DETROIT - Joe Louis Arena used to be a house of horrors for the Stars. Lately, it's been a little bit of heaven along the Detroit River.
Kari Lehtonen made 38 saves to help the Stars capture their fourth win in the last five visits to "The Joe" with an inspired 4-1 victory over the Detroit Red Wings on Thursday night.
Mike Ribeiro, Loui Eriksson, Krystofer Barch, and Jamie Langenbrunner scored for the Stars, who won for the first time in the last six games to snap a seven-game road losing streak. After entering the game in 10th place in the West, Dallas pushed its point total to 70 with just four days until the NHL trade deadline on Monday.
"They're all huge, and I don't think this one means more than the last one, but it's two points at a time," captain Brenden Morrow said. "It's all about just this one game, and our preparation and focus was just on that. A lot of things come with it. You hope you give management some confidence before the trade deadline, and they believe in the group here. There's a lot of things that come with it, but I think once the puck is dropped you're thinking about just winning that game."
At least for one night, the Stars (32-23-6) were able to plug the hole that caused them to sink from the top of the Pacific Division to the middle of a log-jammed Western Conference playoff race, and righted many things that were going wrong during a 2-10-1 skid.
The Stars were energized from the opening faceoff, and jumped out to a 2-0 first-period lead by outshooting the Central Division leaders by a 12-8 margin. Lehtonen then kept the Red Wings (37-18-6) at bay with 30 stops over the final two periods, and Dallas' 25th ranked penalty killing unit stymied Detroit's fifth-ranked power play by erasing all but one of the Red Wings' six man advantage opportunities.
"We kept them to the outside, and I think that helped a lot," Ribeiro said. "Special teams was big tonight. They had a lot of power plays that could have turned the game around, but we killed them. Once again, our goalie was outstanding, and we scored on our chances. But if we play well defensively, we'll give ourselves a chance to win. We're not going to score five or six goals a game, it’s the tight games that we are going to win."
The Stars also were able to mend some of their offensive woes by scoring more than two goals for just the second time in the last nine games.
"I think we drove the net well, had some bounces go our way, worked hard, and stayed on the puck," Morrow said. "You give that team transition chances, they'll make you pay."
Dallas' banged-up front line was bolstered with the return of Adam Burish and Barch. The duo both came back from facial injuries after missing the past eight games.
Tomas Holmstrom scored on the power play, and Jimmy Howard finished with 21 saves for the Red Wings, who have now dropped two straight after a season-long five-game winning streak.
"It was a real solid effort for us," coach Marc Crawford said. "We had good spirit in the group. I think the return of Burish and Barch helped bring up the enthusiasm of our guys. We were sharp tonight. We did a lot of good things, and played with the proper amount of aggression up front. It was such a desperate win for us, and now it puts us back in a playoff position. We have to keep rolling out performances like this."
Holmstrom spoiled Lehtonen's shutout bid with 3:31 left in regulation when he chipped a backhand over the goalie's left shoulder from the bottom of the right circle.
Langenbrunner sealed the win with an empty-net goal with 1:43 left in regulation.
"It's big but after the Chicago win we felt a little too good and came out flat the next four games," Lehtonen said. "We'll try to be smarter now, and keep doing what we're doing and go from there."
Down 2-0, the Red Wings thought they had cut the Dallas lead in half when defenseman Brian Rafalski ripped a shot past Lehtonen early in the second period on the power play. But the goal was waved off after it was ruled that Holmstrom interfered with Lehtonen on the play.
Barch followed by making it 3-0 midway through the second with his second of the season. On a 2-on-1 rush with Jamie Benn, Barch's pass attempt to Benn in the left circle was blocked by Rafalski, but the puck bounced right back to Barch, and he flicked it in from the slot.
Dallas struck first on Ribeiro's 12th of the season with 3:18 left in the opening frame. Benn started the play with a pass to Morrow at the top of the left circle. Morrow then quickly fed Ribeiro at the side of the Red Wings goal, and the playmaking center jammed the puck into a gaping net for a 1-0 lead.
"I've been looking for those ones because they don't come often," Ribeiro said of his slam dunk. "It was nice to have."
Eriksson upped the lead to 2-0 with a shorthanded goal with 23 seconds to go in the first. After Detroit defenseman Niklas Kronwall failed to keep the puck in at the left point, Eriksson corralled it in the neutral zone and went in on Howard on a partial breakaway. The slick Swede was able to put a nifty deke on the Red Wings' netminder, and deposit the puck in for his 20th of the year.
"We had a real good start, and that was huge," said Alex Goligoski, who picked up his first point as a Star with an assist on Langenbrunner's goal after being acquired form Pittsburgh earlier in the week. "That carried on the whole game, and I think they got a little frustrated."
The Stars return to Dallas to take on the Nashville Predators on Saturday afternoon at American Airlines Center (1 p.m., FS-SW). The Predators have lost three straight, including a 3-0 shutout loss to Chicago on Thursday.
The game will be the final one before the trade deadline.
-- The Stars won their 700th game since moving to Dallas to start the 1993-94 season.
-- Ribeiro's goal snapped the Stars' 83 minute, 9 second scoreless streak dating back to Morrow's third-period tally in Vancouver on Saturday.
-- Lehtonen has started eight of the last nine games.
-- Eriksson reached the 20-goal plateau for the third straight season.
-- Dallas has scored seven times while shorthanded.
-- The Stars were just 2-6-2 in Detroit during a five-season stretch starting in 2002-03.
-- The Stars have beaten Detroit in nine of the past 12 meetings overall.
-- Steve Ott took on the much bigger Jonathan Ericsson in a third-period scrap. Ericsson had a four-inch height advantage, but Ott was able to get a couple of nice shots in a bout that resulted in a draw.
-- Former Stars center Mike Modano missed his 41st game after having his wrist sliced open by a skate during a game in November. He is expected to return Saturday in Detroit's game against the Buffalo Sabres.