Over his first eight games with the Dallas Stars, Brett Hull struggled with coach Ken Hitchcock's defensive-oriented system and Hull's switch from right to left wing.
Hull took another step
"Tonight was his best game for us," Hitchcock said. "It's very hard to play in our system because we play differently than a lot of teams. It's a very demanding style and a different game than he's used to."
With the game tied at 2, Hull took a pass from Mike Modano and fired a slap shot from the middle of the left circle that beat Red Wings goaltender Chris Osgood and kept the Stars unbeaten at home (6-0-1).
The game marked the first meeting between last season's Western Conference finalists, a series won by Detroit in six games en route to its second straight Stanley Cup.
The victory over the Red Wings may provide the Stars with an early psychological edge, but Hull avoided making too much of it.
"It's only the ninth game," Hull said. "They're still the champs. We're going to have to do a lot more."
During his 12 seasons with the St. Louis Blues, Hull was used to floating into open ice. But the Stars are making more physical demands.
"I'm used to coming into the play late, but here we drive to the net," Hull said. "I'm still tryinto make the transition to his system."
Modano said he heard Hull yelling for the puck, and Modano heeded the call.
"He has a very distinctive voice on the ice and I got it to him," Modano said. "He's a big-game player, that's why he's here."
Hull, signed to a three-year $17.5 million free-agent contract in July, scored his second and third goals in his biggest game for the Stars. Outside the Stars locker room, owner Tom Hicks was beaming.
"I loved it and the crowd loved it," Hicks said. "He's here to score goals in big games."
Osgood said the addition of Hull makes a good team even better.
"He's a threat on a team full of threats," Osgood said.
Jere Lehtinen added a goal and an assist, and Modano had two assists for the Stars, who rallied from a two-goal first-period deficit. The Modano-Hull-Lehtinen line accounted for six points.
"That line was outstanding for us,"
| Left wing Jere Lehtinen and the Stars kept the pressure on the Red Wings defense, and eventually prevailed. (AP) |
Detroit just missed out on sending the game into overtime in the waning seconds when Nicklas Lidstrom's 30-foot shot hit the left post.
The Stars started the game the way they ended Friday night's 3-3 tie with the Anaheim Mighty Ducks when Dallas blew a two-goal lead in the last minute of regulation.
Detroit took a 1-0 lead on Kirk Maltby's wrist shot from the slot at 1:12, Maltby's second goal of the season.
Steve Yzerman's power-play goal from in front off a crossing pass from Larry Murphy at 8:34 of the first period extended Detroit's lead to 2-0.
Dallas used a late burst at the end of the first period to get back in the game on Hull's first goal of the night. Hull deflected Lehtinen's 25-foot shot at 18:32 to narrow Detroit's lead to 2-1.
The Stars tied it at 2 on Lehtinen's shorthanded goal 22 seconds into the second period. Lehtinen worked a two-on-one with Modano and fired Modano's pass into the open net for his fourth goal of the season.
Osgood felt that the Stars got away with several penalties that should have been called even though the Red Wings had nine power plays.
"It's tough when you get clutched and held all game," Osgood said.
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