The Anaheim Ducks proved to be just the tonic the Dallas Stars needed.
After a disastrous 0-3 homestand last week in which they were outscored 14-6, the Stars rebounded in fine style, cruising past the defending Stanley Cup champions 5-0 Monday night at the Honda Center.
The Stars have now beaten the Ducks twice in 2007-08, with both this game and their 3-1 victory on Oct. 20 ranking as two of their best, most complete efforts of the season.
With the victory, Dallas (6-6-2), beginning a four-game road trip against all the teams in their division, snapped a three-game losing streak and moved into a three-way tie for second in the Pacific, just one back of San Jose for first.
Three days after falling to Phoenix 5-0, the Stars bounced back to play a gritty, physical game with solid defensive zone play, with their special teams making the difference. The first two Dallas goals came on the power play, while they killed off all four Duck man-advantage opportunities in the contest.
“This was the kind of game we needed to get back on track,” Stars coach Dave Tippett said. “We need all of our parts in place and we had a very solid strong road game. The game shifted in our favor late in the second and we had a lot of people contribute and capitalize on opportunities. Tonight was a good sign for us moving forward.”
Goaltender Marty Turco registered his first shutout of the season and 31st of his career, turning aside 19 shots for his fourth win of the year, although he wasn’t severely tested often.
Their top line once again provided the bulk of the offense, as both Mike Ribeiro and Jere Lehtinen contributed a goal and two assists each, while captain Brenden Morrow added a goal. Sergei Zubov earned three assists and Jussi Jokinen collected a goal and an assist.
Unfortunately, center Mike Modano was held pointless for the third straight game and remains at 1,231, one behind Phil Housley for the all-time American points record, although he fired a game-high five shots on goal.
With Dallas leading 4-0 going into the third, Anaheim goalie Ilya Bryzgalov, who replaced starter Jean-Sebastien Giguere at the start of the period, made a huge save in the opening minute to rob Jokinen on a one-timer from the slot that would have given Modano the record-tying assist.
Winger Chris Conner, skating in just his second NHL game of the season after his recall from AHL Iowa on Friday, scored his second career goal at the 8:44 mark to make it 5-0. Conner skated into a loose puck in the left circle, drilling a slap shot that ramped up Anaheim defenseman Mathieu Schneider’s stick and over Bryzgalov’s shoulder.
Bryzgalov also made a couple of nice stops later in the period with Dallas on the power play that again kept Modano off the scoresheet. With 7:30 to go in the third, Ribeiro blasted a one-timer from the right face-off circle off a cross-ice pass from Modano, but Bryzgalov swallowed it up. Then 30 seconds later, Modano himself ripped a slap shot from the blue line, but Bryzgalov again made the save.
The toughest stop for Turco down the stretch while trying to preserve the goose egg came with about three minutes to go, when he made a tough save on Drew Miller’s scorching wrist shot from the left circle.
“It was an all around good effort,” Turco said. “We are a defensive team so we can feel good about the shutout tonight. This is just what we needed and now we need to build on this the rest of the week.”
The Stars led 1-0 after Ribeiro scored late in the first period, and he missed a golden opportunity to make it 2-0 just over a minute into the second. Lehtinen broke into the Anaheim zone on a partial breakaway, but slid a quick pass across to an open Ribeiro, whose one-timer appeared headed into the open side of the net, but a lunging Giguere somehow managed to deflect it through the crease with the shaft of his stick.
The Stars then connected for three goals in the final five and a half minutes of the second, counter-attacking with a vengeance after killing off three straight penalties earlier in the period.
The power play also supplied the initial insurance goal, as Jokinen connected for his third goal of the season with 5:20 left. Jokinen accepted a nice lead pass from rookie Matt Niskanen as he cut across the Anaheim blue line, then slipped through two Duck defenders and ripped a wicked wrister over Giguere’s glove for the 2-0 lead.
The Ribeiro-Lehtinen-Morrow line then took over for the final two minutes as Morrow’s fifth of the season made it 3-0 with 1:32 to go. After the trio won a lengthy battle for the puck along the boards, Lehtinen cut out from behind the net for an in-close backhand shot that Giguere stopped, but the rebound went right to a charging Morrow in front and he quickly lifted it over Giguere and in.
The real clincher for the Stars, though, came with just 3.6 second remaining in the second. After the top line controlled the puck in the Anaheim zone again, Ribeiro slid a sweet backhand pass from behind the net out front to Lehtinen in the slot, who popped a quick one-timer over Giguere’s shoulder.
“We just needed to stick to our gameplan and get away from the sloppy hockey we’ve played lately,” Morrow said. “We wanted to just play a simple road game, frustrate them and things just clicked for us. We limited their chances, defended well and hopefully this will get us back on track.”
The Ducks had the game’s first scoring chance about four and a half minutes in when Turco was almost caught out of the crease after he played the puck behind the net. It landed just behind Rob Niedermayer in the left corner and he spun and hit Samuel Pahlsson with a short pass in the lower left circle, but Turco scrambled back just in time to stop Pahlsson’s wrist shot.
Winger Krys Barch, back in the lineup after sitting out as a healthy scratch for the past seven contests, fought with Anaheim’s Brad May less than seven minutes into the opening period. The two dropped their gloves immediately after a face-off and raised their fists while dancing around the ice like a pair of boxers before a few punches were thrown. May probably had the edge in the bout.
Anaheim’s best opportunity of the period came from Andy McDonald just past the midway point of the period. After the Ducks won a face-off in the Dallas zone, McDonald unleashed a wrist shot from the left circle that Turco kicked at and it caught just enough of his pad to zing through his legs and just wide of the far post.
The Stars then took the early lead with just 24 seconds remaining in the first while on an abbreviated power play on Ribeiro’s fourth goal in the last five games. Zubov took a wrist shot from the right circle and it deflected off a Duck defender towards the front of the net, where Lehtinen swatted at it. The bouncing puck then ricocheted off Ribeiro’s leg as he cut in front of Giguere, fooling the netminder as it slithered past him just inside the post.
The Stars continue their four-game trek through the Pacific Division on Wednesday night in San Jose (9:30 pm, FSN) against the first-place Sharks.
- After his second three-point game of the season, Ribeiro now has five goals and 14 points in his last nine contests.
- With his three-point night, Lehtinen has now collected four goals and nine points in his last seven outings - since joining Ribeiro and Morrow on the top line.
- Zubov’s three assists leave him with one goal and six points in his last three games. He also logged a team-high 25:26 of ice time.
- Jokinen, back in the lineup after being a healthy scratch in Friday’s 5-0 loss to Phoenix, had two points after going scoreless in his previous five games played. Sitting out Friday snapped his consecutive-games streak at149, but he responded with a strong effort.
- Even goaltender Marty Turco got involved with the offense, picking up an assist on Jokinen’s goal simply by leaving the puck behind his own net for Niskanen, who then skated it up ice and passed to Jokinen. It was the first assist of the season for Turco, who now ranks second on the franchise list for games played by a goalie with 330, trailing just Cesare Maniago’s 420. Last season he had four assists.
- After killing all four Anaheim power plays, the Stars have now successfully nullified 17 of the last 18 man-advantage opportunities against them, over the last six games.
- The Stars have now won their last 33 games, dating back to the beginning of last season, in which they have taken a two-goal lead at any point in the contest. They are 5-0-0 in those situations this year.
- This was game number seven in the Stars’ stretch of 10-of-11 contests against Pacific Division foes. So far, they are 3-4-0 in that span.
- The Stars were 0-2-1 in their last three games at the Honda Center, but had not yet played there this season.
1 - 0 DAL
Wrist shot -