If this is a harbinger of things to come, then the Dallas Stars look to be in good shape for the 2011-12 season.
Powered by an overwhelming offensive performance from what figures to be the club’s top forward line combination of center Mike Ribeiro, left winger Brenden Morrow and new right winger Michael Ryder, each of whom scored goals, the Stars defeated the Montreal Canadiens 6-3 Tuesday night in their pre-season debut at a sold-out Bell Centre.
“Me and Ribeiro have been together in pre-season pretty much the whole time, and this was the first time we played with Morrow, and I think we clicked well,” said Ryder, who also added an assist. “We had a lot of chances. It’s a good step for us and hopefully, we can get better every game.”
In addition to each member of the top line, Krys Barch, Adam Pardy and prospect Matt Fraser also found the back of the net for Dallas.
In somewhat of a wild, back-and-forth game, the Stars looked simply dominant as they blasted off to a 4-0 lead just four minutes into the second period, but the Canadiens stormed back, cutting it to 4-3 within the next 6:10.
Just when it looked like the Canadiens might steamroll over the Stars, though, Dallas’ power play unit, which started well with a 2-for-2 performance, struck back and restored the two-goal lead later in the period and then clamped down defensively in the third.
“We got off to that good start and then they had a real good push for about 10 minutes in the second there, and then I thought we responded pretty well in the third coming back,” said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. “The power play goal that helped us make it 5-3 gave us some breathing room and I think we played pretty well in the third.”
Several players made their debuts with a Dallas jersey on, and a few had an immediate impact on their fortunes, highlighted by Ryder and Pardy. Defensive-minded center Jake Dowell added an assist, while a few younger players looking to make a positive impression, such as Fraser, winger Tomas Vincour and defenseman Philip Larsen, did just that.
“I thought it was good, and you get a look at your guys with the real bullets flying, you’re not playing against each other any more, so it’s good to see guys in a different light,” said Gulutzan of watching his players battle against live competition for the first time.
After spending the previous three-plus days training in Charlottetown, PEI in Atlantic Canada, the Stars stopped off in Montreal for their first exhibition game against the Canadiens since the Minnesota North Stars relocated to Dallas in 1993.
Morrow put the Stars on the board early, giving Dallas a 1-0 lead just 3:12 into the contest, and demonstrating the top line’s instant chemistry. After Ryder fed Ribeiro in front, Price got a piece of Ribeiro’s initial shot, but the puck trickled behind him in the crease and Morrow pounced on it, ramming it home.
Then, just 42 seconds into the Stars’ first power play of the pre-season, Pardy, who scored just one goal in 30 NHL games last season in Calgary, squeezed a shot between the pads of Montreal starting netminder Carey Price and in at 6:56.
The top line for Dallas struck again just 2:16 later when Ryder connected at 9:12. His goal through Price came on the Stars’ eighth shot of the period and prompted some boos from the restless home crowd of 21,273.
“I like him. He was a guy our scouts liked going into free agency and I agree with them,” Gulutzan said of Ryder. “He’s come in and worked real hard and he’s a great guy and I liked the way he played.”
“I’m still getting used to the system, getting used to the guys,” downplayed the humble Ryder. “This is our first game, so it’s going to take a little adjustment, but I think it’s going well so far and I’m looking forward to trying to help the guys make the playoffs.”
With a 3-0 lead and an 11-4 edge in shots on goal through their first period of action in 2011-12, things couldn’t have gone much better for the Stars.
Early in the second period, Montreal’s Erik Cole rifled a wrist shot past Raycroft, but it clanked off the goalpost.
Dallas then increased their lead to four at 4:04 of the second on a nice bang-bang goal by Barch. Canadiens defenseman Hal Gill controlled the puck in the corner after Montreal won a defensive-zone face-off, but Dowell swooped in and stripped it from him before feeding it out front for Barch, who slammed a point-blank one-timer past Price.
The Canadiens mounted their comeback bid after that, getting one back just 1:32 later on a goal by Cole. Following a Dallas neutral-zone turnover, Cole sped into the Dallas zone on the rush and launched a quick wrist shot past Raycroft.
Andrei Kostitsyn then made it 4-2 when he connected on a power play at 8:31, when he unleashed a quick wrist shot from the left face-off circle that beat Raycroft over the shoulder on the short side.
Surging with momentum, the Canadiens continued to pressure the Stars and hemmed Dallas in its own zone for virtually all of the next 1:43 before former Star Jeff Woywitka blasted a slap shot past Raycroft at 10:14 to cut the Stars’ lead to one.
After that goal, which came just past the halfway point of the game, both teams changed goaltenders, with Beskorowany replacing Raycroft in the Dallas crease and Nathan Lawson relieving Price.
The Stars had a golden opportunity to restore their two-goal lead about two minutes later, when Vincour raced in on a breakaway, but he was unable to beat Lawson.
It wouldn’t be the NHL pre-season without some fisticuffs and this game was no different, as Dallas’ Francis Wathier squared off with Ian Schultz in an entertaining bout at 13:09.
Dallas then struck on the power play again, as Ribeiro’s goal at 16:24, coming just 27 seconds into their second man-advantage of the night, made it 5-3 on a nifty re-direction of a shot from Alex Goligoski.
Dallas maintained their lead in the third period by killing off two third period power plays, before the 21-year-old Fraser scored his first professional goal with 1:43 remaining in regulation to seal the triumph. On the rush into the Montreal zone, Wathier charged the net and fed a short pass over to Fraser, who buried it past Lawson to complete the scoring.
All in all, it was a good start for the Stars and rookie head coach Glen Gulutzan. The Stars now return home to the Metroplex and host their first home pre-season contest on Thursday at the American Airlines Center (7:30 pm start) against the Colorado Avalanche.
“It was our first pre-season game and I think we played well,” said Ryder.
- The Stars’ power play was only on the ice for a grand total of 69 seconds, scoring on both opportunities.
- Newcomer Pardy, who signed with Dallas as a free agent on July 1, led the Stars in ice time with 22:07, while his usual partner much of the night, Goligoski, was second at 21:42.
- Roster hopefuls Larsen, Wathier and center Travis Morin all earned assists. Larsen also registered a +2 plus/minus rating, as did defenseman Nicklas Grossman, Morrow and Ribeiro.
- Raycroft stopped all four shots against him in the first period, then faced a barrage in 10:14 of the second, surrendering three goals on the next seven shots before coming out.
- Beskorowany gave a good showing, denying all eight shots he faced in 29:46.
- Defensively, the Stars’ top pair was Goligoski alongside Pardy, while Larsen usually partnered with Grossman and youngster Brenden Dillon was with Maxim Fortunus.
- The game was delayed a few minutes when the Bell Centre showed a nice video tribute in honor of the multitude of NHLers who passed away during the summer, including former Star defenseman Karlis Skrastins, who was one of 27 members of Lokomotiv Yaroslavl who died in that plane crash in Russia back on Sept. 6.
Wrist shot -