DALLAS---The streak continues for the Dallas Stars. After Saturday’s 2-0 win over the Anaheim Ducks, the Stars (38-26-5, 81 points) now have a 10-game point streak and have won five straight.
Brenden Morrow had a power play goal in the second period and Michael Ryder added an empty net goal late in the third for the Stars, who got a 21-save performance from Kari Lehtonen, who got his third shutout of the season and 20th of his career in the win.
“Yeah, I thought early on he was getting his feet wet and as he went on, he was getting better then he got in some penalty trouble. But I thought it was a good first game for Brenden,” Stars head coach Glen Gulutzan said.
Dallas definitely got a boost from the return of Morrow and winger Steve Ott. It was Morrow’s first game since Feb. 2 at San Jose, a span of 18 games while Ott returned after missing Thursday’s 4-3 shootout win over San Jose due to back spasms.
“It feels good [to be back]. A little bit nervous I guess to make sure I didn’t screw things up the way the team was playing and rolling,” Morrow said. “Kari [Lehtonen] made sure that I didn’t do that sitting in the penalty box three times.”
Morrow manned the left side of the Stars’ second line with Ott playing on the right of a trio centered by Jamie Benn. Adam Burish, who played on the right during Ott’s absence, returned to the fourth line alongside Tomas Vincour and Tom Wandell.
Dallas was without defenseman Sheldon Souray, who suffered a lower body injury in the shootout win over the Sharks and didn’t return after the second period. In his absence, Stars head coach Glen Gulutzan shuffled his defensive pairings with Alex Goligoski playing alongside Stephane Robidas as the No. 1 pair.
The Stars’ second pairing consisted of Mark Fistric and Trevor Daley while the No. 3 d-pair was Adam Pardy, who was seeing his first action in seven games, playing alongside rookie Philip Larsen.
“I thought Pards had some real good parts to his game there and there’s other parts there that you can see that he hadn’t played in a while and we can tidy those up. But I thought his effort level was good. He skated well,” Gulutzan said.
It was an eventful opening 20 minutes. The Stars got things started just 3:25 into the game when a 23-foot wrister by Adam Burish was denied by Ducks goaltender Jonas Hiller.
However, Anaheim tested Lehtonen on several occasions, including a 50-foot slap shot by Ryan Getzlaf at 4:52 that the Finnish goaltender made a solid pad save on. Lehtonen then denied the Ducks’ Luca Sbisa twice within 23 seconds, first stopping a wrister at 5:18 and then a slap shot from 18 feet at 5:41.
The game was a 4-on-4 affair after Anaheim’s Corey Perry was whistled for cross checking and Dallas defenseman Mark Fistric for slashing at 8:05. The Ducks’ best chance during the 4-on-4 came at 9:55 when ex-Star Niklas Hagman had a 38-foot wrister stopped by Lehtonen.
Dallas’ best chance of the 4-on-4 came at 9:55 when Jamie Benn tried to beat Hiller short side with a wrister from 15 feet, but the Anaheim goaltender was there to knock his attempt wide.
With just over a minute left in the opening period, Ott got a great look on the left side but his 27-foot wrister was well played by Hiller and the carom scooted out the right side and away from danger.
Lehtonen too was tested late in the opening frame and rose to the occasion twice, denying a Getzlaf slapper at 19:14 and another by Francois Beauchemin at 19:31. The Ducks outshot the Stars 8-6 in the first period.
The Stars went on the power play for the first time in the game just 36 seconds into the second period when Ott drew a roughing penalty on the Ducks’ Sheldon Brookbank. And after Loui Eriksson drew a hooking call on Francois Beauchemin 1:25 later, the Stars had a 5-on-3 for a good 35 seconds.
Dallas wasn’t able to convert with the two-man advantage but just one second after it expired, Morrow made Anaheim pay with a 14-foot snap into the right side of the visiting net. It was a great tic-tac-toe play where Ott fed the puck to Jamie Benn, who was to the right of the Ducks goal. Benn then slotted the puck across the front of the goal to Morrow, who was waiting at the far post and it was an easy goal for the Stars captain.
“Huge, he’s our leader. He’s our captain and he’s the guy that we’ve been riding his coattails for a long, long time,” Ott said. “We all remember the playoff that he had a few years ago and that’s what we expect of him. The rest of these 15 games and the playoffs he needs to be that way. I’m pretty sure he’s pretty eager for that challenge.”
The Stars’ penalty kill was definitely put to the test in the latter half of the second period but killed off both Anaheim power plays, giving the Dallas PK 23 straight kills. The Ducks’ first power play came at 10:18 when Robidas was sent to the box for boarding reigning Hart Trophy recipient Perry.
Only 25 seconds after the Stars killed off that opportunity, they went on the kill yet again when Morrow was whistled for hooking at 12:43. Dallas had one more power play in the second when Beauchemin was guilty of high sticking at 18:43 but the Stars were unable to convert, making them 1-for-3 on the power play for the game.
After 40 minutes of play, the Stars held a slight 15-14 edge in shots.
Morrow earned his second penalty of the night 5:29 into the final frame when he was whistled for delay of game. However, the Dallas penalty kill delivered another stellar performance, making the Ducks 0-for-3 on the power play in the game.
However, there was one negative from the final period as third-line winger Radek Dvorak left the game with a lower body injury and did not return.
“He hurt his ankle a little bit there, so we’ll see how that transpires,” Gulutzan said. “I don’t know if there’s a shot or whatever but we’ll see what happens.”
With just over six minutes left, Michael Ryder had a breakaway with Hiller but the Ducks netminder came up with a huge pad save to keep it a one-goal game. Hiller left the net with just over a minute left and with 46 seconds left, Ryder netted his 30th of the year, an empty netter to put his point streak at nine games.
“Yeah, I’m happy for Ryds too there. Joe [Nieuwendyk] goes to free agency, picks up Michael Ryder to add some scoring. He gets 30 goals for us. That’s a real good pickup,” Gulutzan said. “Not only that, we got a guy who has got Stanley Cup experience and a quality guy in the locker room. So we can’t say enough about Ryds. He’s been a great player for us this year.”
Dallas will now have a few days off before heading to the Twin Cities on Monday in advance of Tuesday’s game at Minnesota. The Stars will then face the Jets in Winnipeg on Wednesday.
“Yeah, it’s been fun,” Lehtonen said. “We were not doing well a month ago and then everybody started playing better. We started getting wins. With every win, it gets more exciting. The guys are smiling here and work hard. It’s just a great time of year to be in it.”
--After his empty netter late in the third period, Michael Ryder has now tied his career high with 30 points, a mark he set twice during his time with Montreal.
--Dallas’ penalty kill is now 30 for 31 over their last 10 games, a success rate of 97 percent.
--Jamie Benn had an assist on Morrow’s power play goal, giving the 2012 All-Star center points in five of his last six games (3-3-6).
--Kari Lehtonen’s third shutout of the season was also his second consecutive blanking of the Ducks. The Finnish netminder was also between the pipes for a 1-0 win over Anaheim on Jan. 24, the final game for both clubs before the NHL All-Star break.
--The Stars’ current 10-game point streak is their longest since they had a 12-game point streak during the 2002/03 season.
--Tonight’s game concluded the season series with Anaheim. The Stars finished the regular season 5-1-0 against the Ducks.
--With his power play goal in the second period, Brenden Morrow is now tied with Jere Lehtinen for the eighth-most points in franchise history with 514.