ANAHEIM – It appears that the All-Star Break was just what the doctor ordered for the Dallas Stars.
With a completely healthy roster for the first time since October 29, the Stars delivered a performance reminiscent of that time early in the season when they jumped out to one of the NHL’s best starts, receiving contributions from throughout the lineup to crush the Anaheim Ducks 6-2 Wednesday night at the Honda Center.
With all their injured players back on the ice, the Stars, who had scored just seven goals in the six games leading into the All-Star Break, a stretch in which they struggled to a 1-4-1 record, erupted for six by six different players in this one.
The triumph pushed Dallas to 26-21-2 on the season for 54 points, moving them into a ninth-place tie in the Western Conference standings, just one back of Minnesota for the eighth and final playoff spot.
It was also significant that it was the Ducks that the Stars defeated, a team that has been threatening to join the playoff chase, entering the day 13th in the West but coming in as the NHL’s hottest team with a 9-1-1 record in their previous 11 contests.
“We just wanted to play hard and keep things simple,” said defenseman Stephane Robidas, whose power play goal in the second period gave the Stars a commanding 4-1 lead. “We were having trouble scoring goals lately, and we got our guys back in the lineup and we’re more healthy and a lot of our goals were from traffic in front or rebounds. We got to keep things simple and make sure we play well defensively - I think there are some corrections that need to be made in that regard, but overall I think we’re pleased with the effort and we’re happy with the win.”
“I thought our net presence was real good tonight and it’s little steps, there are building blocks certainly to build from,” said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. “Was our game clean? By no means it wasn’t, but it can get better and that’s what we have to do. We’ll take the points and use that as a stepping stone.”
Just like their early-season surge that saw them bolt out to an 11-3-0 start, the Stars benefited from superior depth to grind down the Ducks, receiving goals from multiple sources, including on the power play, while also getting a solid defensive effort and a strong performance in goal from Kari Lehtonen, who made 33 saves.
Fresh off his successful stint at the NHL All-Star Game Sunday, center Jamie Benn was back in the lineup after missing the Stars’ previous five games due to an appendectomy and helped lead the Dallas offense with a goal and two assists.
“I thought that we were more in offensive mode, we were thinking more about scoring,” said Souray, who led the club with five shots on goal. “Tonight I think we came in, got an early goal to tie it up, took the lead, then got a power play goal and just started rolling. We worked hard and we got a few bounces as well and on the flipside, our goalie made a couple of big saves there.”
“I thought all our D played pretty well and I thought the Fiddler line scored two huge goals for us when we needed it when the game was on the line and if you’re going to do this, we’re going to need contributions from everybody,” said Gulutzan. “We’re in playoff hockey this month if we want a spot, so we’ve got to do the little things. You can’t let up for a moment if you’re going to stay in this race.”
With all hands finally back on deck, the Stars needed just one period to score more goals than they had in any of their previous six games, surging out to a 3-1 lead after striking three times in less than four minutes late in the first.
But before that, Anaheim jumped on the scoreboard first when Matt Beleskey scored his third of the season off a fluky bounce in front just 5:14 into the opening period. Following a Dallas turnover in the defensive zone, Beleskey retrieved the puck at the right point and directed a seemingly harmless wrist shot towards the net, but it ricocheted off Robidas, who was jostling for position with Andrew Cogliano in front, hopping over Lehtonen’s blocker and in.
Defenseman Mark Fistric helped nullify another glorious Ducks’ opportunity at 7:04 when Anaheim’s Mark Bell led a 2-on-1 rush into the Dallas zone, taking away Bell’s passing lane and then deflecting his subsequent wrist shot out of play.
Lehtonen came up big multiple times on Anaheim’s first power play of the contest, making a nice pad save on Luca Sbisa’s slap shot from the top of the left circle at 10:15, then denying Saku Koivu’s point-blank rebound chance in front.
Nystrom’s 15th goal of the season at 13:56 tied it for the Stars. Hiller stopped Goligoski’s booming slap shot from the left point, but Nystrom outbattled Cogliano in front to jam home the rebound.
