DALLAS -Mike Ribeiro certainly has a flair for the dramatic.
After enduring the longest goal-scoring slump of his career, failing to find the back of the net through the first 16 games this season, Ribeiro came through in the clutch, scoring the tying goal with 2:06 remaining in regulation and then connecting for the game-winner in overtime to lead the Dallas Stars to an exciting 5-4 victory over the San Jose Sharks Saturday night at the American Airlines Center.
With two goals just 29 seconds apart, the Stars erased a 4-2 deficit late in the third period to send the game into OT, where Ribeiro’s beautiful move less than three minutes in lifted the club to its fifth straight home triumph and second in a row overall.
After captain Brenden Morrow outmuscled a Shark defender behind the net, the puck slid out to the left side of the net, where Ribeiro picked it up. On his backhand, skated across the top of the crease to the right side of the crease, inducing San Jose netminder Antti Niemi to go down, and Ribeiro lifted it over him and just inside the far post.
“We put the puck deep there and got in on the forecheck,” Ribeiro said of the play. “Brenden won his battle behind the net and just threw the puck in front. But it’s the team. It’s two points and it feels good to come back like that, it was a 4-2 game, so to come back and win, I think it’s a big boost for the team.”
In the first meeting with their Pacific Division rivals this season, and their fourth in a row with a divisional foe, the Stars earned some important points in the standings, raising their record to 10-7-0 overall and 3-4-0 within the Pacific.
“Those are fun to be a part of,” coach Marc Crawford said of the dramatic comeback. “It’s a character-builder, because we stuck with it. Whether it’s just sheer guts and determination by a handful of players or just collectively, at the end of the day, we found a way and that is huge for our team. If you look at the alternative, that’s no fun and winning is.”
In addition to Ribeiro’s two goals, James Neal also scored two and added an assist and Brad Richards contributed one goal and two assists. Both Morrow and Loui Eriksson chipped in with two assists.
Kari Lehtonen, making his 15th start in 17 games, was solid in net when he had to be, making 35 saves on the night.
The Stars continued their recent Jekyll and Hyde-type run of performances, but this time instead of good game followed by sub-par game, it happened within the same contest. After jumping out to an early 2-0 lead just 7:30 in, Dallas ended up surrendering four unanswered goals to the Sharks and trailed 4-2 with less than three minutes remaining in regulation before clawing their way back.
“I think those two points are very valuable for us,” said defenseman Stephane Robidas, who earned an assist and registered a +2 plus/minus rating on the night. “Any time you’re down in a game and you come back late in the third and you win in overtime, it’s always big.
“It was a lot of momentum swings. That’s not exactly the way we want to play, you would like to play a good 60 minutes, but sometimes, things don’t always go your way and you’ve got to find a way to win games and I think that’s what we did tonight. I think that’s what we need to remember, that we got enough scoring that we can come back in games. We just got to stick with it and play as a team and when we play as a team, we can do some great things.”
And for the second straight game, the Stars were the beneficiary of the NHL’s video review system, as a video replay overturned what was initially ruled a San Jose goal at 7:51 of the third period that would have put the Sharks up 5-2. Then on Ribeiro’s tying goal with 2:06 left, it took a lengthy video review to determine that the puck did indeed go in the net on a play that was not deemed a goal on the ice by the officials.
Trailing 3-2 entering the final period, the Stars still had to kill off the remaining 2:37 of Neal’s high-sticking double-minor. They managed to do so, but San Jose maintained the momentum, nearly scoring just as their power play ended when Dan Boyle’s booming slap shot from the left point beat Lehtonen over the shoulder but pinged off the crossbar and out of play.
The Sharks then upped their advantage to two at 6:27 when Patrick Marleau notched his eighth of the season. He started the play with a wrist shot through a screen from the left face-off circle that Lehtonen stopped, but the rebound bounced in front and rattled around a few skates before it spit out to the right side of the crease. That’s where Marleau, who swept around the net, picked it up and fired it just inside the right post.
