The Dallas Stars took advantage of a tough one-game road trip by defeating the Carolina Hurricanes 4-3 in the shootout on Thursday night.
Wedgewood Slams the Door in Debut
Carolina’s plan was obvious from the start in this one. They wanted to get pucks on Scott Wedgewood in his first start for Dallas following the trade from Arizona on Sunday. The Canes are a high-shot team every night and they continued that approach, pumping 47 shots on the Stars goal.
To say that Wedgewood was up for the challenge would be an understatement. The 29-year-old goaltender made a few simple saves early that looked to get him into the game. After that, he was the main story throughout the rest of the contest. Making 44 saves in his debut and stealing a victory against one of the best teams in the league is a pretty perfect start to his Stars career, and he was all smiles after the game.
“You get to work, you don’t really think, Wedgewood said. “You just kind of go dead mind and next-shot mentality.”
That next shot kept coming as the Canes controlled play for a large portion of the game, forcing Dallas to defend in their own end and forcing Wedgewood to take care of his net. Of course, a performance like this does not come without a few highlight-reel stops and Wedgewood certainly made those.
He slid to a great backdoor save on Sebastian Aho in the first period, displayed a windmill glove save late in the second, and then made back-to-back stops on one-timers in overtime coming off the sticks of the most dangerous players for Carolina. The saves came late in the overtime period and with the Canes bearing down on him 2 on 1 from center ice with players in perfect position to rip home the game-winner. However, Wedgewood used his athleticism to get across, displaying a full split on the first one, and made the saves needed to give his team a chance.
“It’s a good two players and they are both on their strong sides for one-timers,” he said. “I think I am really good on my feet and I kept my feet on the first one for two passes. The second one, he had to shoot it, it was tough going back against the grain but I swallowed it up and got a much-needed whistle for sure.”
Wedgewood added three saves on three shootout attempts allowing Tyler Seguin’s lone goal to be the winner. In the end, his 44 saves and .936 save percentage stole two points from an elite team in a tough environment.
“He stole that game for us tonight, no question,” Stars coach Rick Bowness said. “The chances we gave up in overtime, he was outstanding. He was the reason we won the game.”
Hintz Flies Again
After the Stars top line had a bit of a lapse in their scoring, all three players have been back on their game over the last two matchups. Roope Hintz tallied the game-tying goal against the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday night, flying through the center of the ice as he does so well, and continued that play into Thursday. Hintz ended the night with two goals, both of them coming in the third period to tie the game after it looked like Carolina would finally pull away.
“He is stepping up and has been a great player for this team, Benn said. “He seems to find a way to score big goals when we need it and it is awesome to see.”
Both of Hintz’s goals were assisted by his linemates Joe Pavelski and Jason Robertson, so the top line found a way to produce big in this contest. The second goal to tie the game at three was a perfect display of their skill as they worked a nifty tic-tac-toe passing play in the Carolina zone.
“I know if I just beat the guy through the middle, he is going to find me,” Hintz said. “There were two times that happened today and it’s nice to see that he sees me so well.”
Adversity and Response Becoming a Theme for Dallas
Dallas has added a new weapon to their repertoire. Their belief in themselves in the face of adversity has developed over the past month or so into a huge tool in leading them to victories.
“We were badly outplayed tonight, and the only reason we won, well, there were two reasons we won,” Bowness said. “Obviously Wedgewood was the biggest difference in the game, but I also like our resiliency when they scored. Roope’s line came up huge when we needed it.”
Resilient is a great way to describe this team and Bowness has repeatedly used it when asked about his group. It seems that no matter the adversity within a game or during the season, the Stars find a way to step up and perform on a high level. It happened on Tuesday night and it obviously happened tonight as Carolina outplayed them heavily and took leads of 2-1 and 3-2 in the third period. Dallas remained calm, tied the game on both occasions, and weathered the storm to an eventual shootout victory. Good teams find a way to win games no matter the opponent and the Stars have now done that on a pretty consistent basis as of late.
“Good teams find a way to win,” said Bowness. “We found a way to get two points. Even if it takes a shootout, we’ll take it and run.”
With the win and a Nashville loss, Dallas is back within three points of the first Wild Card in the Western Conference. St. Louis also lost, meaning the Stars are just four points out of the third seed in the Central Division. Vegas remains one point behind Dallas while Vancouver and Winnipeg sit right on their tail. Dallas will host the Canucks on Saturday night in another huge matchup in this playoff race.
He Said It
“I’ve done a good job of getting rid of the mental demons in my mind over the last couple of years, working with some mental strengthening coaches and things like that,” Wedgewood said. “I’m happy with myself. I’m happy with where I am as a human, my home life, my family. It’s been a long road to stabilize myself in this league. I’m just trying to find a home, and every chance I get to get in the net, I’m just thinking about 10-year-old me, where just one game in the NHL would be a dream, and now I’m pushing 70-something. So I just try to take it all in stride and make the most of it.”
Sam’s Three Stars
- Third Star: Nino Niederreiter, CAR (2 goals, 5 shots)
- Second Star: Roope Hintz, DAL (2 goals, 3 shots)
- First Star: Scott Wedgewood, DAL (44 saves, 3/3 shootout, first W in Dallas)
Sam Nestler is a credentialed Dallas Stars contributor for the ‘The Hockey Writers’. Growing up in New Jersey, Sam has been playing hockey since he was 7 years old. Developing a love for writing in college, Sam uses his hockey knowledge to create analyses and articles on every aspect of the game. Sam also hosts his own podcast on Spotify, the “Slapshot Sammy’ podcast, breaking down action across the Stars, the NHL, and college hockey. Check out the podcast here, and give his latest article a read!