Those days seem like a long time ago, but the memories persist from when crafty center Mike Ribeiro and captain Brenden Morrow displayed outstanding chemistry to become a dominant offensive line for a Dallas Stars team that advanced to the Western Conference Finals.
The two seem to be back on the same page again in 2010-11, combining for two beautiful goals Saturday night, as the Stars’ offense came alive in an impressive 5-2 victory over the St. Louis Blues at the American Airlines Center.
The Stars are now 2-1-0 in the pre-season.
Morrow scored two goals, with both set up from nifty assists by Ribeiro. Additionally, Dallas hopefuls Aaron Gagnon and Travis Morin, along with defenseman Trevor Daley, also scored for a Stars club that matched their entire offensive output from the first two pre-season games in a span of less than four and a half minutes of the first period.
With newcomer Adam Burish completing the Morrow-Ribeiro line, the trio meshed well and could be very valuable as the club’s second scoring line during the regular season.
“I think the combination was pretty good tonight,” said Morrow, who managed 20 goals and 46 points in 76 games last season. “On both my goals, Burish was driving the net or had already driven the net and was planted in front, and then we all know the plays that Ribs can make with the puck, so it was a good fit. Tonight it worked, it felt good to get rewarded for hard work.”
“Adam Burish, he’s got two good qualities, first he drives the net extremely well and for Ribeiro and for Morrow, creates seams for them,” noted coach Marc Crawford. “And Ribby, I can’t say enough about when he finds seams, how good he is. He and Brenden have obviously played together for a long time, and for Brenden, I think it allows him to find seams more, if he knows somebody’s going to be a net presence, if he knows somebody’s going hard to the net. It was nice tonight. It was good chemistry.”
But it wasn’t all offense. With an opportunity to seize control of the competition for the Stars backup goaltending job, Brent Krahn played the entire game and made 19 saves in a solid outing.
“I thought he was good,” Crawford said. “I thought he made some good saves with his size and showed himself to be big, and I thought he withstood the battles in front of the net, and that was a question for us tonight. He got a really good mark for that. He’s still got a ways to go in his puck-handling ability, for sure.”
“Personally, the first and third period was good for me, the second period, let in two bad goals,” Krahn said of his performance, which included three giveaways behind the net. “I definitely wouldn’t say it’s my best outing, but we got the win, so move on from there, take the positives out of it and work on the negatives and get better.”
It was a pressure situation for Krahn, because it’s probably the only complete game he’ll have in the pre-season to state his case.
“I can’t think like that,” Krahn said. “I put enough pressure on myself as it is, I don’t need to be telling myself this is my last chance. As a human, I don’t think you can operate like that.”
An offensive explosion in the first period that saw the Stars score four goals in a span of 4:26 put them comfortably ahead 4-0 heading into the second.
The Stars struck quickly, breaking open a scoreless game with two goals just 13 seconds apart, just past the midway point of the period.
First, Gagnon notched his second of the pre-season with a fabulous individual effort, picking up the puck after Toby Petersen poked it away from Blues defenseman Erik Johnson along the left sideboards. As Gagnon cut into the slot, he faked out defenseman Brennan Evans, walked around him and roofed a quick wrist shot over the sliding goaltender, Jake Allen, at 10:19.
Pretty much off the ensuing face-off, Dallas got on the attack again and Tomas Vincour received a nice lead pass from Philip Larsen and burst through the Blues defense at the blue line and in on a breakaway. Vincour unleashed a scorching wrist shot from the slot that beat Allen over the glove and hit the crossbar, but the puck dropped down in the crease and as Allen tried to locate it, Morin swooped in and tapped it home.
Dallas made it a 3-0 game when Daley capitalized on a blatant St. Louis giveaway at 13:14. As the Stars pressured the Blues in their own zone, defenseman Nikita Nikitin slid an errant pass right into the high slot, where Daley skated into it and boomed a one-timer that beat Allen over the glove.
Just 1:31 after that, Morrow made it a four-goal Dallas advantage when he received a nice cross-ice pass from Ribeiro and fired a lethal wrister from the high slot that once again beat Allen high over the glove.
The Blues pushed back a bit in the second, cutting into the Dallas lead at 3:35 when Nikitin drilled a slap shot from the left point through a maze of bodies in front and slipped through Krahn.
St. Louis pulled to within two at 7:26 when Stefan Della Rovere collected a long pass from Barret Jackman at the Dallas blue line and slipped into the zone on a partial breakaway. Upon reaching the top of the right face-off circle, Della Rovere whipped a wrist shot that Krahn got a piece of, but it still caught the inside of the far goal post and when in.
The first fight of the night came with 7:46 left in the period when, just seconds after Mark Fistric leveled Della Rovere with a clean hit, the Blues’ Dave Scatchard challenged him and the two squared off.
In a period in which the Stars were outshot 9-3, Krahn came up with some big saves, particularly during a stretch late in the period when he stopped T.J. Oshie’s point-blank wrist shot with 3:53 remaining in the period and then on Patrik Berglund’s rebound chance in front 20 seconds later.
Morrow then notched his second of the night to restore a three-goal Dallas lead with 1:34 to go. After receiving a pretty cross-ice pass from Ribeiro off the rush, Morrow ripped a one-timer from the right circle that beat Allen just inside the near post.
“They were outside of my usual six feet,” joked Morrow of his goal-scorer’s goals. “It does feel good, but both of them just happened. You can’t ask for a better place to be, the passes (Ribeiro) made landed right on the blade. Sometimes, those bounce over your stick, but tonight they worked out. I think all in all, we’re pretty happy with the way things went.”
Any fans who might have run to the concession stands early missed the fight of the pre-season, when Krys Barch dropped the gloves with Blues enforcer Cam Janssen with just five second left in the period. The two exchanged punches for at least a minute before practically collapsing in exhaustion. Wow.
Dallas nearly made it a four-goal lead again just past the halfway point of the final period when Matt Niskanen boomed a slap shot from the right point over Allen’s glove, but it clanked off the crossbar.
“I think we’ve got the ability to be a pretty good offensive club, but we also recognize where our improvement has to come,” Crawford said. “Our improvement has to come in the defensive zone. We’ve focused in on that.”
The Stars will be cutting down their roster to around 30 or so before they take the ice again for their next pre-season contest on Tuesday at Colorado. The AHL guys will report to the Austin suburb of Cedar Park on Monday and the players left will be the ones still in the mix for NHL duty.
“We’ll get our numbers down here tomorrow and be able to put in a good couple of days of practice work and be able to build on things,” Crawford said, “and then those three games next week will hopefully solidify how we’re going to play moving forward.”
- The Stars continue to carry a goose-egg on the power play during the pre-season, going 0-for-5 in this one. They are now 0-for-13 over their first three games
- On the other hand, the Stars have been strong on the penalty kill. The Blues’ first goal came on a power play, and it snapped a 12-for-12 streak to open the pre-season for the Stars’ PK unit. After nullifying the next four St. Louis opportunities, the Stars are 16-for-17 so far in the pre-season.
- Niskanen led all Stars in ice time with 25:58, earned an assist and registered a team-high +3 plus/minus rating in a very strong effort. He also blocked a team-best three shots.