It wasn't the exact game the Dallas Stars would have like to have played headed into the holiday break, but I'm sure the team is happy with not only a 6-3 win over Nashville but also their 5-2-0 record since Richard Bachman took over the starting goaltender duties.
Friday's game against the Predators was a sloppy mess at times, with the Stars taking full advantage of a mentally and physically tired team and more importantly taking advantage of the offensive chances they received. This was something the Stars have not been as consistent with at times this season and there's no doubt that the Stars were frustrated at the possibility of giving up yet another 3-0 lead at home.
Instead, the Stars responded to each push by the Predators with momentum-killing goals of their own. There were times the past few seasons that the Stars were on the other side of a game like this, always fighting to come back but giving up demoralizing goals just as the score would get close. It feels good to see the Stars can play this game from the other side, using a killer instinct in a game they desperately needed after a frustrating loss to Philadelphia.
"We were talking that if we could get two points tonight it would be a nice two days we'd have for Christmas where a guy doesn't have to search for answers," coach Glen Gulutzan said. "Those response goals by us really hurt any team, and I think they really hurt Nashville. Those things take a lot of bite out of an attack for an opposing team."
All in all, despite some of the sloppiness at times that allowed the Predators to climb back in the game, it was a great team effort and indicative of many of the games the Stars played earlier in the season. When you have ten different players with points and six with multiple-point nights, then you know it was a good night of hockey in Dallas.
Glen Gulutzan talked a lot after the game about how the Stars were able to keep it simple, create space on the ice and then cash in on those chances when they presented themselves. With the Stars struggling at times to score goals, they've pressed a bit too hard and started looking for the perfect play; against the Predators, the Stars resorted to simplicity and good old fashioned offensive pressure to get the goals they needed.
"We were shooting the puck," Gulutzan said. "We had traffic, a tip in and a couple deflections. Those are the type of goals we need," he said. "We scored a couple pretty ones and a couple ugly ones. We need to score more ugly goals. We always look for the pretty plays. It was nice. That was our battle cry here at the start of the game and it was nice to see it executed."
Despite being outshot 17-8 in the first period and allowing 31 shots through 40 minutes, the Stars actually had a great start to the game and put a lot of pressure on the Predators, coming off an exhausting come-from-behind win the night before. The Stars used three even strength goals in a 3:05 span to blow the game wide open, scoring on three completely different types of plays.
"We knew they played last night, so that was one of our keys...getting on them right away," Vernon Fiddler, who had the first goal for the Stars, said. "The guys were getting the pucks in deep and we played a simple game. When we do that we're going to be a deadly team."
Steve Ott's goal was perhaps most indicative of the night for the Stars, when Mike Ribeiro was able create time and space before handing the puck off to Trevor Daley, who snapped a perfect shot on net for Ott to deflect. For most of the game the Stars were able to find and create space against a very good defensive team, who focused on taking away the middle of the ice and constantly collapsed around their own net.
"It was important for us to have a good start, and I think every line did that," said Ribeiro. "A lot of times, 3-0 is a hard lead, but we were able to get a big goal at the end of the second, and the third period we were just rolling. We came back with big goals at the right time. We were able to stay composed and follow the game plan."
Despite many Stars feeling immense frustration over the first six weeks of the season, Mike Ribeiro is quietly starting to look like his old self on the ice. It's no coincidence that having a pesky Steve Ott and revitalized Brenden Morrow back on his line is helping, but Ribeiro is no longer giving the puck away at incredible level and instead is once again finding great ways to create offense.
With 11 points in his last 10 games, Ribeiro finally seems comfortable on the ice and in this system and was by far the best player on the Stars last night. While Jamie Benn and Loui Eriksson also had big nights of their own -- Benn's goal in the third period was the perfect answer after a Predators score -- it was Ribeiro who was the catalyst for the offense taking off against a very similar Predators team.
Despite some continued struggles by the power play, and the Stars once again finding themselves in penalty trouble at times, it was overall a good team win and something for the Stars to build upon heading into a short break over the holidays.