The Dallas Stars surpassed four goals for the second straight game as Jamie Benn scored two goals and Loui Eriksson contributed three assists to lead the Stars to a 5-2 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes Sunday afternoon at the RBC Center.
After scoring 10 goals in their previous four games, the Stars have erupted for 12 in the last two, following up their wild 7-6 overtime triumph over Colorado at home Friday night with a more complete performance in this one.
“I thought the guys did a lot of that themselves,” said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan of the way his team bounced back from a somewhat sloppy outing on Friday. “We talked about the video session and everyone was waiting to see it, but we never showed them anything from last game, we let them watch themselves and self-correct it themselves, and I think that’s where you get good learning to take place and it translated here today.”
In the first stop on a four-game Eastern Conference road trip, the Stars put together a solid effort, excelling at both ends of the ice on the way to their third straight win, improving their season record to 10-3-0, tops in the Pacific Division and first in the West, at least temporarily.
“It’s always fun to win,” said Eriksson. “We needed to, and it’s always nice to play with the confidence like we’re doing right now. This was a really good start for this road trip, so we’ll keep going from here.”
In the only meeting between the clubs this season, the Stars’ forward line combination of Benn, Eriksson and Ryder, who also recorded three points (one goal, two assists), dominated the contest.
Clearly, that line, especially the duo of Benn and Eriksson, has begun to develop some outstanding chemistry among them.
“It seems like we’re getting to know each other better and better as we go along here,” Eriksson said.
“We got two real cerebral players, they just kind of feed off each other and they think the game so well,” added Gulutzan. “Loui’s been underrated for years in the NHL, I think, and you got two smart guys playing together and they’re having a good streak right now.”
Goaltender Kari Lehtonen bounced back from a somewhat ordinary outing Friday night with a strong performance in this one, stopping 30 shots as he improved his record to 10-1-0 on the season.
“Like we’ve said, he’s going to show the league that he’s one of the top netminders, I’m pretty confident of that,” Gulutzan said of Lehtonen. “That was important for him, good to get right back in the saddle if you’re a little off. It was a good game for him.”
If there was a negative in the game for the Stars, it was the fact that they put Carolina on the power play nine times, accounting for both Hurricane goals, although Dallas did get one while short-handed.
“We played really hard and got the two points, that’s what it’s all about,” said Eriksson. “We maybe took too many penalties today, but Kari had a good game.”
One game after the Stars went 3-for-6 on the power play and scored another just as a penalty expired, Dallas’ man-advantage unit converted 1-of-3.
“I thought that our power play got us a timely goal,” said Gulutzan of Robidas’ goal that put Dallas up 2-0 late in the first period. “They did a good job on their power play, I thought our penalty kill could have done a better job to prepare for them, but they did a real good job. The rest of the time, 5-on-5, I thought we were pretty solid.”
The Stars started off strong and never let up, putting the Hurricanes back on their heels right from the start.
Nystrom scored for the second straight game, putting the Stars up 1-0 just 5:20 into the opening period. On the rush into the Carolina zone, Vernon Fiddler slid a nifty backhand pass from the middle over to Nystrom in the left face-off circle, where he rifled a wrist shot over Hurricanes goaltender Cam Ward’s glove and in.
Eriksson nearly made it 2-0 at 10:14 when his wrist shot from the high slot through a screen went off Ward’s glove and bounced through the crease, just missing the left goalpost.
Dallas’ suddenly lethal power play struck 43 seconds into the first man-advantage opportunity, as Robidas notched his second goal in as many games at 12:55. Mike Ribeiro set it up by carrying the puck deep into the right face-off circle before saucering a nifty pass back to Robidas at the point, and Robidas blasted a one-timer that sailed through a screen over Ward’s shoulder.
Carolina answered just 23 seconds after that, however, as Chad LaRose scored just nine seconds into a Hurricane power play. Jeff Skinner’s wrist shot from the top of the right circle was deflected in the slot by Eric Staal and Lehtonen made a nice pad save, but LaRose was right there for the rebound, burying it at 13:18.
Dallas extended its lead to 3-1 on Benn’s first of the afternoon with just 27.8 seconds left in the period. Eriksson made a slick behind-the-back backhand pass from behind the net out front to Benn, who jammed it through Ward’s pad and in.
