Dallas Stars center Brad Richards (91) moves the puck past Washington Capitals defenseman John Erskine (4) during the first period of their NHL hockey game at the Verizon Center in Washington, Monday, March 8, 2010. (THE ASSOCIATED PRESS/Susan Walsh)
WASHINGTON - Marty Turco and the rest of the Dallas Stars could have been forgiven for figuring this was a lost cause.
They trailed by two goals after two periods against Alex Ovechkin and the NHL-leading Washington Capitals, a team seemingly en route to a 14th consecutive home victory and fourth straight win overall. Plus, the Stars have been fading: Entering Monday, they were 0-3 and had been outscored 17-5 since the end of the Olympic break.
So much for all that. With Turco in the net on this night, anything was possible. He made a career-high 49 saves, and Dallas scored three times in six shots early in the third period, leading to a 4-3 shootout victory over Washington, despite two goals from Ovechkin.
"It's not going to be every night that your goalie's going to wear a mask and steal a game for you," Dallas coach Marc Crawford said. "We needed a great goaltending performance tonight, and Marty was absolutely terrific. We love the fact that he fought and fought and fought and fought - and got a payoff."
Turco's save total doesn't even include the shootout, which Dallas took 2-1. He blocked four of five attempts by Washington, including by Ovechkin and Alexander Semin, who seemed to fake himself out and fell down head-first into Turco.
"I think he was trying too hard," Capitals coach Bruce Boudreau said.
Brad Richards had a goal and an assist in regulation, plus one of Dallas' two scores in the shootout. The other came from Loui Eriksson.
Ovechkin snapped a season-high, six-game goal drought and matched Pittsburgh's Sidney Crosby for the league lead with 44.
His first goal Monday came on a power play in the second period, and Ovechkin celebrated by raising his stick, then throwing his head back and pumping both fists. Because of the time away for the Vancouver Games, he hadn't scored an NHL goal in a month.
"He was frustrated the last few games. I told him this morning, 'You've got to work harder,"' Boudreau said. "You saw it in the first two or three shifts in the game - he was trying to hit guys. He had his energy back. When he has his energy, well, he is what he is: the best player in the world."
That may be, but Turco was the best player on the ice Monday, sprawling this way and that for a series of spectacular saves. Washington finished with 52 shots, twice as many as Dallas.
"I don't care if I see one shot. It was all about the win," Turco said. "We can use it to know we cannot only play with anybody, but win."
Entering the third period, the hosts were dominating play, holding a 42-16 edge in shots, and had yet to be called for a penalty. But things changed quickly as Richards, Trevor Daley and James Neal all scored.
First, with Mike Green off for hooking, Richards connected on a slap shot from the right circle for his 18th goal of the season, 1:33 into the period. Then, with Matt Bradley in the penalty box for holding, Richards helped set up Daley's fourth goal at the 4:46 mark.
And then, a little more than three minutes later, Neal netted his 25th. All in all, it was quite a quick turnaround. Consider: The Capitals last lost in Washington on Dec. 28, against Carolina. And Capitals goalie Semyon Varlamov entered the night 8-0-0 at home this season.
"When you come into a team with that much confidence, and that good in this building, I don't mind saying that (Turco) has to be our best player probably on those nights," Richards said. "We don't have the talent to match up with them, line-for-line and player-for-player. Some nights, it should be called 'goalie' not 'hockey."'
NOTES: Ovechkin's 10 shots give him 307, his fifth consecutive season with that many. ... Turco made 43 saves against the Islanders in October 2001. ... LW Tomas Fleischmann, RW Scott Walker and D Shaone Morrisonn were healthy scratches for the roster-heavy Capitals, who already have been sitting extra parts LW Quintin Lang and D Tyler Sloan, along with injured D Milan Jurcina. Fleischmann ranks sixth on the team with 18 goals. "It's just giving him a rest, because we've got 15 forwards," Boudreau said. "I don't like scratching him, either, but we want to get everybody involved. I mean, there's still a lot of games left."