Perhaps all Jere Lehtinen needed to get going was a minor change to his routine.
Lehtinen scored a goal and an assist while playing on a line with Mike Ribeiro, who also scored a goal and an assist, to help lead the Dallas Stars to a 3-1 victory Saturday night over the defending Stanley Cup champion Anaheim Ducks at the American Airlines Center.
Lehtinen, who led the club with 26 goals last season, had none - and three assists - in the first seven games before notching his first of the year.
The third member of that line, captain Brenden Morrow, scored the Stars’ other goal, while goaltender Marty Turco returned to the Dallas crease after missing the last two contests with leg stiffness, and made 20 saves in another outstanding effort.
It was the Stars’ second straight victory, and while it doesn’t quite seem like it, gives Dallas points in five straight games (3-0-2), as well as all four home contests so far this season (3-0-1). Dallas is now 4-2-2 on the season, and surpassed the Ducks for the Pacific Division lead.
It was a complete team win, highlighted by Lehtinen switching off usual linemate Mike Modano’s line and uniting with Ribeiro and Morrow.
“He’s a guy that works hard, fore-checks hard, he does everything good on the ice,” Ribeiro said of Lehtinen. “He’s an example for everyone, and to have our top scorer from last year to score tonight and get his confidence back, it was just huge for us.”
“It’s nice to get on the board,” Lehtinen said. “You have to do things a little bit differently depending on how (Ribeiro and Morrow) play, it’s just reacting there. I think that we found each other pretty good tonight, so I hope we can keep going the same way.”
Turco made several nice saves in his return to the lineup and the only goal to beat him came after a lengthy two-man Anaheim advantage.
“He was very solid, very good,” Stars coach Dave Tippett said. “That’s got to be a staple of our team, our goaltenders have got to play very well. We expect that from them every night.”
With a 3-1 lead in the third, Dallas kept up the pressure and continued their solid play. Turco made a big save on Travis Moen three and a half minutes into the period, turning aside his quick snap shot from the left circle.
Lehtinen very nearly had his second of the game and season midway through the period, just missing the net on a one-timer from the slot after a nice cross-ice pass from Ribeiro.
As the Stars continued to press, Anaheim netminder Ilja Bryzgalov made nice saves on Stu Barnes’ re-direction in front with nine minutes remaining, and then another big stop on Jeff Halpern’s wrist shot from the right circle with just over two minutes left.
The Stars did have to weather a storm over the final 1:11 of regulation, after Modano was called for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for arguing with the officials. He thought that Anaheim’s Chris Pronger should have been called for a penalty after knocking down Modano behind the Duck net, and after getting sent to the box, a major scrum erupted in front of the Dallas bench between numerous players from both clubs that resulted in three ejections (Steve Ott and Todd Fedoruk for Dallas, Sean O’Donnell for Anaheim).
With Bryzgalov on the bench for an extra attacker, the Ducks had a 6-on-4 advantage, but Turco came up with big saves. Perhaps Anaheim’s best chance came with 50 seconds left when Ryan Getzlaf’s booming slap shot went wide and rebounded off the end boards to Corey Perry at the left post, but Perry’s shot went right through the crease, behind Turco, and out the other side. Andy McDonald picked up the puck in the right corner and fired another shot that zipped through the crease, behind Turco, and harmlessly into the other corner.
When Morrow was whistled for slashing with 12 seconds left, the Stars were at a 6-on-3 disadvantage, but again, Turco denied them until the final buzzer sounded.
“When you have situations where you feel like the refereeing hasn’t been as consistent as you would like it, it leads to some frustration,” Tippett explained. “We feel like there were some calls made earlier in the game that were very similar to the one where Mike getting tripped behind the net, and that frustration of not getting that call at that time boiled over a little too far. Mike knows he can’t take that penalty at that time, but the way the game went, frustration was building.”
Leading 1-0 entering the second, the Stars scored twice within 2:15 midway through the period to break the game open.
The first goal was set up by about a minute of sustained offensive pressure in the Anaheim zone that started with a prime scoring chance missed by Barnes. On the rush into the zone, Halpern unleashed a quick wrist shot from the slot that Ducks starting goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere kicked out, but the rebound went right to a charging Barnes in the slot, who had a wide open net, but the puck was bouncing and Barnes could not corral it enough to get off a shot.
