throat contusion) is skating in practice as he closes in on a return. Ribeiro sat out his 15th straight game. … Phoenix entered the game 25th in the league on the power play, and the Coyotes went 0 for 6 with the advantage.