DALLAS (AP) — Rick Bowness had quite a day.
Bowness woke up as an assistant coach for the Dallas Stars and finished Tuesday with his first win as an interim head coach in 15 years, hours after coach Jim Montgomery was fired.
Behind Ben Bishop’s first shutout this season and 32nd of his career, Dallas beat the New Jersey Devils 2-0.
“As excited as I am to be in charge again,” Bowness said, “this is not the way I envisioned it nor is it the way I wanted it. I came here to work with Monty and to win the Stanley Cup with Monty.”
Devils interim coach Alain Nasreddine knew the feeling. He has had that job exactly a week longer than Bowness, but still is looking for his first win after four games (0-3-1).
“It’s a whirlwind,” he said. “It’s a lot of mixed emotions, but you’re a week into it now and try to get a routine going and realize that this is going on. Seems like there’s not enough hours in the day. The situation we’re in doesn’t help but I’m a passionate guy. I know it’s hard now, but I enjoy what I do every day and I wouldn’t change it for the world.”
Montgomery was fired Tuesday morning, with general manager Jim Nill citing unspecified unprofessional conduct in a surprising blow to one of the preseason favorites in the Western Conference.
Nill said Montgomery had acted inconsistently with “core values and beliefs of the Dallas Stars and the National Hockey League” in a situation the GM said he became aware of Sunday. Nill did not elaborate.
Radek Faksa and Joe Pavelski scored in the first period against Devils goalie Mackenzie Blackwood, who kept New Jersey in the game by making 33 saves.
“It was kind of an odd day and not an easy one,” Pavelski said. “Anytime something like that happens, (playing) is the easiest part. Monty has done a great job of preparing this group. I think today was an example of what he’s established here with this group.”
The Stars won their third straight game.
The Devils, last in the Metropolitan Division, have not won in their six most recent games and have been outscored 25-9 in that stretch.
Bowness has coached for 35 years. Jim Montgomery hired Bowness in June 2018. He has overseen the penalty kill and will continue in that role and work with the Dallas forwards.
“I was a little rusty,” Bowness said. “It’s so easy to run the defense because you have six guys and only have four sitting in front of you. But I actually enjoyed it. It was fun.”
Pavelski, a 12-year veteran, was impressed.
“He brings a lot of energy to this group and he brought a lot of energy on the bench,” he said.
Bowness has been a head coach for five other teams in parts of nine NHL seasons with a 123-289-48-3 record, most recently for Phoenix in 2003-04. Montgomery was 60-45-16 during one-plus seasons as Stars coach.
Dallas scored 1:42 into the Bowness era. Andrew Cogliano passed from the left corner to Faksa behind the net, and he beat Blackwood with a wrap-around.
Pavelski made it 2-0 at 11:50 of the first period when he backhanded the puck into the net after getting the rebound of a wrist shot by Roope Hintz.
The Stars outshot the Devils 16-2 in the first.
In the final two periods, New Jersey had 24 shots on goal to 19 for Dallas.
Each team had only one power play in the first two periods. The Devils did not have a shot on goal on theirs; Dallas had two.
The Devils’ P.K. Subban appeared to try to spur his teammates early in the third period by drawing two penalties 10 seconds apart. New Jersey controlled the puck in the third, but Bishop withstood the attack for the Stars’ first shutout this season.
“We’ve gotten pretty close this year,” Bishop said, “and the guys have been playing great all season. The goalie gets the reward, but it’s a team effort.”
NOTES: The Stars and Washington are tied for the NHL’s best record since Nov. 1 (13-3-2). … The Devils placed C Nico Hischier (illness) on injured reserve, retroactive to Dec. 5. … Bishop’s lowest saves total in a shutout was 13 on Dec. 4, 2014, for Tampa Bay against Buffalo. … New Jersey killed all five Dallas power plays, and the Stars were successful on the three Devils man advantages.
Devils: Play the third of four straight road games on Friday at Colorado.
Stars: Finish a four-game homestand vs. Vegas on Friday.
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