It wasn't exactly uninspired hockey but it was certainly much less intense than Thursday's game against San Jose. With the Ducks all but out of the playoff race it felt as if they'd already thrown in the towel and the Stars were content to play along. This game was very similar to the Edmonton game from a few weeks back when the Stars were clearly the better team but didn't take the ice with their most emotional game.
Brenden Morrow, in his first game back after 18 games on injured reserve. scored on the power play off a sick Jamie Benn pass across the crease on the power play -- just one second after a 5-on-3 had expired. It was an eventful game for Morrow, who pulled off the 'reversal' and played with a lot of energy. Morrow was also called for three minor penalties, although the Stars penalty kill was more than up to the task tonight.
Michael Ryder capped off the game with his 30th goal of the season with an empty net goal with 46 seconds remaining in regulation. It wasn't the prettiest offensive game of the season but the 2-0 win does little to show just how lopsided this win really was. The Stars squandered multiple breakaways and odd-man rushes, included two two-on-none opportunities. In the end, they generated all the offense they needed.
Kari Lehtonen didn't have to be spectacular but he was once again solid in net, who notched his fourth shutout of the season stopping all 23 shots faced in the game. The Stars penalty kill was once again top notch, shutting down the Ducks power play three times tonight and have now allowed just one goal in the past ten games during this point streak.
It was a great crowd in Dallas once more, who did their best to get loud and rowdy for a game that didn't do much to generate intensity. It was more playoff atmosphere once again at the AAC, a sign that the fans are more than willing and ready to support a team that's not only winning -- but is doing so with hard work and perseverance.
More on this game after the jump.
Before we get to the Stars stuff, here are some choice quotes from Bruce Boudreau about the officiating in the game:
"If that penalty on Lehtonen by Getzlaf was a penalty, I'll be a monkey's uncle. If the Corey penalty wasn't a five-minute penalty then I don't know what is. He's in the most vulnerable position, head first going into the boards and he's getting a shove. Whether it's a big shove or a little shove, it's a shove of a defenseless person into the boards. I don't know how many times I've heard that and you put your best player out in a game we had to win. I don't know, even the Brookbank penalty. There was two guys battling. Why did they chew their guy? They've both equally done the same thing. I could go on and on. I said it in LA and I'm now sounding like a whining, little crier. It's not good enough."
He then went on to blast the hit by Robidas that sent Corey Perry to the locker room:
"Of course, any hit that's into the boards for a defenseless person, isn't that one of the criteria? Even if he didn't extend his arms, he pushed him or if he didn't, he held him and pushed him and held his arm to where he couldn't protect himself. That Robidas guy does it every game and we tell him. He gets away with murder all the time. And then he says well, I didn't try to or didn't mean to. It's not good enough."
We'll have more on this tomorrow, but I think you guys will enjoy those quotes.
For the Stars:
- It was great to see the crowd doing their best to cheer on the Stars during a game that wasn't the easiest to get fired up for. In the third period, with the Stars fighting to hold onto a 1-0 lead, the loudest "Let's Go Stars" chant I've heard in three years rang out around the AAC. The past four home games have had some tremendous loud home crowds and you can tell the excitement about playoff hockey is back in Dallas.
- It wasn't the prettiest return by Brenden Morrow after missing 18 games with a neck/back injury but he was effective. The three penalties hurt (although two were iffy calls) and you could tell the timing wasn't quite there, but the old Morrow that we know and love definitely seems to still be there. He was energetic and gave a boost to the Jamie Benn and Steve Ott line, although you could tell they were working on building some chemistry there.
- Gulutzan said after the game that he's wanted to have Morrow with Benn all season long and it doesn't look he's going to break up that top line anytime soon. It's going to be interesting to see how they build on that momentum moving forward and if something special can develop on that second line with Ribeiro, Ryder and Eriksson playing so well.
- Here's a stat that will rock your world: Michael Ryder has 17 points in his past 17 games.
- The defense, forced to shake things up because of the Sheldon Souray injury, played fairly well overall. Gulutzan praised Adam Pardy after the game but said there were some obvious hiccups due to the inherent rust after being scratched eight straight games.
- Mark Fistric seems to have been given the role vacated by Nicklas GrossmanN, as well as the minutes vacated by Souray as well. Fistric led the team with 3:39 of ice time on the penalty and was once again very physical in his own end. More importantly, he was confident in front of the net and was instrumental in ensuring no second chances were allowed by the Stars in front of Lehtonen.
- Gulutzan praised the work done by Vincour and Wandell in the game, saying the fourth line did a good job of creating chances in the second period after a bit of a rough start. More on that tomorrow as well.
- 23 saves on 23 shots, another win and another shutout for Kari Lehtonen. Ho-hum.
- The Stars now sit three points ahead of Phoenix for first in the Pacific Division and are six points out of 9th in the conference, with San Jose losing yet again. This 9-0-1 run by the Stars has been amazing but they've managed to build just a six-point cushion for the playoffs -- can't let up off the gas.
Defending Big D's Three Stars of the Game:
Kari Lehtonen, Dallas Stars
Tomas Vincour, Dallas Stars
Brenden Morrow, Dallas Stars