Cross Checks: Daniel Winnik



DALLAS -- The Dallas Stars earned their first playoff victory since 2008, beating the Anaheim Ducks, 3-0. It was the Stars' first home game of the series, played in front of a sellout crowd of 19,120.

Some quick thoughts:

How it happened: The Stars got goals late in both the first and second periods. Jamie Benn, the Stars' second-leading goal scorer in the regular season, scored after Shawn Horcoff's shot from the left circle hit the pads of Ducks goalie Frederik Andersen and came right out to Benn on the right circle and he deposited it in the net. The goal was scored with 35 seconds left in the first period, allowing Dallas to take some momentum into the dressing room.

The teams were physical in the second period and both had some scoring chances. But it wasn't until the clock got under three minutes left that the Stars expanded their lead. Tyler Seguin's speed and puck-handling created the opportunity. He skated into the zone and left it for Valeri Nichuskin, who managed to get the puck through Andersen.

Dallas added another insurance goal midway through the third period.

What it means: The Stars earned their first shutout since April 10, 2008, at Anaheim in Game 1 of the first-round and in the process are back in the series. It was an opportunity lost for the Ducks to take a stranglehold in the series. The result also guarantees that the series will go back to Anaheim for Game 5 on Friday.

Player of the game: Kari Lehtonen was terrific when it mattered most. He made several key saves on some point-blank chances, including Saku Koivu and Nick Bonino early in the second period. That kept it a 1-0 game and the Stars were able to add to it later in the period. Lehtonen was in a good rhythm and not afraid to come out and challenge shots. And he saw a lot of them. The Ducks vastly outshot the Stars, but just couldn't get anything past Lehtonen, even when they got some traffic in front of him. He made 37 saves, earned his first playoff victory and did so in a shutout.

Stat of the game: The Stars' penalty kill was 5-for-5 and became a big momentum-booster for Stars goals late in the first and second periods. The Stars didn't allow rebound chances, blocked shots and Lehtonen was able to keep everything out. The Ducks haven't had a power-play goal since Game 1.

Injured defenseman: Stephane Robidas fractured his right leg early in the second period after getting tangled up with Ryan Garbutt in front of the Ducks' net. It's the same leg Robidas fractured in November when he was with Dallas, causing him to miss four months.

What's next: Game 4 is Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET at American Airlines Center before the series shifts back to Anaheim for Game 5 on Friday.

When I catch up with unlikely scoring sensation Daniel Winnik by phone, he is buying towels and sheets for his new beachfront apartment. No word on whether he’s searching for a motif that shows a man with his arms raised in celebration over his head. If such a design were available, it would be apropos.

As the Anaheim Ducks prepare for a sold-out home opener Friday night at the Honda Center against Vancouver, they are looking to equal a franchise record with a third straight win to start the season. The only other time they managed to go 3-0 out of the gate was in 2006-07, when they went on to win the Stanley Cup.

The fact the Ducks opened this shortened season with two road wins was because, in no small part, of the contributions from the gritty Winnik and new linemates Andrew Cogliano and Saku Koivu.

From the moment coach Bruce Boudreau threw the three together in an abbreviated training camp, they began to score. Didn’t matter whether it was line rushes or scrimmages, they clicked.

"It was just instant chemistry," Winnik told ESPN.com amid trying to furnish his new digs.

The result has been a veritable fountain of offense for Winnik, who has four goals and an assist on the season, putting him among the league leaders in goals and points. The trio, meanwhile, has combined for five goals, nine assists and a plus-15.

Winnik bounced between Phoenix, which drafted him 265th overall in 2004, Colorado and San Jose the past three years before signing a two-year deal with the Ducks in the offseason.

When the offer was first made, Winnik said he felt there was going to be a good fit with the Ducks.

The Mississauga, Ontario, native has known Cogliano for years. The two share an agent, Pat Morris, and work out together in Toronto in the offseason. When Winnik was playing at the University of New Hampshire and Cogliano was at the University of Michigan, the two kept in regular touch, so there is a level of comfort between them on and off the ice.

Longtime NHL netminder Brian Hayward, now a broadcast analyst for the Ducks, said he thinks Winnik is the perfect complement to what Cogliano and Koivu bring to the mix. While Cogliano has great outside speed and Koivu uses lateral movement to buy himself time in the offensive zone, Winnik has been a straight-line-to-the-net presence.

"It’s exactly what they need. He’s a powerful skater," Hayward told ESPN.com. "He’s making really good plays. If he continues to go to the net with the aggressiveness he’s shown in the first two games he’s going to continue to get points."

Two of Winnik’s goals have been beauties, Hayward said while another went in off a defenseman’s butt and another off his foot. But that’s what happens when you’re in the right part of the ice.

