VANCOUVER – To receive secondary scoring is always a bonus, but to have consistent success the Dallas Stars must rely on their big boys to contribute in a large way. Against the best team in the Western Conference, they did just that.
The Stars (36-26-5) won their fifth straight on the road to cap a three-game swing through western Canada, and extended their points streak to eight games (7-0-1). In doing so, they took sole possession of first place in the Pacific Division with 77 points, two in front of Phoenix and three ahead of San Jose.
“We just stuck with our game plan and kept pushing forward,” Ribeiro said. “It’s a team concept right now, and everyone’s doing the right thing.”
Dallas’ top guns were on full display in yet another gritty effort by a team that is getting more energized with each victory. Ribeiro and Eriksson put the dagger into the Canucks’ heart the last time these two teams met last month in Dallas when Ribeiro sent that game into overtime with a late third-period goal, and Eriksson won it in the extra session. This time around, the duo erased a deficit with late second-period goals nearly three minutes apart to give the Stars a lead they never relinquished heading into the final stanza.
“We won a lot of battles along the boards,” Ribeiro said. “If you keep teams to two or three goals your chances of winning increases, and we’ve been playing well defensively.”
After Benn put Dallas up 3-1 early in the third with his 19th of the season with a wrist shot from the left circle, the Canucks came within a goal when Alexander Edler scored at 7:55 of the final frame. But Ryder and Ribeiro combined for a simply spectacular goal to restore the Stars’ two-goal edge and send the Canucks to their second straight loss.
Down the right wing, Ryder skipped around Daniel Sedin’s hip check along the boards and fed Ribeiro, who was streaking to the net before tapping in the slick pass with 8:49 to go.
“I thought (Ribeiro) was real good and real engaged,” coach Glen Gulutzan said. “He made some great plays. You just can’t ask for more…guys really battled at the end of a road trip. We have to keep moving forward and stay on the grind here.”
Not to be outdone, rookie Richard Bachman provided another stellar effort between the pipes. He finished with 29 saves to move to 8-3-1 on the year while giving workhorse starter Kari Lehtonen a much-needed night off.
The Stars put the game away when they killed off a late third-period penalty -- allowing just one shot over the final minute of that infraction when Vancouver pulled goalie Roberto Luongo for a 6-on-4 advantage -- and Robidas iced it with a lengthy empty-net goal with just four ticks left on the clock.
Bachman picked up an assist on the tally.
“I try not to think about the standings too much before we play,” Bachman said. “I try to get that out of my head because that won’t help me out there. I actually felt some jitters because it was the first NHL game I started in Canada, and the atmosphere was amazing. But after the first period I really felt comfortable. The defense is doing an awesome job, and really helping us out. Every guy is doing the little things, and we’re getting timely goal scoring from our big players. Everything’s coming together at the right time.”
“(Bachman) made some big saves for us,” Gulutzan said. “He’s a real character kid, and he handles pressure really well.”
Chris Higgins added a goal and assist, and Luongo finished with 24 saves for the Canucks (41-18-8).
“We have to outwork other guys and other teams and make sure we sustain a good forecheck,” Mark Fistric said. “That gives us the best chance of winning.”
After a scoreless first period, the Canucks struck first when Higgins notched his 13th of the season 6:45 into the middle frame. Jannik Hansen chipped the puck up to Higgins in the neutral zone, and Higgins lugged the puck down the right wing and into the Dallas zone before unleashing a snap shot from the top of the right circle that eluded Bachman.
Eriksson tied it at 1 with 3:16 left in the second with his 23rd of the season while the Stars were on the power play. After whipping a cross-ice pass to Trevor Daley at the right point, Eriksson went to the net while Daley moved into the right circle. Daley then sent a pass to the front of the net, and the puck deflected in off Eriksson’s skate.
Ribeiro then gave the Stars their first lead of the game, 2-1, with just 23 seconds left in the second. Off a 2-on-1 rush with Ryder, Ribeiro decided to shoot rather than pass, and his wrist shot from the inner part of the left circle whistled in over Luongo’s right shoulder.
“You want to get as many points as you can, and we got them all on this road trip,” Benn said. “We’re playing a solid, team game and everyone’s buying in. That’s what you need.”
Just 24 seconds in Canucks winger Zack Kassian was awarded a penalty shot after he was impeded in his pursuit of a loose puck in the Dallas zone by Fistric. Kassian, though, was foiled when he lost control of the puck while attempting to deke Bachman.
“I didn’t see where the puck went, and I think we all kind of lost it,” Fistric said. “I just tried to stay with him…I didn’t think he had possession of the puck or anything. It’s a tough call, but we went from there.”
The Stars return home to start a short two-game homestand on Thursday at American Airlines with a key meeting with the Sharks (7:30 p.m., FS-SW+). San Jose has dropped five of their last six after a shootout loss to Edmonton Tuesday night.
-- Daley missed over 14 minutes of the first period after he was helped off the ice following a pileup in front of Bachman. Daley was first tied up with Daniel Sedin before Alex Burrows fell on top of him while Bachman was trying to freeze the puck in the crease. Daley was able to return for the start of the second period.
-- Ryder extended his points streak to seven games.
-- Eriksson has 11 points in his last seven games.
-- Ribeiro has points in 10 of his last 11 games (5-10-15).
-- These two teams will play two more times before the month is over.
-- It was the first win for Dallas in the past six trips to Vancouver. The Stars have now defeated the Canucks two straight times for the first time since January/February 2009.
-- The Stars are 7-2-2 in their last 11 road games, and improved to 18-14-2 overall away from home this season.
-- The Stars improved to 9-0-1 against Canadian-based teams this season.