DETROIT - If this was a ‘measuring stick’ game, the Dallas Stars passed with flying colors.
With two goals on the power play, solid defensive play, strong goaltending and timely offense, not to mention a fortunate break, the Stars put forth a complete effort to defeat their longtime nemesis, the Detroit Red Wings, 3-1 at Joe Louis Arena Wednesday night.
In the last of four straight road contests, the Stars improved their season record to 9-5-6 while moving to an impressive 6-3-3 on the road. It was the Stars’ fourth win over the Wings in their last five meetings dating back to last season.
The Red Wings were a scorching 7-1-1 in their previous nine, but Dallas still handed the Red Wings their second regulation loss on home ice (7-2-1) and halted a three-game Detroit winning streak.
The Stars’ special teams played a significant role in the win, as they went 2-for-5 on the power play and killed off all four Detroit opportunities.
Dallas, which led the entire game, also benefitted from an apparent Detroit goal in the third period that would have tied it 2-2 but was waved off, although replays showed it probably shouldn’t have been.
Alex Auld got the start in goal and was outstanding, making 31 saves to snap a four-game personal winless streak (0-2-2) to secure his third win of the season.
“I feel like I’ve played pretty well this year, although the numbers might not really show it,” Auld said. “I’ve felt comfortable and confident in net and obviously getting results like this go a long way. At the end of a long trip like this, coming into a building like this, it’s probably really good for us. You know you’ve got to be extra sharp and the guys were tremendous in front of me. Our special teams were really good tonight and that’s a big key.”
“It’s definitely good for your confidence,” coach Marc Crawford said of beating the defending Western Conference champion Red Wings. “Our goaltender played a very good game, and you always have to have good goaltending playing in an opposition building where Detroit is a very good club. And you look on the other side of it, there was depth to our group tonight. We played four lines, all four lines were good. We were able to play all six defensemen. I thought there weren’t a lot of big mistakes by us tonight. We did a great job of recovering, we did a great job of pursuing, and then we simply were very good in the areas that we had to be in, including the power play and the penalty kill.”
Leading 1-0 heading into the second period, Dallas received a scintillating save from Auld just 1:15 in on a power play, as he slid across the crease to make a pad stop on Ville Leino’s one-timer from the right face-off circle.
Just 40 seconds after Detroit netminder Jimmy Howard, starting his fourth straight game in place of the injured Chris Osgood, made a big save on Steve Ott’s in-close backhander, Dallas pushed their lead to 2-0 on Matt Niskanen’s first goal of the season. Niskanen one-timed a knuckleball from the point that fluttered past a screened Howard, pinged off the far post and in at 3:52.
Robidas and Zetterberg
The Red Wings answered quickly as Henrik Zetterberg, with a spectacular individual effort, scored his fourth goal in his last two games and ninth of the season at 6:16. Zetterberg powered wide around Brad Richards on his backhand in the right circle, then cut into the slot and flipped a quick shot up and over Auld’s shoulder to make it 2-1.
Krys Barch and Detroit veteran Brad May engaged in a pre-meditated fight at 7:21, in a drawn-out, entertaining bout.
Dallas almost restored their two-goal lead with 7:02 remaining in the second while shorthanded, as Jere Lehtinen and Ott sped into the Detroit zone on a 2-on-1 rush. Lehtinen opted to shoot, firing a wrist shot from the right circle that forced Howard to make a difficult blocker save.
Taking a 2-1 lead into the final period, the Stars received a fortunate break. The Red Wings thought they’d tied the game 6:30 into the third, but the Stars dodged a bullet with a questionable call by the officials to wave it off. May retrieved a rebound in front of Auld and flung a backhander from in front that Auld initially seemed to stop, and the whistle blew as if Auld froze the puck.
There was a video review, and upon looking at the replay, May’s shot clearly squeezed between Auld’s skate and the near-side post, resting just over the goal line. They announced in the building that it was no goal, then the referee went back and they appeared to review it again, and again said it was no goal due to the official’s whistle blowing - a good two seconds after the puck was in the net.
