Stars 7, Panthers 1
Thursday, 09.29.2011 / 10:14 PM
As strong as they’ve looked during the pre-season, the Dallas Stars probably wish the regular season would begin immediately.
Several key Stars looked to be in mid-season form already, as Mike Ribeiro
scored a goal and five assists and Alex Goligoski
added a goal and three assists to lead Dallas to a dominating 7-1 triumph over the Florida Panthers Thursday night at the American Airlines Center.
Besides huge nights from Ribeiro and Goligoski, the Stars received contributions from throughout the lineup, as seven different players found the back of the net.
, Stephane Robidas
and Tom Wandell
each registered a goal and an assist, while Loui Eriksson
and Trevor Daley
also scored. Michael Ryder
chipped in with two assists for the Stars, who improved their pre-season record to 5-1-0, during which they’ve been potent offensively, outscoring opponents 25-14.
“It’s always nice to get production from everybody,” said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. “It’s exhibition, but when you have some level of success, I think you get a level of confidence, so those two go hand-in-hand, so it’s nice to get victories.”
“You kind of build as you go, and you want to be playing your best at the end of camp, for sure,” said Goligoski, who’d earned one assist in his first three pre-season appearances. “I think, still finding some things and getting used to the way we’re playing and all that, but it’s good to put a few points up and get a big win and move along.”
In the final pre-season home contest, the Stars rode four third period goals, outshooting the Panthers 17-4, to blow open what had been a tie game in the second to overwhelm their opponent for the second consecutive contest, following a 4-3 win in Florida on Tuesday.
A key component of the offensive eruption was the success of the Dallas power play unit, which was officially 2-for-4, but could really be considered 3-for-4, as they scored another goal just two seconds after a penalty expired, before the Florida player could get back into the play.
“When we do get it’s going, it’s been really good,” said Goligoski, who has been a major reason for its success. “It’s good to see, everyone’s on the same page out there. I like it.”
Besides all the offense, another important element to the Stars’ success has been the consistently strong goaltending.
was outstanding once again, as he has been throughout the pre-season, stopping 22-of-23 shots through two periods of play, including two first period breakaways when the game was still scoreless. Prospect Richard Bachman
manned the crease in the third period and also looked good, although he didn’t face much action, stopping all four shots he faced.
“Huge,” Gulutzan said of Lehtonen’s performance. “We did shootouts the other day in practice and he didn’t let one in. From a coaching perspective, that makes you feel pretty good.”
“Overall, I think the power play did well, I think our goaltending was once again strong when we needed it and it just happened to go in when I gave guys the puck,” said Ribeiro of the big night. “It’s easier to give the puck than scoring. We played hard there and we knew they’d play hard here.”
Entering the second period scoreless, the Stars struck quickly to take a 1-0 lead just 1:34 in. As Steve Ott
controlled the puck drifting backwards into the right corner, he fed a slick cross-ice pass into the left face-off circle, where Ribeiro, fresh off the bench on a line change, rifled a scorching wrist shot that beat Florida goaltender Jose Theodore just inside the near-side post.
Dallas found itself in penalty trouble, going down two men for 47 seconds when Philip Larsen
was whistled for a questionable cross-checking penalty at 8:11.
Lehtonen made a big save on Tomas Fleischmann at 8:50, but just three seconds after Nicklas Grossman
returned to the ice, Panther rookie Jonathan Huberdeau tied it at 9:01. Dmitry Kulikov controlled the puck in the high slot and fed a pass to Huberdeau stationed just off the right goalpost and the third overall draft pick in June’s Entry Draft chipped it past Lehtonen’s pad and in.
It took the Stars just 30 seconds to respond, as Goligoski notched his first goal of the pre-season at 9:31, launching a wrist shot from the left point that founds its way through a maze of legs and past a screened Theodore to make it 2-1.
“I had a talk with Goose yesterday and he’s kind of like a Mustang or a Corvette out there, he needs to get his engine revved up a bit,” Gulutzan said. “I think the more games he plays, you’re going to see Goose going and I think that’s just the beginning tonight for him.”
Dallas pushed the lead to 3-1 on Robidas’ goal with 2:30 remaining in the period. Ribeiro fed the puck from the right half-boards into the high slot, where Robidas drilled a one-timer past Theodore’s blocker.
Leading 3-1 heading into the final period, Gulutzan opted to replace Lehtonen with Bachman in goal, and it took the youngster just over a minute to make his first big save, getting his glove on a snap shot from the top of the left face-off circle by David Booth.
