The five game losing streak is over. The goal drought is, for the moment over. The Dallas Stars found the back of the net four times tonight to snap their skid and send the Edmonton Oilers home empty handed. The teams entered play tied with 22 points through 19 games for each. Dallas improves to 12-8-0, and hopes their offensive quagmire is now behind them.
The Stars got the game's opening goal for the first time since the Detroit outting when Tom Wandell won a puck battle down low and pushed it behind Khabibulin where Toby Petersen gathered it, stepped out front and beat the Bulin Wall.
Twenty minutes later Steve Ott found the net on a nice pass from Mike Ribeiro and the Stars had breathing room for the first time since the third period of the game in Washington. Those pesky Oilers would cut the lead in half and erase that comfort zone when the 18 year old Ryan Nugent-Hopkins made a great move to get by Souray, potting his eigth of the season. (Obnoxiously wearing #93, the year of his birth, to remind us all how old we are)
Michael Ryder re-established the two goal lead less than a minute later when the Stars caught the Oilers flat footed. A 3-on-1 had Ryder and Benn both open as would be recipients of a pass from Nicklas Grossman. The puck went to Ryder in the middle, and never got to Benn as #73 beat Khabibulin clean up high.
Penalty trouble threatened the Stars from the get go in the third. They should have started the third with 1:48 of PP time but Brenden Morrow's interference penalty gave the Oilers a clean sheet and four on four action to start the next frame. Two more penalties from Brenden Morrow and one from Sheldon Souray afforded the Oilers three additional power plays but they couldn't close the deal, going 0-6 on the PP in the game, spending 10:12 of 60 on the job.
Give credit to the Stars penalty kill for preserving the lead, but give more credit to the Stars as a team for the way they competed from drop of the puck tonight. The players began winning all the little puck battles they'd been losing for the last two weeks, and Kari Lehtonen was there when they needed a little help, which felt seldom in this one.
A dangerous, fast, skilled Edmonton team coming in here that just put a nine spot up on the Blackhawks on Saturday presented a pretty good challenge for a team on a five game losing streak, and they dominated play from the get-go. The Oilers were a mess defensively at times, however, and the Stars were glad to take advantage of it.
More thoughts after the jump...
- Brenden Morrow's assist on the Steve Ott goal in the second period was the 500th point scored in his career. The Stars acknowledged this on the scoreboard a few minutes later and the crowd cheered. That was all well and good, but then they put Mike Modano up on the scoreboard immediately following and the cheering got a lot louder. Some things will always be more exciting than others, evidently.
- Speaking of Brenden Morrow...you know where I'm going with this. Three penalties. At least two of them of the fairly needless variety. One killed a Stars power play, 200 feet from their own net. The other two gave Edmonton life and the ability to clsoe the game to a single shot again. He left the game in the first period and returned later. No word yet on whether it was an equipment thing or a health issue. You almost hope that he's not healthy right now with the way he's been playing. I don't want that to sound harsh. I think he'd tell you the same. I'll wait on his quotes from tonight as I think he's scheduled to speak. He's just not right at the moment, and we who root for him vociferously hope he finds his game and finds it soon.
- The line combinations were changed, and they seemed effective, if just for one night. Benn back with Loui Eriksson and Michael Ryder produced many quality "A" scoring chances. Steve Ott was a beast on the Ribeiro line and earned a first star of the game for it. (Heika and Stepneski talked it over in the press box. I nodded along knowledgeably, as if I have actual knowledge). Tomas Vincour saw a shift or two with the Ribeiro combination when Morrow left in the first period and we certainly liked what we saw there, fleeting though it was.
- Speaking of Vincour, he continues to impress us with his play but was limited tonight by his role. He ended up with just 8:16 of ice time, a shot, two missed shot, a block and a takeaway. As usual the numbers don't make it sound as good as it looked. We'd like to see a bit more.
- Philip Larsen played 16:04, recorded a +1 on the night, nearly scored all alone in front of Khabibulin, recorded two SOG and three hits. He also saw a little bit of power play time (1:01) despite indications being that he would not. Toby Petersen still played with Robidas on the point. Larsen got a shift with Souray on the advantage. Speaking of Toby Petersen, how good was he tonight? Five SOG in only nine minutes. He was great without even needing to score that goal, but the Stars and their fans were sure glad he did.
- Mark Fistric delivered a huge, high hit to...hold on, I'm checking the roster again because I've never heard of him... "Anton Lander." It looked high live, it looked a little less high on the one replay we saw in the PB. There was some speculation that the league could take a look at it if they feel he hit him in the head first, but I don't expect to hear much about it.
- Hopefully this massive slide is now officially over and the Stars can get back to collecting points more often than not. The atmosphere in the building was fun tonight, despite only 11,453 here. Tom Gaglardi's presence and puck drop added a lot. He spoke to the players today. He spoke to media outlets today. He is out there and he is getting his message out there. Jim lites was out in the stands and in the concourse meeting fans, shaking hands, thanking fans for coming. This is a new day for the Stars long term and we all hope that it's a new day on the ice as well and that this is a win they can build on.
- Odd note: Stars PR says Radek Dvorak has 24 short handed goals in his career. He has 20 game winners in his career. More short handed goals than game winners?