With first place in the Pacific Division on the line, the Dallas Stars reverted back to a formula that has made them so successful over the years -- tight defense sprinkled in with some timely goals.
Brenden Morrow and Niklas Hagman each scored twice, Stephane Robidas contributed his second goal of the season, and Marty Turco made 18 saves to give the Stars a pivotal 5-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks at American Airlines Center on Sunday afternoon.
Mike Ribeiro also added a couple of assists for Dallas, which leapfrogged Anaheim and into the top spot in the division while also vaulting into the second seed in the Western Conference. The Stars, winners of three straight, have now accumulated 61 points, the third-most in the entire league.
"It was a good win overall for our team," Morrow said. "It's a division opponent that we came in looking up at in the standings, so it was important to play a game today like we did. The guys did a great job getting pucks to the net."
The Stars suffocated the Ducks offense throughout the matinee, while a four-goal, third-period outburst sent them to their fourth win over Anaheim this season The Stars also improved to 7-1-1 in their last nine games against the rival Ducks.
"Right from the start there was some pushing and shoving, and that got the crowd going," Hagman said. "This is the way we knew we are capable of playing, and this is a good win against a tough division opponent."
Mathieu Schneider and Ryan Getzlaf scored for Anaheim, which had its six-game winning snapped and failed to collect a point for the first time in 10 games.
"They are a good measuring stick," Robidas said. "I think we looked pretty good today. Everyone just stepped up their game. You have to be ready to push back against the Ducks."
"We were pretty physical early," coach Dave Tippett added. "We had some guys that were good in the grit department and in the hard department. Steve Ott stirred the pot enough, and everybody else had to jump in. We competed for the puck and competed for space today."
Morrow and Hagman scored both of their goals in the final frame, with Hagman picking up his fourth short-handed tally of the season to help offset Schneider's power-play goal just under nine minutes in and Getzlaf's goal that halved the lead with 6:50 to go.
Turco helped preserve the win with three consecutive saves on Todd Bertuzzi (twice) and Corey Perry with under three minutes left in regulation, and Hagman iced it with an empty-net goal -- his career-high 18th -- with 2:09 remaining.
Up by a goal after two periods, Morrow made it 2-1 just 3:18 into the third. From the left circle, Ribeiro sent a pass to a driving Morrow, but the puck went off diving defenseman Francois Beauchemin. Morrow, though, was able to kick the puck with his skates to his stick to shovel it past goalie Jean-Sebastien Giguere.
Hagman made it 3-0 with just over 12 minutes left in regulation, lifting a shot over Giguere's right shoulder from the low slot after receiving a nifty pass from Stu Barnes.
"I just tried to skate as hard as I could to get some open ice, and Stu fed me with a great pass," Hagman said.
Schneider shaved the lead to 3-1 when he blasted a shot from the middle of the blue line past a screened Turco 46 seconds later. Morrow then restored the three-goal edge with his 19th of the year just 13 seconds later, scoring from in tight following a perfect feed from behind the net by Ribeiro.
Getzlaf extended his point streak to 14 games when he scored his 19th with just under seven minutes left to make it 4-2. Like Morrow's second goal, Getzlaf scored from in tight after Perry sent a pass out from behind the net.
Hagman capped the high-scoring third period with a backhand from the red line along the boards that found the vacated net.
"Robidas takes hits and gives hits, and he scored a goal today," Tippett said. "His game was very strong. I thought our penalty kill was awesome, and then Brenden's goal after they cut it to 3-1 was big for us."
The Stars opened the scoring with Robidas' power-play goal midway through the first period. Hagman began the play when he dumped the puck around the boards and into the Ducks zone. Defenseman Scott Niedermayer got to the puck at the hash marks of the left circle, but his errant clearing attempt was picked-off by Robidas in the high slot. Robidas let go a wicked slap shot that blew past Giguere.
Giguere was able to keep Dallas' lead at one when he stopped Morrow's breakaway attempt with under three minutes left in the period. After departing the penalty box, Morrow collected a perfect pass from Mike Modano to go in alone on Giguere, but Giguere squeezed his legs together to deny Morrow's shot.
Dallas continues its push to the All-Star break when they host the Columbus Blue Jackets on Tuesday night (7:30, my27). It'll be the second meeting in the last four days between the two teams, as the Stars earned a 3-1 win over the Blue Jackets on Saturday afternoon.
"These two games were important for us after the long trip," Morrow said about the weekend sweep of the Blue Jackets and Ducks. "Getting the four points definitely feels good."
Columbus is in the midst of a five-game road trip, and played at Colorado on Sunday night.
-- Dallas was once again without defenseman Sergei Zubov, who continues to be hampered by a foot injury. He'll have an MRI performed on Monday.
--Defenseman Mark Fistric left midway through the second period after blocking Anaheim defenseman Chris Pronger's slap shot, but returned for the third period.
--Dallas has won six straight at home against the Ducks.
--Giguere is 2-6 in eight lifetime starts against the Stars.
--Dallas had tallied four times in a game just once over the previous 11 games, and hadn't scored five since a 5-4 shootout win over St. Louis on Dec. 29.
--Hagman bested his previous career-high of 17 goals set last season, and now has seven points in his last four games.
--Morrow has goals in two straight games.
--The Stars will not practice Monday in order to get some needed rest before their next contest Tuesday night at American Airlines Center versus the Columbus Blue Jackets (7:30 p.m.).
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