Boucher celebrates the Ribeiro goal
But Dallas did retain possession and worked the puck around the zone until Boucher blasted a slap shot from the blue line. Giguere made the initial stop, but Barnes got the rebound in the slot and Giguere turned aside his wrister. But the puck remained loose in the crease and Ribeiro swiped it in at 7:48 for the 2-0 lead.
The next Stars goal was a bit of a fluke as a long dump-in by Boucher ricocheted off the end boards and slid into the right circle. Giguere took a step out of his crease to go after it, then stopped and tried to get back in the crease, as Lehtinen beat everyone to the loose puck, drilling a slap shot past Giguere’s blocker.
“When (Boucher) shot there, it came pretty fast there, and I was just in the right place at the right time there,” Lehtinen said. “It was pretty good that he shot it pretty hard, it bounced pretty hard back there, so it was nice.”
That goal prompted the Anaheim goalie change, as Giguere exited having allowed three goals on 11 shots and Bryzgalov entered the contest.
Bryzgalov made a couple of nice stops a few minutes later when Ribeiro swept in on him on a partial breakaway, then dropped a short pass back to Morrow for a point-blank wrist shot that Bryzgalov turned aside. Seconds later, Ribeiro ended up with the puck in the slot and Bryzgalov saved his wrister.
Dallas then got into major penalty trouble when Mattias Norstrom and Sergei Zubov each took hooking penalties four seconds apart, giving the Ducks a 5-on-3 for 1:56. The Stars did a fine job of killing them off, as Turco made impressive saves on a long blast from Pronger and then again on Getzlaf’s long one-timer.
But then, with 15 seconds remaining in the two-man advantage, Pronger drilled another slap shot, from the top of the right circle, that somehow found its way through a maze of bodies in front to reach the back of the net. It was the Anaheim captain’s first goal of the season, with 1:36 to go in the second.
Dallas started the night quickly, as Morrow scored for the third consecutive game just 2:05 into the contest and 31 seconds after beginning a power play. Ribeiro carried behind the Anaheim net and slid a slick pass out front to Morrow cutting across the top of the crease, and Morrow banged it past Giguere for his fourth goal of the season.
“He’s a power forward, he has an effect on the game and when he can impose his will on the other team in the offensive zone and find a few goals, that’s strong play on his part,” Tippett said of Morrow. “I guarantee that when the other team comes out of a game, the know that they’ve been in numerous battles with Brenden around the front of the net for loose pucks. That’s where we need him to be.”
“We had a good start and scored on that first power play, which was good,” Ribeiro said. “It was good to get out of the gate quick and take the lead. We feel more confident now, and as a team, it was probably our best game.Overall, we’re happy with that, we beat a good team.”
Less than a minute later, the game’s first fight took place, as George Parros took on Fedoruk in a quick but tenacious bout.
Turco made his first big stop since returning to the lineup when he came up with a glove snag of McDonald’s scorching wrist shot from the left circle about five minutes in.
With the Ducks enjoying a power play late in the period, Turco turned aside a nice in-close deflection by Rob Niedermayer off a long wrist shot by Kent Huskins, and then 35 seconds later, Turco kicked out a long slap shot through a screen from McDonald at the blue line.
Then Turco made a big glove save on Chris Kunitz’s wicked wrister from the left circle that he juggled before securing while leaning back on the crossbar.
After three days off prior to the match, the Stars will enjoy another four days off until their next outing, in Los Angeles next Thursday (9:30 pm, my27). They will have Sunday off, practice Monday and Tuesday in the Metroplex, then fly out to LA on Tuesday to prepare for the second of four straight Pacific Division matchups.
“We’ll take the break and relax and regroup ourselves after a few good practices for LA,” Ribeiro said. “The next few games are against division teams and we know it’s important to get those points. I think we’re playing better and better. It’s important to stay disciplined and have good starts.”
- Morrow played in his 499th career game. His three-game goal streak is one shy of his career-high four-game streak set from Dec. 20 -27, 2003.
- Ribeiro now has a three-game point streak (one goal, three assists).
- Turco moved into a tie for third on the franchise all-time games played list, equaling former North Star Jon Casey with his 325th appearance in the Stars’ crease. Turco already owns the marks for most wins (177) and shutouts (30).
- Dallas scratched forwards Krys Barch, Antti Miettinen, and Loui Eriksson.
- This game started a stretch in which the Stars face off against Pacific Division foes for four straight and 10 of 11 contests. They are now 2-0 against the division, including their 5-1 victory over Los Angeles on Oct. 10.
- The Stars had gone to overtime in their previous three outings.