Entering the second period holding a 3-1 lead, the Stars ended up getting the period’s first good scoring chance at 2:45 when Ribeiro curled out from behind the Carolina net into the slot, but Ward stopped his point-blank backhander.
Ryder made it 4-1 Dallas at 3:48 after an outstanding play by Eriksson, who stripped Carolina defenseman Derek Joslin of the puck behind the net. A short pass out front found Ryder, who chipped it over Ward and in for his fourth goal of the season.
That prompted Carolina to pull Ward, who had stopped 10-of-14 shots, and replace him with veteran backup Brian Boucher.
Lehtonen made a sparkling save on Tuomo Ruutu’s point-blank snap shot about a minute later to maintain the Stars’ three-goal advantage.
The Stars almost got another one at 11:05 when Benn and Eriksson raced into the Carolina zone on a 2-on-1 rush. After faking a shot from the left circle, Benn fed a pass across to Eriksson in the right circle, but Boucher turned aside Eriksson’s fluttering misfire.
An almost identical play led to Benn’s second goal of the afternoon to make it 5-1 with two minutes left in the second. With Carolina on the power play, Eriksson was able to chip the puck past LaRose at the Dallas blue line, allowing Eriksson and Benn to charge into the Hurricanes’ zone on another 2-on-1. This time, it was Eriksson carrying into the high slot before sliding a pass over to Benn in the right circle, and Benn’s booming one-timer beat Boucher over the shoulder.
“It’s always nice to score those,” said Eriksson of the club’s third short-handed goal of the season. “I saw the puck go around the corner there and we got a 2-on-1, and it was a good shot by Bennie.”
Carolina got one back on its next power play, as Ruutu connected at 2:03 of the final period. After receiving the puck along the right sideboards, Ruutu cut across the top of the right circle into the high slot before unleashing a quick wrist shot that found its way through several bodies in front and past Lehtonen.
Lehtonen came up with a huge stop with 4:25 remaining in regulation when he made a nice pad save on Staal’s slick wrist shot from the right circle to keep the Stars comfortably in front.
The Stars continue the trip Tuesday night in Washington (6 pm, FSSW) to face Alex Ovechkin and the Southeast Division-leading Capitals, who currently sport a stellar 9-3-0 record.
“I think our guys are really working hard to want to get better,” said Gulutzan. “You have to remember that last year they missed the playoffs by one point, so they have something to prove. For me as a new coach, it’s been easy going in that locker room when you’ve got 20 hungry guys. And the seven new guys that we brought in here that weren’t here, they’ve contributed to our character and obviously to all elements of our game. We’re a confident group right now and I think that’s half the battle.”
- Benn now has a five-game scoring streak, having compiled eight points (two goals, six assists) over that span. He also posted a +3 plus/minus rating and his three shots on goal tied Eriksson for the team high.
- Eriksson’s second straight three-point performance leaves him with eight points (three goals, five assists) over his last four outings.
- Ryder’s three points marked the second game in a row he reached the scoresheet multiple times, giving him five points (one goal, four assists) in the last two contests.
- Souray’s two assists, in his third consecutive two-point game, leaves him with six points (two goals, four assists) over that span.
- Nystrom’s goal was his third in the last four games, after he totaled four in 82 games all of last year with Minnesota.
- Robidas scored for the second straight game and now has four points (two goals, two assists) in the last two games after registering just one assist through the season’s first 11. He also led the squad with four blocked shots.
- Fiddler’s assist on Nystrom’s goal marked the fourth consecutive game he’s recorded a point, matching a career-high, as he’s compiled five points (two goals, three assists) over that stretch.
- Gritty forward Steve Ott missed his second straight game with a lower body injury, while defenseman Adam Pardy and forward Jake Dowell sat out as healthy scratches.
- Dallas is now 2-0-0 against Eastern foes this year after registering an 11-5-2 mark against the East last season.
- The Stars have now posted a 17-5-4 road record when playing the Hurricanes franchise, which includes their days as the Hartford Whalers prior to 1996-97.
1 - 0 DAL
2 - 0 DAL
2 - 1 DAL
3 - 1 DAL
4 - 1 DAL
5 - 1 DAL
5 - 2 DAL