Equal parts payback for the way last season ended and starting the new season in style, the Stars rode their early burst to a 4-1 victory in the opener Wednesday night.
Sergei Zubov and Stu Barnes scored 30 seconds apart to get Dallas going, then Zubov made a superb play to set up Barnes for another goal. Bill Guerin added the finale on a breakaway midway through the third period.
“What a great way to start the season,” Stars coach Dave Tippett said. “There was a lot of pent-up frustration. Our guys answered the physical challenge, we were able to score a couple of goals off Giguere and we were off and running.”
The Ducks didn’t look anything like the team that rode Giguere through the playoffs, going from the Western Conference’s seventh seed to forcing a seventh game in the Stanley Cup finals. They were flat early and couldn’t recover.
Then again, this isn’t the same Anaheim team. Paul Kariya is gone, and Sergei Fedorov and Vaclav Prospal are in. Giguere also has had a few months to cool off from the hot stretch that earned him the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP, then a $19.5 million, four-year contract this summer.
“After this game, you don’t say that’s a quick, skilled or hardworking team,” Anaheim coach Mike Babcock said. “The playoff race started tonight and we’re down one game.”
The Stars were the conference’s top seed going into the playoffs last season, then went down in six games in the second round. The biggest offseason shakeup was losing captain Derian Hatcher, a defensive brute.
Dallas’ emotions seemed to come out early as Guerin and Anaheim’s Todd Simpson mixed it up just 20 seconds in, then John Erskine of the Stars and Garrett Burnett of the Ducks rolled on the ice before the game was even two minutes old.
While the four of them were sitting out five-minute penalties, Zubov smashed a long, straight-on sizzler on a power play just 2:27 into the game, then a half-minute later Barnes flicked in a shot from the left circle that Giguere should’ve seen.
“They outworked us in the beginning and we can’t be satisfied with that,” said Giguere, who finished with 18 saves. “Personally, I’m unhappy with the way I showed up tonight. I felt like I was slack out there. There’s no excuses.”
Fedorov’s Anaheim debut coincidentally came on the 10-year anniversary of the first game in Mighty Ducks history: a 7-2 loss to Detroit in which he scored the winning goal and had two assists for the Red Wings.
His best scoring chance this time came on a power play late in the first period, when he swatted a point-blank shot at a seemingly open net. Stars goaltender Marty Turco spun in time to snatch it with his glove.
“It’s just a rough start,” said Fedorov, who took four shots in a team-high 24:11 and was minus-3. “But I personally don’t kid myself. I knew it would be a hard road.”
The Ducks don’t have much time to lament the loss. They’ll be in Detroit on Thursday night, letting Fedorov get his homecoming out of the way.
Turco made 20 saves and looked comfortable despite a limited preseason after a holdout that ended with him signing a $12 million, three-year deal. He’s coming off a debut season as the full-time starter in which he set a modern-day record for goals-against average.
“It was a fun game,” he said. “We were energetic to start off, and we kept it going for 60 minutes.”
Mike Modano, Dallas’ new captain, assisted on Zubov’s goal. He now has 44 assists and 63 points against Anaheim, the most by a Mighty Ducks opponent in both categories.
Modano’s linemate Jere Lehtinen, who last season was named the league’s top defensive forward for a third time, left in the second period because of a shoulder injury. He was hurt in a first-period collision with Anaheim’s JasonKrog. Tippett said it wasn’t a serious problem.
While the Stars enjoyed their 238th straight sellout, including playoffs, the vast number of empty seats is a good indicator the streak could end as soon as next Wednesday against Edmonton. … Anaheim fell to 2-9 in openers. … Since moving to Dallas, the Stars are 6-1-4 in opening games and8-2-1 in home openers.