A phenomenal individual effort by Fiddler led to his seventh goal of the year, unassisted, at 16:41 to give the Stars a 2-1 edge. After stripping Sbisa of the puck at center ice, Fiddler led a 2-on-1 rush into the Anaheim zone, and, utilizing Radek Dvorak as his decoy, Fiddler evaded the sliding Lubomir Visnovsky and rifled a quick snap shot between Hiller’s pads.
Dallas stunned the Ducks with another goal just 1:09 later, as Ryder and Ott stole the puck from Visnovsky at center ice and sent Benn in on a breakaway. Benn made a slick move to his forehand and lifted a lethal wrist shot over Hiller’s glove just under the crossbar for his 14th goal of the season.
Lehtonen kept the Stars up by two with a nice save 5:42 into the second period, when a defensive zone turnover led to Koivu curling out of the right corner into the right circle for a wrist shot that Niklas Hagman deflected in front, forcing a big stop.
The Stars then added to their lead again, connecting at 7:14, just nine seconds into a power play opportunity, when Robidas drilled a one-timer from the top of the right face-off circle over Hiller’s blocker for his third goal of the season.
Anaheim got one back just 1:22 later when veteran Teemu Selanne led a rush into the Dallas zone and fed Sbisa in the middle for a sizzling wrist shot that beat Lehtonen past the glove.
Infused with momentum after that, the Ducks swarmed the Stars’ zone, but Lehtonen helped turn them back. His best save of the sequence came at 9:40 on Bobby Ryan’s point-blank one-timer from the slot, and made another outstanding blocker save on Visnovsky’s wrist shot off the rush at 13:09.
Entering the final period with a 4-2 lead, the Stars needed just 36 seconds to increase it to 5-2 when Souray notched his fifth of the year with an off-speed slap shot from the left point that beat a screened Hiller between the pads.
Lehtonen came up with another big save at 9:01 on the league’s reigning MVP Corey Perry’s point-blank chance and then on Koivu’s subsequent rebound chance while down on the ice.
The Ducks nearly closed to within two at 15:19 while on a power play when Ryan Getzlaf’s booming one-timer from the left circle clanked off the goalpost.
Ryder completed the scoring with his team-leading 18th goal of the season with 2:26 remaining. Following another Anaheim turnover at center ice, Ott led a 2-on-1 rush into the Ducks’ zone, slipping an elevated cross-ice pass over to Ryder for a nifty tap-in at the right post.
The Stars complete their two-game mini-road trip up the California coast in San Jose Thursday night against the Sharks (9:30 pm start, FSSW), who lead the Pacific Division with 62 points. Gulutzan indicated that backup goaltender Richard Bachman would likely get the start in net.
“We have to keep moving forward and go one game at a time,” Robidas said. “We’ve got to start focusing on tomorrow night, we have another big game, they’re a division rival and these are the teams we have to beat if we want to make the playoffs. We just have to bear down and go one game at a time.”
- The Stars’ offensive outburst marked the first time since Dec. 23, a 6-3 win over Nashville, a span of 15 games, that the club put half a dozen up on the board.
- Ryder’s three-point night snapped a six-game point drought and his goal ended a goalless stretch of 10, following a span in which he’d connected eight times in the previous eight.
- Robidas’ goal was his first since Nov. 6, a span of 29 games played, and now has three points (one goal, two assists) in the last five contests after going scoreless in the previous six. He also led the Stars in ice time, with 22:10, and in hits with eight.
- Fiddler now has two points (one goal, one assist) in the last three games after notching just one (a goal) in the previous 10.
- For Souray, who had totaled just one assist in his previous eight outings, his goal was the first since Nov. 4, covering 30 games played. He also fired a team-high five shots on goal.
- Goligoski now has four points (one goal, three assists) in the last three games and eight points (three goals, five assists) in the last nine.
- Ott’s two-point night snapped a seven-game point drought.
- Defenseman Nicklas Grossman was a game-time scratch due to a bout with the flu.
- The Dallas power play went 1-for-3 on the night, ending a stretch in which it had been 1-for-13 over the previous six contests and 2-for-29 over previous 11.
- The Stars’ penalty killing unit nullified all four Anaheim power plays and is now a stellar 19-for-20 over the last six outings.