San Jose thought they’d gone up 5-2 just 1:24 later when Marleau, standing in the slot, deflected Marc-Edouard Vlasic’s wrist shot from the left point past Lehtonen. As the Sharks celebrated, replays showed Marleau’s stick up around his shoulder when he touched the puck and after a lengthy video review, the goal was correctly waved off.
“I thought it was kind of close,” Marleau said. “They had a good goal on the ice, but I don’t know if the video proved otherwise. It must have.”
As the period wore on, the Stars began to pour on the pressure again and the fact that the Sharks were playing their third game in four nights, all in different cities, became apparent.
Dallas then struck twice within 29 seconds to even it back up. First, Neal collected his second goal of the night and seventh of the season with 2:35 remaining. Occupying space and a defender in front, Neal was in the right place at the right time so when Richards fed a pass out from behind the net, it pinballed off Neal’s foot and between Niemi’s pads to make it 4-3.
On the next shift, on a play very similar to the game-winner, Jamie Benn and Morrow won battles for the puck behind the net and managed to get the puck out front, where Ribeiro charged into the crease and chipped a wrist shot over the prone Niemi just inside the far goal post. The play was not originally deemed a goal, because the puck bounced out quickly and Niemi immediately smothered it in the crease, but following another video review, it was clear the puck did enter the net.
“We deserved some bounces, I think we put the first three in from them off our feet or off our sticks,” Morrow said. “We deserved some breaks, we kept working hard, we stayed with it and got some bounces. And we knew (San Jose), it was their third in fourth and we just wanted to keep pressuring strong on the forecheck and I think it took til the last five minutes of the third period before we started getting some good chances. We kept our feet moving, we drew some penalties and got some goals.”
Ribeiro almost won it in regulation when he spied a loose puck sitting under Niemi’s pads in the crease with 20 seconds left and jammed it in, but the whistle was blown at the same moment, because the referee behind the net lost sight of the puck, so it was emphatically waved off.
“I think he was in the motion to whistle and if he’s in the motion to whistle and the puck goes in, I think it’s the ref’s decision,” Ribeiro said. “I don’t think he could see it, it was just under the goalie, he was behind the net, I don’t think he could see it.”
The Stars started quickly, benefitting from a fortunate bounce at 5:15 of the opening period to get on the scoreboard. Neal’s wide shot took a strange ricochet off the glass behind the net and with Niemi at the left post, Richards swept in and stuffed it inside the right post for his ninth goal of the season.
Just 2:15 later, with the Stars on their first power play of the night, Neal notched his first of the game with a nifty deflection in front, re-directing Richards’ blast from the point between Niemi’s pads and in.
On the very next shift, San Jose rookie Mike Moore leveled Steve Ott with an open ice hit, prompting the contest’s first fight as Mark Fistric subsequently challenged Moore and the two dropped the gloves.
Dallas’ top line continued to generate chances, as Eriksson stepped out from behind the net for a point-blank backhander that Niemi stopped with 3:12 left in the period. Niemi also made a nice sliding save on Neal’s shovel one-timer in front with 2:04 to go.
San Jose pulled to within one with 1:19 remaining in the period after Scott Nichol received a long lead pass from Jason Demers and slipped behind Fistric into the right circle before firing a wrist shot over Lehtonen’s glove.
“Had we lost this game, we were going to be a mad group, because in some ways, we did make some mistakes,” Crawford said. “The big mistake for us was at the end of the first period, one of the best periods of the year for us, so complete and then we had the bad shift at the end of the period, where our defense didn’t talk, didn’t read a simple rush and they get a great scoring chance and get some life off of it.”
With Dallas up 2-1 heading into the second, some further bad blood boiled over just 19 seconds in after Benn leveled Sharks star Joe Thornton, then had to fend off a fight challenge from Devin Setoguchi.
The Sharks evened it up at 10:21 of the second on Joe Pavelski’s sixth goal of the year. Lehtonen made a stop through traffic on Boyle’s slap shot from the point, but he lost sight of the rebound as it fell to the right of the crease, and Pavelski scooped it up, circled the net and slid it into the crease, where it banked off Trevor Daley’s skate and in.