Dallas had the best opportunity on an early Florida power play, as Ott took advantage of a poor Panthers line change at 3:28. Drifting into the high slot all alone, Ott received a pass from the left sideboards by Radek Dvorak
and attempted a deke, but the puck rolled off his stick and under Theodore’s pads.
Eriksson put the Stars ahead 4-1 at 6:39, firing a low wrist shot from the slot just inside the left post after receiving a nice pass from Fiddler in the right circle.
The Stars continued the onslaught with Fiddler’s first goal in a Dallas uniform at 11:16, coming just two seconds after a Stars power play expired. Ryder drilled a one-timer from the left circle that Theodore stopped, but the rebound ricocheted right out front, where Fiddler banged it home into the open side of the net.
“As you can see, Rydes didn’t score that one, but that shot puts goalies back on their heels and Fidds was the beneficiary of that,” Gulutzan said. “It was a good night for those guys confidence-wise.”
“We know each other, we played for five or six years together,” Ribeiro said of the uncanny chemistry he shares with Ryder, his linemate years ago in Montreal. “I think for him, the last few years, he didn’t really have someone to pass him the puck, so now he knows it’s coming, so he makes sure he’s ready to shoot.”
It took the Stars just 20 seconds of 5-on-3 power play time to convert again and make it 6-1, when Daley scored with 5:45 remaining on a blistering slap shot from the right point that sailed over a screened Theodore’s shoulder.
Wandell finished off the scoring with just 1:36 remaining. After Ryder won a battle for the puck in the left corner, he fed a pass into the slot for Ribeiro, who niftily slipped a short pass up to Wandell cruising in front, and Wandell lifted a backhander over Theodore’s pad for his first goal of the pre-season.
“Wandell, he had a chance to play with us and fore-checked well and skated well, he did a lot of good things out there,” said Ribeiro of his line combination with Ryder and Wandell. “It’s just good for his confidence, now that he scored a goal. A lot of times the pressure goes down and now he can play a little bit more loose.”
The contest’s only fight occurred with just 1:02 remaining, after Mark Fistric
leveled Florida’s Matt Bradley with a clean check along the boards and Bradley got up and challenged Fistric.
The Stars had the game’s first prime scoring chance 4:17 in, when Ott carried the puck into the Florida zone on the rush, made a nifty move to slip past Panthers defenseman Keaton Ellerby into the slot, and his backhander beat Theodore low to the far side, but pinged off the left goalpost.
Lehtonen came up big on the Panthers’ first Grade A opportunity, making an outstanding pad save on Kris Versteeg’s wrist shot on a breakaway at 12:42.
Theodore matched that stop at the other end less than two minutes later when he denied Ribeiro’s point-blank snap shot before smothering the loose rebound. The two, former teammates in Montreal almost a decade ago, shared a laugh after the whistle.
Lehtonen stopped another breakaway with 1:15 remaining in the period to keep the contest scoreless. Immediately after Theodore stopped Trevor Daley
’s wrist shot from deep in the right face-off circle, the Panthers sprung Jack Skille on a breakaway, and Lehtonen got his blocker on Skille’s backhand attempt.
The Stars finish up their pre-season schedule with a Saturday afternoon contest in St. Louis (1:30 pm start) before preparation begins for the regular season opener on Oct. 7 at home against Chicago.
With the way they’ve performed over the last two weeks and how quickly they’ve absorbed Gulutzan’s system, it looks like the club’s confidence is soaring and the team is well on its way to being ready for the games to count for real.
“The improvement we’ve made since we got here, everyone’s buying in, everyone’s concentrating on the same things and it’s translating,” Goligoski said. “We’ve got great goaltending and defensively, we’ve been pretty good. We’re sticking to the game plan and we’re all on the same page and doing things the right way. That’s ideally what you want.”
- Eriksson, who now has three goals and five points in four pre-season games, left the ice about midway through the third period after taking a hard hit from Ellerby in the corner and did not return.
“I hope he’s okay,” Gulutzan said, echoing the sentiments of Stars fans. “I talked to him after, he said, ‘Yeah, I’m fine,’ probably just the combination of the wind and a little bit of a bruise on the leg, but he seemed fine after the game.”
- His six-point night leaves Ribeiro with a league-leading 10 points (two goals, eight assists) on the pre-season. He also posted a +4 plus/minus rating in just 14:50 of ice time, giving him a +7 mark overall for the pre-season.
- In addition to his three points, Goligoski registered a ridiculous +5 on the night.
- Wandell notched his first points of the pre-season and was +3, while also finishing with a game-high six shots on goal.
- Lehtonen has now allowed just two goals on 97 shots during the pre-season for an other-worldly .979 save percentage.