DALLAS – After seeing his fellow offensive leader go down, Mike Ribeiro was determined not to let the Stars fritter away a solid effort.
Without leading point-getter Jamie Benn for the last half of the game, Ribeiro picked up the slack by powering a slap shot past Calgary goalie Miikka Kiprusoff 2:01 into overtime to lift the Stars to a 3-2 win over the Flames at American Airlines Center on Thursday night.
Ribeiro’s goal came after Benn sustained a laceration on his left leg that required stitches with under 12 minutes to go in the second when he went to deliver a check against the side boards in the Calgary end against Flames defenseman Mark Giordano. Giordano’s skate lifted up and clipped Benn’s thigh, and the All-Star immediately left the ice and went directly to the locker room favoring his leg.
Coach Glen Gulutzan said Benn is day-to-day.
“We’re very fortunate,” Gulutzan said.
Enter Ribeiro, who assisted on Steve Ott’s power-play goal late in the second that gave the Stars a 2-1 lead before winning it with a blistering drive from the high slot that blew past Kiprusoff and into the top-left corner after Ribeiro collected the puck along the boards with an amazing hand and stick maneuver.
“I don’t know if it was a little Gordie Howe-ish there where he was changing hands and then changing back,” Gulutzan said of the wizardry. “I’m glad he shot it because we’ve been bugging him to shoot it all the time.”
The Stars inched closer to the eighth and final playoff slot in the Western Conference with the help of the bonus point. Dallas moved into 10th place with 61 points, two points behind both the Flames and Coyotes pending the result of Phoenix’s late-night game against Los Angeles.
“To be able to get the two points, that’s the main thing,” Ribeiro said. “It doesn’t matter how you get them nowadays, it’s just get some points. They’re a tough team and they don’t get count down low. It’s a grind game and a chip game, and you have to wait for your chance. We did that.”
In the first of four meetings with the Flames over a 20-game span that culminates with a home-and-home set at the end of March, the Stars showed Calgary they’re still very much in the hunt for a postseason invitation. After coming in having gone winless in their last three, the Stars began their push on the Flames in the same period in which they lost Benn.
Dallas peppered Kiprusoff with 12 shots while limiting the Flames to just five attempts on Kari Lehtonen in the middle stanza, and capped the surge when Ott scored with 2:17 left.
But rather than try and sit on the lead with Benn in the locker room, the Stars stormed out of the gate to garner seven of the first eight shots registered in the third period, including Loui Eriksson’s breakaway chance that Kiprusoff turned aside with 13:52 to go.
They then put their defensive hats on when they had to kill consecutive penalties on Trevor Daley and Ott starting with 9:27 remaining in regulation. The Flames power play fired shots from all angles, and all were denied by Lehtonen. His best stop came with 8 minutes left when he made a scintillating glove and pad save on Olli Jokinen from in tight off a rebound.
But only 10 seconds after Ott’s penalty was erased, the Flames got the equalizer and forced overtime when Mike Cammalleri swerved in from underneath the goal line to accept Jay Bouwmeester’s pass from the left boards, and then tucked the puck in to make it 2-2 with 5:03 left in regulation.
That set the stage for Ribeiro’s heroics.
“Guys had to step up for Jamie Benn being out of the lineup,” Ott said. “Those are the fun playoff-type games you like to talk about. Points are so ridiculously close right now, we’re scratching for any extra ones we can get. It was a tight, character game that we need to start putting together. We need to find a way to string wins together, and they’re going to be tight and they’re going to be tight checking. Hopefully we can continue to grab the ball running here.”
“Even after their second goal we played with a lot of energy,” Gulutzan said. “We responded, and it was nice to get that one in overtime. Both teams were ready, and we had energy and played the right way. We stuck with it for 60 minutes, and that’s the biggest thing.”
Adam Burish also scored, and Lehtonen finished with 25 saves for the Stars (29-25-3), who won for the second time in their last five games.
“They tied it late which is always a bad feeling for a goalie, but it was exciting,” Lehtonen said. “What an ending. It was nice to see we were getting scoring chances and getting the lead.”
Jarome Iginla also scored for the Flames (27-22-9), who received 29 stops from Kiprusoff to move to 4-0-3 during the month of February. Kiprusoff helped the red-hot Flames to their seventh straight road game with at least a point.
“All the little plays were the reason why we had success,” Ott said. “We also got a boost of having Kari Lehtonen making big saves for us.”
With the game knotted up after one period, Ott converted a nifty play from Ribeiro on Dallas’ only power-play opportunity of the game. At the right point, Ribeiro moved towards the middle of the ice before sending a no-look, behind-the-back pass to Ott near the right point. Ott promptly ripped a slap shot past Kiprusoff, who was being screened by Burish.
Burish staked the Stars to a 1-0 lead midway through the first with his sixth goal of the season. Behind the goal line, he neatly drifted backwards to the left of Kiprusoff and deposited the puck in off a slick pass from Jake Dowell from behind the net.
Iginla tied it at 1 with less than a minute to go in the first with his team-leading 23rd. Picking up a loose puck just inside the Stars blue line, Iginla sent a cross-ice pass to Alex Tanguay in the left circle before skating to the top of the crease and tapping in Tanguay’s return feed.
“It was one of our best games in a while,” Burish said. “One of our key points coming in was let’s have a great start and play with the lead. We did, and when you play with a lead everyone relaxes.”
The Stars will play back-to-back games this weekend, starting on Saturday with a key contest at Phoenix (7 p.m., TXA-21) before returning home to host the Nashville Predators on Sunday at American Airlines Center (6 p.m., FS-SW).
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