A little over a minute and a half later, the third fight of the night took place as Krys Barch squared off with Jamal Mayers.
Just 41 seconds after the fight and 2:16 after the previous goal, Logan Couture put San Jose ahead with his eighth goal. Following a Karlis Skrastins turnover in the Dallas zone, Couture ended up with the puck in the left corner and slid a pass in front intended for Pavelski, but it bounced off Matt Niskanen’s stick and rolled past Lehtonen.
The rough stuff continued with 5:46 left in the period as the players waited in the face-off circle, when Richards ended up in a scuffle with Torrey Mitchell. That ended up to be a bad trade-off for the Stars, as each player was assessed 10 minute misconducts, and Crawford was not happy about how it occurred.
“Their guy came out right for the face-off and went right to him, so had everything been seen, it was at a whistle, Mitchell should have been thrown out of the game,” Crawford said. “As it was, there was an altercation, I guess that’s the rule, you get 10 minute misconducts. They didn’t catch that Mitchell had started it, but it was very clear on the video that Mitchell comes off the bench. Brad’s actually waiting below the face-off circle. Here’s a guy who was a Lady Byng candidate (last season and won the award in 2004 for ‘Most Gentlemanly Play’) and he knows he’s so valuable to us on the ice, the last thing he wants to do is be off for 10 minutes and it ended up being very detrimental to us. At least one thing, Brad was very fresh and we used him a lot in the third period.”
Tom Wandell stepped into Richards’ spot on the top line and on the next shift fired a tricky wrist shot from the slot that Niemi made a nice shoulder stop on.
Then, with Dallas on a late power play, the Sharks nearly went up by two when Nichol stripped Niskanen of the puck at the San Jose blue line and took off with Marleau on a 2-on-1 rush. Marleau received Nichol’s pass in the slot and beat Lehtonen with a high wrist shot, but it clanked off the crossbar and out of play.
After that, still on the power play, the Stars maintained offensive pressure for most of the rest of it and then for a good minute after it expired, but were unable to score. Ribeiro fired just over an open net from a sharp angle, and Niemi made strong saves on Robidas and Morrow.
Then, with the Sharks on the power play following Neal’s four-minute high-sticking penalty, Dallas almost tied it again with 29 seconds left in the second, as Adam Burish and Wandell sped into the San Jose zone on the rush. Burish fed the charging Wandell, whose in-close wrist shot appeared to deflect off the knob of Niemi’s stick, then off the left goal post before rolling across the crease and just past the right post.
The Stars have a chance to complete their three-game homestand Saturday with a perfect record if they can defeat Colorado (7 pm start, TXA-21), who thoroughly dominated Dallas in a 5-0 win back on Nov. 6. The players certainly recall that contest and are determined to make amends.
“It’s a big win. We’re all happy with what we did tonight, but we got a big game coming up Saturday against Colorado,” Robidas said. “They beat us 5-0 in their building last time and we got to remember that. It’s a conference rival and we got to be better for that game Saturday night.”
- The victory moves the Stars’ record in overtime games to a perfect 4-0 - two wins in OT, two in the shootout. The triumph was also the first time this season the Stars won when trailing after two periods, improving to 1-5-0.
- Neal recorded his first three-point game of the season and now has five points (two goals, three assists) in the last three contests. Neal also fired a career-high eight shots on goal to lead all players in that category.
- Richards’ three-point night gives him goals in three straight outings, along with three assists in that span.
- Robidas’ assist allowed him to snap a four-game point drought. He also logged a game-high 31:39, almost exactly half of the contest and almost a full 10 minutes more than Eriksson’s second-place 22:00 among Stars.
- Defenseman Jeff Woywitka, for the fourth straight contest and ninth time in the last 10, sat out as a healthy scratch, as did forward Brian Sutherby, for the second consecutive game.
- Dallas went 1-for-4 on the power play after going 1-for-15 in the previous four games and nullified all five San Jose power plays.