DALLAS – If nothing else, the Dallas Stars have certainly been entertaining to watch.
Another roller-coaster outing see-sawed back and forth before the Stars’ Mike Ribeiro scored the only goal in the shootout to salvage a 3-2 victory for the Stars over the Los Angeles Kings Saturday afternoon at the American Airlines Center.
After taking a 2-1 lead on a goal by Ribeiro with just 1:12 left in the third period, the Stars allowed the Kings to tie it with just 17 seconds left, the second straight game they lost a lead in the third period.
But unlike Thursday night’s 5-4 loss to Buffalo in a shootout, this time the Stars pulled it out in the end, as Ribeiro unleashed a lethal wrist shot past Kings netminder Erik Ersberg in the shootout and goaltender Marty Turco denied all three LA shooters.
“It felt good… I wanted to make sure to at least get a shot on net,” Ribeiro said. “Goalies don’t really know what I’m going to do, and neither do I. I decided to shoot it. We should’ve won in regulation, but the two points are the most important thing.”
“It was a good game, I think we were consistent for most of the game,” defenseman Darryl Sydor said. “After what happened last game, I think we responded well mentally. We had a lot of opportunities and we were able to come up with the extra point in the shootout.”
The win gives the Stars a 3-1-2 record in their last six games and a 7-1-1 mark in their last nine at the American Airlines Center. Overall, they are now 19-17-7 and moved into 12th in the Western Conference standings, just two back of the eighth and final playoff spot - at least until other teams play later in the evening.
Facing one of just two Western teams below them in the standings, the Stars improved to 27-10-2 in afternoon contests over the last five seasons, the best record in the NHL.
In addition to his shootout winner, Ribeiro had a goal and an assist, as did Jere Lehtinen. Turco made 20 saves.
“It’s great to see Lehtinen break through after being around it for a while,” Stars coach Dave Tippett said. “He’s had some great chances the last few games and he scores working goals, not gimmes.”
“His work ethic is second to none,” Turco said of Lehtinen. “For him to produce offensively is no surprise. He has the uncanny ability to put pressure on other players, forcing turnovers and doing things you can’t teach. He’s a special player and we’re fortunate to have him.”
The Stars, in their fourth shootout in the last six games (with one other ending in overtime), improved to 4-4 on the season - and 30-12 all-time - in the tie-breaker competition.
After Turco denied Alexander Frolov’s shootout attempt, Ribeiro scored and then Turco made a big glove save on Dustin Brown’s wrist shot. Ersberg made an impressive save on Lehtinen’s try before Turco won it by sprawling to make a pad stop on Jack Johnson’s deke.
“It’s pretty fun, but it would be easier to get the wins in regular time,” Lehtinen said of all the overtime and shootouts lately. “The other team got a point, so that’s not good, but at least it’s a win. They play hard, they defend pretty well in their zone, they play five guys down low, and it’s hard to find spots to score goals.”
With the scoreboard still empty heading into the final period, the Stars had a golden opportunity to take the lead 3:12 in while shorthanded. Ribeiro stole the puck from LA’s Teddy Purcell at the Kings’ blue line and went in on a breakaway, making a nice move to his backhand and attempting to slip the puck between Ersberg’s pads, but Ersberg managed to make the save.
The Kings finally broke through for the game’s first goal at 6:45 on Brown’s 15th goal of the season. Kyle Calder carried into the Dallas zone and fed a pass from the left face-off circle in front to Brown, who beat Turco with a low wrist shot to the far side.
Dallas struck back on Lehtinen’s second goal of the season with 8:37 to go in regulation on an outanding individual effort. Controlling the puck in the neutral zone, Lehtinen stick-handled his way into the Los Angeles zone, cut between both LA defensemen and fired a quick wrist shot from low in the left face-off circle past Ersberg on the short side.
Turco made several huge saves with six and a half minutes remaining to keep the game tied, stopping Wayne Simmonds’ shot from the right circle and then consecutive point-blank rebounds from Frolov seconds later.
Dallas then took the lead and appeared to have the game-winner with just 1:12 left when Ribeiro notched his eighth goal of the year on a nifty deflection out of mid-air on Darryl Sydor’s wrist shot from the left point.
But the Kings, after pulling Ersberg for an extra attacker, evened it up again with just 16.9 seconds on the clock. Anze Kopitar swung out from behind the net at the right goalpost and slid a pass back through the crease to Frolov at the left side, who somehow managed to squibble one through Turco and a mass of humanity in front to send the game into overtime.
Each team had chances in OT. First, Turco made a nice save on Johnson’s bomb of a slap shot from the top of the left circle with a minute remaining, forcing it just wide of the far post.
Then, with under 10 seconds to go, Sydor’s slap shot from the left circle was stopped by Ersberg, but the puck bounced down into the crease behind him, trickling towards the goal line, before Brown cleared it out.
“It was a hard-fought game, both teams competed hard,” Tippett said. “I liked the way we stayed with the game after we got down a goal.”
Following a scoreless first period in which the Stars commanded a 10-4 advantage in shots on goal, Dallas continued to hold the territorial edge in the second, although the first big play of the period came from Turco.
He made a big skate save on a shorthanded bid by Frolov 4:27 into the period.
Dallas had a prime chance on a power play with 5:40 left in the second when Ersberg made a sparkling save on Lehtinen’s point-blank rebound, after turning aside Matt Niskanen’s shot from the right point.
After completing a three-game homestand at 2-0-1, the Stars will now head south for a two-game road trip through Florida before the All-Star Game next weekend, beginning Monday in Tampa Bay (6:30 pm start, FSN). That game represents Brad Richards’ first visit back to his former home since the big trade last February.
“Five of six points in this homestand is a good start if we want to start climbing the standings,” Tippett said. “These were two critical points for us and I like the way we are playing going into next weeks trip.”
- Lehtinen, playing just his 15th game of the season due to injuries, scored for the first time since his first outing of the year. He also led the Stars with six shots on goal, a season-high for him.
- Ribeiro had just one assist in his previous four contests but still has 16 points (five goals, 11 assists) in his last 16 games. He finished second to Lehtinen with five shots on goal. With his shootout goal, he is now 5-for-8 this season and 11-for-23 in his career.
- Sydor’s assist on Ribeiro’s goal snapped a 10-game pointless streak. He led the club with six blocked shots.
- Defenseman Stephane Robidas picked up an assist, his second point in the last three games after scoring Monday against Detroit. He logged a team-high 26:44 of ice time and led the team with five hits.
- Forward Steve Ott skated in his 300th career NHL contest and finished with a +2 plus/minus rating.
- The Stars went 0-for-3 on the power play after converting 2-of-3 in Thursday’s shootout loss to Buffalo. That followed a 3-for-31 slump over the previous seven contests.
- Dallas killed off all four Kings’ man-advantages, leaving LA 0-for-16 over their last four games.
- Dallas is now 1-1-1 this year against their Pacific Division rivals, after dominating LA to the tune of 12-2-2 over the previous two seasons. The Stars are now 8-2-0 in their last 10 at home against the Kings.
- The Stars have now gone to overtime in nine of their last 14 games, going 6-0-3 in those affairs. This was Dallas’ 14th overtime game this season, matching last year’s final total in just its 43rd game.
Wrist shot -