Still, Winnik admitted the early goal production has done wonders for his confidence.

“I’ve had some years where it’s taken a while to score and the weight of not scoring starts to build,” he said.

Last season, for instance, it took Winnik 31 games to get his fourth goal, a stretch that included a 17-game goal-less drought.

“I don’t think I expected to get out to this start," Winnik said. "I don’t think anyone did."

Boudreau said the reason for the trio’s success isn’t much of a mystery.

"I knew Daniel’s reputation, and I knew that he was mostly a defensive forward but they worked so hard together," Boudreau told ESPN.com. "They’re outworking their opponents."

For a team desperate for a good start, the production from its third line has been a godsend.

"It’s the most important thing," Boudreau said. Any successful team, let alone a championship team, has at least three lines that can hurt an opponent offensively. "It puts so much pressure on the other teams’ coaching staffs to match."

So now what?

Yes, everyone is a bit surprised at Winnik’s production, but Boudreau told him this week not to think of it as luck, a fluke or something that has to end.

"I told him not to think, 'This isn’t supposed to happen,'" Boudreau said. "I said, 'Keep pushing the envelope.'"

He told Winnik about players who find their scoring groove later in their careers and never give it up.

"Once they get it, it stays part of your DNA," the coach said.

Boudreau had a player like that in Washington named Mike Knuble, who, after struggling early in his career, recorded eight straight seasons of 20 goals or more.

"I think of a guy like Charlie Simmer," Boudreau said of the former Kings great. "I bet if we keep throwing out names we’ll come up with lots of guys."

Daniel Winnik?

We’re about to find out.

Morning jam: Day 3 stat highlights

January, 22, 2013
1/22/13
10:38
AM ET
Ducks 5, Flames 4
* Daniel Winnik (ANA): 2 goals (4), assist (multi-goal games in both games this season; had just 1 in his 1st 5 NHL seasons)
* Ryan Getzlaf (ANA): 2 goals (2); 4 points in 2 games this season (2 G, 2 A)
* Curtis Glencross (CGY): 2 goals (2), assist (had 2 multi-goal games all of last season)

Red Wings 4, Blue Jackets 3 (SO)
* Damien Brunner (DET): scored only goal of shootout (8th player to attempt); 1st career shootout goal
* Pavel Datsyuk (DET): goal, assist (6 points in last 3 games vs Blue Jackets)
* Red Wings: 0-7 on power play (0-11 on power play in 2 games this season)
* FROM ELIAS: Pavel Datsyuk, who scored one goal and assisted on another in the Red Wings’ shootout win at Columbus, is the all-time leader in points (64) and assists (43) against the Blue Jackets. Datysuk’s 21 goals vs Columbus tie him with Teemu Selanne for fourth-most all-time, behind co-leaders Jarome Iginla, Patrick Sharp and Keith Tkachuk (24 goals each).

Senators 4, Panthers 0
* Craig Anderson (OTT): 31 saves; 20th career shutout (allowed 1 goal in 2 games this season)
* Kyle Turris (OTT): 2 goals (3); 5th career multi-goal game (never had hat trick)
* Senators: 6th straight home win vs Panthers

Sabres 2, Maple Leafs 1
* Sabres: snap 5-game losing streak in road games vs Maple Leafs
* Jason Pominville (BUF): goal, assist (5 points in his 1st 2 games this season)
* Ryan Miller (BUF): 34 saves; 1st win in last 7 road starts vs Maple Leafs

Blues 4, Predators 3 (SO)
* Blues: 3rd straight win over Predators
* Vladimir Tarasenko (STL): goal (3), 2 assists; 5 points in 1st 2 career NHL games
* Patric Hornqvist (NSH): goal, 2 assists; ties career high with 3 points

Bruins 2, Jets 1 (SO)
* Bruins: 11th straight home win over Jets franchise (last loss was March 2007)
* Tuukka Rask (BOS): 26 saves, allowed 1 goal in both starts this season (both Bruins wins)
* Brad Marchand (BOS): goal (1); had career-high 28 goals last season

Islanders 4, Lightning 3
* Islanders: 4th straight home win over Lightning
* John Tavares (NYI): 2 assists; 9 points in last 5 games vs Lightning
* Steven Stamkos (TB): goal, assist; 5-game point streak vs Islanders (5 G, 3 A on streak)
* FROM ELIAS: Vincent Lecavalier, the No. 1 overall pick in the 1998 draft, played his 1000th regular-season game on Monday. Lecavalier, who’s spent his entire career with Tampa Bay, is the 5th player to be selected with the top pick in the draft then play at least 1,000 games for the team that chose him: Gilbert Perreault (Sabres, 1191 games), Denis Potvin (Islanders, 1060), Mike Modano (Stars, 1459) and Chris Phillips (Senators, 1027).

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