DALLAS - The Dallas Stars were so excited to see the Edmonton Oilers they offered to pick them up at the airport, pay for their hotel rooms and make sure the American Airlines Center was half empty for the big game.
OK, dwindling fan support wasn’t in the plan, but with Edmonton winning just five regular season games in Dallas in the last 18 years, the slumping Stars couldn’t get Tom Renney’s crew here fast enough.
And when they did, they pounded the daylights out of them until Edmonton had no choice but to hand over two points.
In a tough, hard game the Stars were simply harder and tougher.
“These young guns, the Edmonton Oilers, are going to be very good in the near future,” said Dallas centre Steve Ott, who led the way with a goal and a handful of big hits in a 4-1 victory. “But we’re a hard-working club and we laid on the body all night. We have to continue to bring that work ethic.”
And the Oilers have to start. Dallas came out hitting — by the two-minute mark Theo Peckham, Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins and Shawn Horcoff had all been laid out — and Edmonton didn’t have an answer.
Ales Hemsky got crushed more in one night than he has all year. Anton Lander got hit so hard by Mark Fistric they were running for cover in the Swedish Elite League.
“They came out hard in the first and we just didn’t respond,” said Shawn Horcoff. “We just didn’t work hard enough, plain and simple.
“I thought we responded a little bit but too late and too little. Especially in the harder areas, in the corners in their zone and defensively in our end, we’re too soft in those areas.”
Given that they’ve only won five times in 35 visits, Edmonton’s latest defeat probably shouldn’t have come as any big surprise, but after a 9-2 victory against the first place Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday, it was.
The Oilers carried zero momentum over from that game in losing for the sixth time in eight games.
“I don’t think we handled it very well,” head coach Tom Renney said of the early Dallas onslaught. “We’ve got assets that can intimidate, too, with our speed and puck movement and attack game and when they had us on our heels, we didn’t respond well.”
The Nashville Predators, with Jordin Tootoo and Brian McGrattan, are up Tuesday and everyone knows what their game plan is going to be after watching this one — beat the hell out of Edmonton’s skill guys.
Renney wants to see more of a Detroit Red Wings-type of response — puck movement and quick crisp passes that lead to a good transition game — rather than letting things be dragged into the alley.
“With our assets there are ways to beat teams who come after us that way,” he said. “We have to make sure we play as physically as we possibly can. When we’re healthy we have enough to push back, too, but there are ways with speed and quickness to intimidate teams, too.
“We didn’t manage the puck like we have to in order to beat teams like this, or anybody else in the league for that matter.”
The Stars, who’d been outscored 16-1 over their last 10 periods were taking on an Oilers team that just won 9-2, so the results were predictable — 1-0 Dallas after 20 minutes. They led 3-1 after 40 and iced it into an empty net, dropping Edmonton to 3-6-1 on the road, where they haven’t looked good in weeks.
“They played more of a road game than we did,” sighed Jordan Eberle. “They were physical, they got in on the forecheck, made us turn pucks over. Just kind of wore us down.
“Those are the games you have to play on the road, It’s not easy but the good teams do it. I think we’re playing a little too soft lately.”