The Dallas Stars have put their offensive future in the hands of Mike Ribeiro. The slick center showed just why on Monday night.
Hours after inking a five-year contract extension, Ribeiro dished out two assists to help Dallas snap its season-long four-game losing streak with an efficient 3-1 win over the Minnesota Wild at American Airlines Center.
"I am very happy to sign here," Ribeiro said. "I've made a home here. The family and kids love it here. This is a great organization and this is a team that can win the Cup. There was no doubt in my mind that I wanted to stay here."
Both Ribeiro and Brenden Morrow set up linemate Antti Miettinen's pair of goals, and rookie Matt Niskanen also scored for the Stars, who entered the contest having been blanked in their two previous home games.
The win helped Dallas pull into a first-place tie with San Jose in the Pacific Division, with the Sharks having three games in hand.
Marty Turco finished the job with 18 saves, as Dallas won its eighth straight at home against the Wild. The Stars have also now earned at least a point in 11 straight home games against Minnesota.
"We got aggressive and got our nose dirty a little bit," Morrow said. "That's where the chances came from. This was a big way to break out of that streak and get back to what we can do."
During that four-game losing streak, the Stars were held to just four goals, with the drought due in large part to the lack of production from the top triumvirate of Ribeiro, Morrow and Miettinen. But against the Wild, the trio got back on track, collecting a combined six points while buzzing around the Minnesota zone much of the time in the much-needed win.
Ribeiro was even awarded a penalty shot in the first period, but was unable to get his attempt off on Minnesota goalie Niklas Backstrom, who made 27 saves in the loss.
"It's good to have Mike locked up and to avoid all the questions about it," Morrow said. "We've had some good chemistry so I'm excited about it."
Mark Parrish scored Minnesota's lone goal for the second consecutive game, and the Wild have now lost two straight and five of their last eight.
"We had a lot of guys play well and do the little things that lead to wins," coach Dave Tippett said. "Turco played very well and made key saves for us. We were trying to stop the bleeding, and we know we are a team that needs certain things in order. We got those tonight. We had enough positives to push us through and work our way to a victory."
Up 2-1 entering the third period, Miettinen padded the Stars lead with his second of the game and ninth of the season just two minutes in after a gritty, then nifty, play from Ribeiro. Behind the Minnesota net, Ribeiro bumped Minnesota defenseman Kim Johnsson off the puck, skated out from behind the goal line, and sent a slick cross-ice pass to Miettinen, who banged home his ninth of the year.
Dallas then tightened the screws the rest of the way on a struggling Minnesota team.
"It was good tonight to play the way we did in the third period," Ribeiro said.
The Stars broke through on Niskanen's fourth goal of the season just under six minutes into the second period. Jeff Halpern lugged the puck into the right circle and made a move towards the slot, but lost the puck in the process. Fortuitously, it slid right to Niskanen skating into the left circle, and the Minnesota native drove it home to give Dallas a 1-0 lead.
The Wild tied it at 9:19 of the second when Parrish scored his 12th. Standing in front of Turco, Parrish was credited with the goal when Marian Gaborik's slap shot from the top of the slot went off the shaft of Parrish's stick.
Miettinen restored Dallas' lead just under two minutes later after his laser of a slap shot from two strides outside the top of the right circle eluded Backstrom.
"The main thing is that we worked harder than the last few games, cut down on turnovers and did the things we know we can do," Miettinen said. "We just worked harder and focused on our strengths as a team."
Dallas could have stretched its lead even further when they went on a two-man advantage for 1:55 late in the middle frame following back-to-back penalties on James Sheppard and Branko Radivojevic, but were only able to produce two shots on goal.
Both teams were held off the scoresheet in the first period, but they each had a glorious opportunity to break the deadlock.
Dallas nearly struck first when Ribeiro was given his penalty shot after he was sent on a breakaway by Sergei Zubov and hauled down by diving defenseman Brent Burns. Ribeiro attempted to deke Backstrom, but lost control of the puck.
Turco then kept the game scoreless when he denied Gaborik's short-handed breakaway attempt with less than a minute to go. After Minnesota killed off a 46-second two-man advantage, Gaborik emerged from the penalty box and picked up a clearing attempt at the Wild blueline and streaked in alone on Turco. Turco calmly stopped Gaborik's initial shot, and then blocked the rebound attempt before covering up.
The Stars, though, were unable to generate any shots during that two-man advantage.
"We could've done more on those 5-on-3's, and we need to get our power play in general back on track to succeed," Morrow said. "We need to get to the net and get in the dirty areas."
Dallas embarks on a five-game, nine-day road trip when they face the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday at 7:30 (my27). The Stars will also play St. Louis, Los Angeles, Anaheim and San Jose on the voyage.
Chicago will be playing their second-straight game on Wednesday after playing at Montreal on Tuesday night. Chicago entered the Canadiens game having lost five straight, including the last four in regulation.
The Blackhawks have won both meetings this season with Dallas.
"It is nice to get this win before our long road trip," Miettinen said. "Hopefully we can build on this."
--Ribeiro is now under contract through 2012-13. He was set to become an unrestricted free agent following this season. "Ribeiro is a very good, committed player and his offense is a big part of our team," Tippett said. "He and Brenden have earned the right to be cornerstone players for this team's future."
-- Morrow snapped a four-game pointless streak.
--Dallas has won two of three against the Wild this year, and has outscored them 14-10 combined in those three affairs.
--Zubov is now two games shy of tying Derian Hatcher for third on the Stars all-time games played list. Hatcher played in 827 games for the Dallas franchise.
--It was Miettinen's first two-goal game of the season, and second of his career.
--Burns though he had scored a goal in the second period, but after a video review it was ruled that the Dallas net had come off its pegs before the puck went in.
--The Stars have now killed off 34 of its past 35 power plays, but have gone 0-for-23 over the last six games with the man advantage, including going 0-for-5 Monday. "We still need to bear down on our chances on the power play, but I think our penalty kill played great again," Ribeiro said.
-- The Dallas Stars will NOT practice on Tuesday, January 8th before leaving on their upcoming five-game road trip.
1 - 0 DAL
1 - 1 Tie
2 - 1 DAL