Sure, it's only one game but Stars head coach Glen Gulutzan accomplished something with Friday's 2-1 win over Chicago before more than 15,000 fans at the American Airlines Center that no other coach since the club moved to Dallas in 1993 has done. He won his coaching debut with the club.
Not since the days when Glen Sonmor was behind the bench for the Minnesota North Stars had a head coach for the franchise won their first game with the club.
"Yeah, it's a relief. Now I know I can win one," Gulutzan said. "I thought the guys played really good. There's room for improvement for us for sure. We have a few little things that we want to do a little bit better."
Dallas got goals from Alex Goligoski early in the second and another from Jamie Benn with about 4 minutes left in the second period. Chicago added a late tally by Nick Leddy with just 14 ticks of the clock left but that was it for the night's scoring.
"It's a good first step. That's a good team over there, good win here," Goligoski said. "It's the first game and beating the Blackhawks, it's a good win."
Benn concurred. "Our team feels really good. It's good to get a win in front of those fans, our team and our coach too," he said.
One big story of the game was how effective the Dallas penalty kill was. Chicago's power play was the fourth-best in the entire NHL last season, converting opportunities an impressive 23.1 percent of the time.
However Friday night, the Stars PK held them to 0-for-4 with the man advantage and their head coach was quick to credit two of his assistant coaches for their strong work in strengthening that part of the club.
"Willie Desjardins and Paul Jerrard have done a remarkable job. They've put a lot of work into that," Gulutzan said. "I thought we did a good job penalty killing."
Stars netminder Kari Lehtonen came up with a number of huge saves to aid the Dallas kill and to keep the Blackhawks out of the back of the net at key points in the game. "I think we played great in the first and third but in the second, we just couldn't get it going and all the penalties seemed to be for us," Lehtonen said. "It was a tough task there but I think our penalty- killing unit played really well. It was a great battle today."
Goligoski and Benn were the offensive stars of the night for the home team but if one had to name an overall MVP for tonight's win, those honors would have to go to Lehtonen, who stopped 37-of-38 shots and narrowly missed out on his 18th career shutout.
"Yeah, he had a great performance," Gulutzan said of Lehtonen. "I thought he was the difference. I thought their guy Crawford was really good in the first. Kari was our backbone tonight."
Throughout tonight's game, the Stars showed a good amount of speed, which is how Chicago likes to play and for the most part, there also seemed to be fewer giveaways, especially in their own end.
Basically, it looks like the players are already buying into what Gully has been saying since the start of training camp just a few weeks ago. After the win, he acknowledged it usually takes a team between 25 and 30 games to completely get it. But if tonight's performance is a hint of things to come, maybe this team can shorten that learning curve a bit.
Dallas is now 10-6-2 in season openers since the move to Texas in 1993. The Stars have now won four straight against the Hawks dating back to last season. Considering they are a club many have picked to reach the 2012 Stanley Cup Finals, it's a solid win to start what will be an 82-game regular season.
"Chicago's a hard team to play against in your home opener because they're so pacey, they're well coached and they've got good skill. That pace is the big thing," Gulutzan said. "I thought we did a pretty good job with it and we can get better with it as we go."
And after the final horn sounded and once both teams had finished talking to the leering press, they both prepared to make their respective getaways. That's because these same two clubs will square off tomorrow night but this time the venue will be the United Center in Chicago.
While he's happy to start his NHL coaching career with a win, Gulutzan knows there will always be room for improvement. "We have to clean up some of the things defensively and it's basically on transition. I thought our forwards blew the zone a little bit tonight," he said. "We just have to make a couple little adjustments to be better."
Dallas' next home game will be on Monday against Phoenix.