NEWARK, N.J. -- Michael Ryder, known for being a streaky goal-scorer, is heating up at the right time for the New Jersey Devils.
Ryder scored for the third straight game to help New Jersey snap its three-game winless streak with a 1-0 victory against the slumping Dallas Stars at Prudential Center on Thursday. Devils goalie Cory Schneider made 26 saves for his sixth win and third shutout of the season.
New Jersey closes a three-game homestand Saturday against the Florida Panthers before a four-game road trip.
"He's got a knack for getting in the right place at the right time in the right moment in the game," Devils coach Peter DeBoer said of Ryder.
Dallas has lost four in a row in regulation for the first time this season. It hadn't gone winless in more than two in a row at any point in the season before this streak.
The Stars came into Prudential Center having allowed 18 goals in their previous three games, including a season-high seven to the New York Islanders on Monday. Goalie Kari Lehtonen, who was in net for all seven goals against the Islanders, kept Dallas in the game with 33 saves, but the Stars had no answer after Ryder scored on a one-timer 8:17 into the second period.
It was the first time the Stars have been shut out all season, but they have a chance to snap out of it Friday at Madison Square Garden when they complete their three-game New York/New Jersey road trip against the New York Rangers.
"We definitely didn't deserve to win [Thursday night], I don't think," Dallas captain Jamie Benn said. "Thank God we had Kari in there to make it look like it was close."
Dallas was hoping to get Lehtonen off the ice for an extra attacker with roughly 90 seconds to play, but New Jersey applied an aggressive forecheck and kept the puck in the zone; Lehtonen could finally leave with 30 seconds left.
The Stars struggled to possess the puck most of the night. When they did, the Devils collapsed on them in the neutral zone and either forced a turnover or slowed them down enough that there wasn't much they could do to create offense.
"Playing them is like crawling through a barbed-wire fence with a wool jacket on," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "They've got big bodies. They defend well. You have to give them a lot of credit for it. You have to get them down. They had the lead and they were playing a pretty tidy game. We came at them, but they had four or five guys back in the neutral zone and they did a nice job of defending, so give them some credit."
Dallas had a four-minute power play late in the second period and managed three shots on goal. The Devils blocked an additional four shots during the power play, a result of Stephen Gionta's high stick on Benn.
"That was critical," DeBoer said. "Those are turning points, and lately the other team has found a way to get one in those situations. Tonight we killed it. It was a gritty effort."
One made worthwhile because Ryder stayed hot. He leads the Devils with 15 goals, including four in the past five games and 10 in 18 games since Dec. 2, when he snapped an 11-game drought. His offense is being greeted warmly by the Devils, who have 14 goals in the past eight games and have been playing without forward Patrik Elias (upper-body injury).
"I can tell you when [Ryder] was going 11 or 12 in a row and you guys would ask me about him, he was still creating chances to score, they just weren't going in," DeBoer said. "So obviously it's confidence, like a lot of different parts of the game. When the puck is on his stick he feels like it's going to go in. I don't know how you manufacture that, but we'll keep riding him."
Ryder beat Lehtonen with a one-timer from just inside the right hash marks off a pretty forehand feed from center Travis Zajac, who created room by coming out from behind the net toward the right circle before wheeling back. Stars center Cody Eakin could not stay with Zajac, giving him the lane to find Ryder with a pass that split Trevor Daley and Dustin Jeffrey.
"I felt the pressure, I wanted to turn back and I just saw [Ryder] pop out," Zajac said. "That was the play."
It was all the Devils needed.
"Our goalie was the reason the score was what it was," Stars center Tyler Seguin said. "We didn't make good plays. We gave them a lot of chances. We need to find more 60-minute desperation in here and maybe a little bit more accountability."
Follow Dan Rosen on Twitter at: @drosennhl
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