SUNRISE, Florida - That was a good way to go into the All-Star break.
Mike Ribeiro scored his first career hat trick to lead the Dallas Stars to an impressive 4-1 victory Wednesday night over the Florida Panthers at BankAtlantic Center in their final game before dispersing for All-Star weekend.
After a sluggish first period from which they were fortunate to escape trailing just 1-0, Dallas woke up in the second and rattled off four unanswered goals for the win, improving their record to 3-1-2 in their last six contests and 9-4-3 in their last 16.
Dallas enters the break with a 20-18-7 record, sitting 12th in the Western Conference standings, four points back of the eighth and final playoff spot.
After surrendering third period leads in each of their last three games, going 1-1-1 in those contests, the Stars held a 2-1 advantage going into the final period and this time, not only locked it down, but expanded on it.
They also got production from their struggling power play unit, which entered the day ranked last in the NHL on the road, but went 1-for-2 on the night.
“We were a little slow out of the gate, but then we got our feet moving and created some chances,” Stars coach Dave Tippett said. “Ribeiro played a helluva game and he worked for his opportunities out there. He went to the net hard and forechecked hard and it’s a good sign for him.”
Ribeiro, who had registered 11 two-goal games in his nine-year career, became the fifth different Star to score three goals in a game this year, as he accomplished the feat in three very different ways. One was a tap-in from the crease, another came on a breakaway and the third one went into an empty net.
“We just wanted to simplify the game, forecheck, create turnovers and get moving,” Ribeiro said. “We had a bad first period, we know that, but we responded well and put them on their heels. This is a big win going into the break. It feels good after all these NHL games to finally get a hat
trick, but the two points are the most important thing.”
Mike Modano, who is heading to Montreal for his seventh career All-Star Game, notched the Stars’ other goal, while Marty Turco was excellent in net, making 27 saves in his 16th consecutive start.
“The first period was uncharacteristic of the way we play and words weren’t minced in the intermission, getting ourselves moving,” Turco said. “We know what we are capable of doing consistently and it’s good to get the win headed into a four-day break. This isn’t where we thought we’d be at the break, we have been inconsistent, but we have something we can control in the second half and we know the challenge is ahead of us.”
“Marty kept us in it and played great tonight,” Tippett said. “We took charge of the game once we got our feet moving and woke up.”
Heading into the final period with a 2-1 lead for the second game in a row, the Stars were able to extend the lead instead of giving it up like they did in Monday’s 4-2 loss at Tampa Bay.
First, though, Turco had to make a big save, flashing out the pad to deny David Booth’s point-blank one-timer just 50 seconds into the third.
Ribeiro netted his second of the night and 10th of the year at 3:45, collecting Steve Ott’s clearing pass at center ice and racing in on a breakaway. Similar to his shootout game-winner against Los Angeles on Saturday, Ribeiro fired a quick wrist shot from the slot, beating Florida netminder Tomas Vokoun over the glove.
Turco made a big save at the halfway mark of the period, thwarting Booth again. With Florida on a power play, Richard Zednik fed a short pass to Booth alone in front and as Booth shot, Turco lunged out with his goalstick to ramp it up and over the net.
The Panthers pulled Vokoun for an extra attacker with a full two minutes left in regulation and Turco made his best save of the period just 11 seconds later, flashing out his pad to deny Booth’s one-timer from the slot.
Florida didn’t threaten again, and after chipping the puck out of the Dallas zone, Ribeiro slid a puck from the Panthers’ blueline into an open net with 26 seconds to go to ice the victory.
“It’s good to go into the break on a good note,” Modano said. “We finally got our feet moving and started creating some turnovers and making plays. We supported through the zone, pushed them back on their heels.”
The Panthers took the early lead when defenseman Karlis Skrastins notched his third goal of the season at 12:41 of the first period. Skrastins and Kamil Kreps raced into the Dallas zone on a 2-on-1 with just Trevor Daley back. Kreps carried into the left face-off circle before letting a hard wrist shot go that Turco stopped, but Skrastins followed up by swiping the loose rebound in on his backhand.
Despite being outshot 10-5 in the first, Dallas thought they’d tied the game with 57 seconds left in the period when rookie James Neal unleashed a scorching wrist shot from the left face-off circle that appeared to go in over Vokoun’s shoulder. In actuality, though, the puck pinged off the corner of the left goalpost and crossbar, and then ricocheted off the inside of the other post and out.
Down 1-0, the Stars came out more inspired for the second period and had a glorious opportunity just 37 seconds in. Ribeiro fed a pass from the left sideboards to Ott in the high slot, but Vokoun made a nice pad save on Ott’s one-timer. Jere Lehtinen was right on the doorstep and got to the rebound, but his shot banked off the side of the post and wide.
Dallas finally did even it up on a power play with 7:27 remaining in the second period. Modano recorded his 14th goal of the season with a nifty play in the lower right face-off circle. After receiving a slightly deflected pass from Brad Richards at the top of the left circle, Modano managed to kick the puck from his skate to his stick and then fire a quick snap shot over a sliding Vokoun, all in one motion.
Just seconds after Vokoun robbed him on a one-timer from the slot, Ribeiro gave the Stars the lead on a gift with just 31.1 seconds left in the period. Neal executed a nice deflection of Matt Niskanen’s slap shot from the right point that Vokoun got a piece of, but the puck bounced right to Ribeiro at the left side of the crease, who had a wide open net to tap it into.
“You can grasp momentum from this because we showed extra effort and the little things after the first period,” Tippett said.
The Stars, like the rest of the NHL, will now get to enjoy a nice break, not playing again until next Tuesday when they face the Atlanta Thrashers at home (7:30 pm, FSN). Of course, while the rest of the team will be resting, Modano, Stephane Robidas and Neal (YoungStars Game) will travel to Montreal to participate in the All-Star Game festivities this weekend.
- With the hat trick, Ribeiro now has four goals and an assist in the last three games. He also fired a game-high seven shots on goal, matching his career high, set back on Jan. 28, 2003 when he was with Montreal, ironically enough also against Florida.
- Richards’ assist gives him five points (two goals, three assists) in his last five contests.
- Neal’s assist snapped a six-game scoring drought.
- Ott now has four points (two goals, two assists) in his last five outings.
- Niskanen’s assist give him four points (one goal, three assists) in his last five games. After getting clocked by Florida’s Cory Stillman in a fight with just three seconds left in the second period, Niskanen did not return to the ice, although he remained on the Dallas bench.
- Lehtinen, with his assist on Ribeiro’s second goal, has five points (one goal, four assists) in the last five games.
- The Stars entered the day 2-for-21 on the power play in their last five games away from American Airlines Center, and even with their 1-for-2 performance, have now converted just 12-of-99 with the man-advantage on the road, still the worst percentage in the league.
- After being outscored in third periods by a 52-31 margin this season heading into the game, Dallas won the third this night 2-0.
- Skrastins’ goal for the Panthers was their 31st of the season from defensemen, a total which leads the entire NHL. Dallas has just 12 goals from their blueliners, led by Daley’s five.
- With the win, the Stars are now 8-3-2 in their last 13 meetings with the Panthers, outscoring them 39-27 in those contests. It was their first visit to South Florida since March 1, 2007, when the Cats defeated Dallas 2-1 in overtime. The Stars last won in Florida on Dec. 27, 2002, a 4-0 shutout by Ron Tugnutt.