Mike Ribeiro netted a power play goal midway through the second period, and the Dallas Stars were able to hang on to get the win in the shootout. Loui Eriksson and Jamie Benn scored in the Shootout, with Lehtonen stopping two of three shots.
The Dallas Stars experimented with some new line combinations tonight with Brenden Morrow on injured reserve, with mixed results. Mike Ribeiro was able to score on the power play with a nice patient move off a rebound, yet the trio of Eric Nystrom, Loui Eriksson and Ribeiro failed to create much offense for most of the game and were defensively outmanned as well. They did improve as the game progressed, however, which is understandable considering the circumstances.
Jamie Benn was again flying around the ice for most of the game and will surely lead his team in scoring chance differential once more, although the Benn line failed to on the board despite numerous prime chances off the rush. Ryder and Benn both had several open shots that failed to connect, with Niklas Backstrom making a number of big stops as well.
The Stars allowed the tying goal when Jake Dowell committed an egregious turnover in transition, throwing the puck to the middle of the ice that led to a two-on-none situation and Kari Lehtonen out to dry. Kyle Brodziak was able to score with a nifty head fake, tying the game midway through the third.
Lehtonen was the player of the game for the Stars, standing tall in net against a barrage in the first period and then making several big saves in the third as well. Several defensive breakdowns led to a number of close calls in the the first, although an effective penalty kill unit for the Stars seemed to kick the team into gear in the second period.
The Stars, able to maintain possession for minutes at a time, were unable to get the puck to the net consistently -- and it showed. There were obviously outchanced in this game, despite Jamie Benn's dominance of the ice for most of the game. Turnovers also cost the Stars dearly, something we'll get to shortly.
The Stars held on in the third, ensuring the game went to overtime with a loud and raucous sellout croud cheering them on. A late power play would give the Wild a last chance to win in regulation, with the Stars holding on for at least one point. This was a game the Stars needed to win in regulation, however, as they fight with the Wild for the 8th spot in the West.
Still, two points is something this team needs every night.
A few more thoughts after the game.
** According to the stat sheet, the Stars committed nine turnovers in the game. It felt like more. The Stars were playing a team that was obviously in a tight defensive gameplan and weren't pushing the puck up the ice on the rush much. The Stars decided to give them all the chances they needed, especially in the first period, which led to a number of prime scoring chances. Only a big game by Kari Lehtonen kept this from being a blowout.
** Of course, the said could be said the other way as well. Niklas Backstrom didn't have to make many spectacular saves, but he was extremely solid and made the big saves when needed. Jamie Benn and Michael Ryder had a number of open shots from the slot, with Ryder hitting the post once and Benn narrowly missing on a high blocker shot. Without Backstrom and Lehtonen, this game could have been 5-4 at the end.
** I don't know how I feel about Eriksson playing with Ribeiro and Nystrom. I like Nystrom with Ribeiro and I thought they looked better as the game progressed, but Eriksson finished the game without a shot and has scored just one goal since the Kings game on January 12th. We'll have more on this later in the week but what is more valuable: Eriksson's defense or Eriksson's offense?
** Glen Gulutzan was visibly upset after the game, not pleased with his team's effort despite the win. We'll have that story tomorrow.
** Finally, Jamie Benn is just plain fun to watch. That is all.