The importance of starting on the right note in what will be an intense playoff chase after a lengthy All-Star break was not lost on the Dallas Stars. An authoritative 6-2 win over the Anaheim Ducks was their answer to that.
Eric Nystrom, Vernon Fiddler, Jamie Benn, Michael Ryder, Sheldon Souray and Stephane Robidas all scored in what the Stars hope will be their first step toward their ultimate goal of qualifying for the post season. The win gives Dallas 54 points in 49 games and leaves them just one behind 8th place Minnesota (50 games played) with three head to head matchups remaining.
In the early going it looked as though the events of Dallas' last visit to Honda Center might repeat themselves, or else reciprocate what happened at American Airlines Center eight nights ago when a fluky bounce gave the less deserving team a 1-0 lead heading into the first intermission, but the Stars responded authoritatively.
The Stars' third line was scored on three times in the their last visit to Anaheim, but this time it was they who answered with a rebound goal from Eric Nystrom to tie things at one, and then an unassisted Vernon Fiddler goal put the Stars on top 2-1.
Lubomir Visnovsky, in a bit of a role reversal, was victimized on the Fiddler goal and then was victimized again on a play that eventually sprung Jamie Benn for the eventual game winner. The All-Star was the most accurate shooter in Ottawa last weekend and he didn't miss on this opportunity either, putting the Stars up for good at 3-1 heading into the first intermission as he capped three goals for the good guys in just 3:54.
Bruce Boudreau chose to leave Jonas Hiller, who played in Phoenix last night, in at that point. It was the first time Hiller had given up more than two goals in 10 games.
Anaheim played a strong second period as they earned two power play opportunities and out-shot the Stars 13-7, but an early power play goal from Stephane Robidas equaled the Ducks' output in the frame and the lead remained two headed into the third.
Sheldon Souray and Michael Ryder goals, both assisted by Jamie Benn, would seal the deal for the Stars in the third along with some key saves from Kari Lehtonen down the stretch to keep the Ducks at arms length throughout.
It's a big statement win for the Stars, who now travel to San Jose to take on the vaunted Sharks tomorrow night at 9:30pm CST and we'll have all the coverage for you here at Defending Big D.
I'll be back soon with some further thoughts on this one. If you're still up... it's time to party as the Stars win their second straight, both over the Ducks...
Straight to the bullet points tonight, but I'll leave this one up here: You see what this team can do when they're healthy, as Joe Nieuwendyk envisioned. It's just one game, but after what fans saw before the break the contrast is stark. Jamie Benn is so important to this team's offense, as is Mike Ribeiro. The play making was back and everyone was in their proper role. We'll see if it continues, as tomorrow is a salty, salty test.
- Right off the bat Glen Gululzan throws his first power play unit out there... It's Ribeiro, Ryder, Eriksson, Goligoski and Robidas. No Benn. It's hard to argue, since that same unit scored in the second, but I'll just leave a little head scratching here and see what you guys come up with.
- I already touched on it, but the juxtaposition of Lubomir Visnovsky being the goat on those really crucial plays in the first period is delicious, particularly in light of our "who is the biggest star killer?" discussion earlier in the day.
- Kari Lehtonen would probably like to have that Sbisa goal back (though overall that guy had a rough, rough night) but overall he was exactly what they need him to be coming down the stretch. Some of those second period saves really changed the complexion of the game, or else kept it what Stars' fans preferred it to be, not to mention Glen Gulutzan.
- The Stars made it a point to be physical tonight early on, and Mark Fistric helped where Nick Grossman would have. He put a big hit on Teemu Selanne early in the game and then Robidas put a big hit on Koivu later. Those were big deals and helped set a tone that frustrated the Ducks later on. If you want to see frustrated rewind your DVR and watch the stuff that Bobby Ryan was trying to pull.
- Speaking of frustration: You know who really doesn't like the Ducks? Stephane Robidas. He played another gem tonight after a good outing against these same Ducks before the break. He played just 14 minutes against Minnesota last week and you could tell he was worn down. Hopefully the break helped him and his foot is that much closer to truly "right". The Robidas that scores power play goals and knocks over super stars is what this team needs.
- This one might be a perfect blue print for success: Souray returned to early season form, scoring a goal. The Stars scored on the PP. Kari was good. The Benn line was dominant on the score sheet. The third line contributed big, big goals... It was all the things you came to expect when the Stars were rolling early in the season. It's not going to be like that every night, but if they can get a few of those elements rolling then they might be able to make a convincing push.
- Glen Gultzan said after the game that they'll "probably go with Richard Bachman tomorrow."
- The Stars have done themselves, and perhaps several others a big favor here by beating the Ducks twice in regulation consecutively, yet Anaheim still sits just nine points back. Only one head to head matchup left. The Stars however, having won four against them already, have done their part.
- Burish and Wandell both played over 11 minutes tonight, so hopefully that distribution will benefit the team tomorrow. Sheldon Souray was a +3 tonight, despite the two penalties taken.
- Jamie Benn played 17 minutes and had three points. Getzlaf, Ryan and Perry all played over 20 minutes and didn't see the score sheet. Just like Carlyle would have done it.