“They’ve got enough cameras in buildings nowadays, if they look at it and they think it’s not a goal, it’s not a goal,” Auld said. “I think the biggest thing with it is his intention to blow the whistle, and that’s obviously a judgement call on the ice a ref can make. We probably caught a break there, but we need that.”
Dallas took advantage of their break by capitalizing on a power play late in the period, as Eriksson netted his ninth of the year at 12:43. Neal held the puck in the right corner, then whipped a crisp pass across the top of the crease to Eriksson, who slammed it behind Howard to make it 3-1.
Auld was again called upon to make another important save with 5:13 remaining, snagging Henrik Zetterberg’s uncontested wrist shot from low in the right circle.
Detroit had one more prime chance to chip away at the Dallas lead, just as the Wings pulled Howard for an extra attacker with 59 seconds left. Leino fired a long wrist shot that Auld stopped but dropped a rebound in front. Somehow, though, with half the net open, Auld managed to poke the puck off the oncoming Red Wing Justin Abdelkader and wide.
Auld had to make another save, with 25 seconds on the clock, swallowing up Brian Rafalski’s slap shot with the glove.
“Start to finish, we played a really strong game and really made them work for their chances and we were able to capitalize on ours,” Auld said.
During a brisk, high-tempo first several minutes, Auld made the game’s first good save 3:15 in, flashing out the pad to deny Dan Cleary’s point-blank backhander.
Kronwall and Ribeiro
A prime scoring chance for Mike Modano at 8:30, in which he had a partial breakaway into the left face-off circle but was hooked as he attempted to shoot, led to a Dallas power play and subsequently, the game’s first goal.
Ribeiro netted his sixth goal of the season at 9:26 to put the Stars up 1-0. After streaking into the offensive zone, Ribeiro made a slick move past two Detroit defenders, and deep in the left face-off circle attempted a pass into the middle, but it ricocheted off Red Wing defenseman Jonathan Ericsson’s stick and slid through Howard’s pads.
About five minutes later, while shorthanded, Ribeiro nearly made it 2-0 when he carried into the right circle, then made another nifty move to cut past a defender into the slot before firing a shot ticketed for the upper left corner, but Howard made a big shoulder save.
Later on the same power play opportunity, Pavel Datsyuk had a strong opportunity to tie it, stationed just to the right of the crease, but Auld turned it aside.
Auld made another impressive stop with 1:51 left in the first, thwarting Cleary’s breakaway wrist shot with the blocker.
The Stars return immediately back to the Metroplex to take on the Columbus Blue Jackets Thursday night at the American Airlines Center (7:30 pm start, FSSW). Led by former Stars coach Ken Hitchcock, the Blue Jackets are 11-6-2 this season and sit sixth in the West.
“We’ve very comfortable with how we’re playing,” Crawford said. “We’re still working on the consistency part of it, as our record has shown. We’ve played two games in a row very well, but we’ve had trouble winning two games in a row, so that’s the challenge for us.”
- Eriksson extended his scoring streak to six games, during which he’s registered seven points (four goals, three assists). Eriksson’s four shots on goal co-led the Stars along with Modano.
- Ribeiro, who snapped a six-game goalless streak, now has four points in his last five games (one goal, three assists).
- Richards had gone two games without a point after his eight-game scoring streak ended.
- After going five outings without a point, Niskanen now has reached the scoresheet in consecutive games (one goal, one assist).
Leino and Wandell
- Neal has now collected points in 10 straight games played, during which he’s amassed 15 points (eight goals, seven assists). His official scoring streak stands at just three games, though, representing the stretch since he returned to the lineup following two games on the sidelines with a groin injury.
- With his assist on Eriksson’s goal, Modano now has points in three straight games (two goals, two assists).
- Stephane Robidas earned an assist on Ribeiro’s goal and now has two assists in his last three contests after going scoreless in the previous five. Robidas also led the squad with seven hits and in ice time, at 23:49.
- In his first game back after missing two with a groin injury, and just his sixth of the season overall, Lehtinen looked solid on the wing with Ribeiro and Ott. In 13:06 of ice time, he recorded one shot and blocked one shot.