There was much hand wringing and chagrin amongst Dallas Stars fans over the past two days as news came down that Kari Lehtonen would be out for at least the next three weeks with a groin pull. With the Stars missing four other significant pieces, it's no wonder that there was uncertainty regarding how this team would respond as they continue to try to pull out of a November tailspin.
Turns out, at least for one night, there wasn't much to worry about.
With Andrew Raycroft playing his best game since last season, the Stars were able to play about as good a road game as you can get. The Stars survived a shaky second period and once again used a big third period performance to pull off an uplifting road victory, especially considering the adversity this team was facing.
Michael Ryder was the offensive player of the game, netting the game-winning goal on a semi breakaway in the third period with his patented top-shelf wrist shot -- adding an empty-netter as time expired.
More on Raycroft's game, the overall team defensive improvement and the, um, issues with the power play after the jump.
This part of the recap is written by Erin in order to let Brandon sleep off his massive travel day.
Raycroft shines - Was there any better way to answer the doubts about the Stars goalie situation than the performance Andrew Raycroft put on tonight? I think not. The Stars backup picked up his first victory of the season by allowing one goal on 36 shots, many of the saves of the spectacular variety.
He was seeing the puck particularly well through traffic and other than a couple adventures with puck-handling late, he was able to slow down the play in his zone with timely freezes. In all, it was all the Stars could ask of Raycroft, and I think they would be plenty pleased if he played like this while Kari Lehtonen rests his groin.
Clamping down on defense - One of the reasons Raycroft looked so solid was the team was great at limiting second-chance shots. One of the key moments came as the Stars were holding on to a one-goal lead and Mike Ribeiro was able to get all the way back to keep an open Colorado Avalanche player from an easy shot at a wide-open net. That type of effort was something we got used to in the early part of the season, and it only means good things if it's returning.
Nystrom continues hot streak - When the Stars picked up Eric Nystrom from the Minnesota Wild to avoid dropping below the salary cap floor, was there anyone who would have predicted he would sit second on the Stars in goal scoring at any point in the season, even if it was just for two periods? Show of hands?
Okay, I didn't either. But it's great to see his high work rate get rewarded, as it was once again on Monday. He's developed great chemistry with Vernon Fiddler and Radek Dvorak, and that line as a whole was one of the brightest spots against the Avs.
For the record, Michael Ryder's eighth and ninth goals of the season now have him in solo second, one goal behind Loui Eriksson. They signed him to be a sniper, and he certainly was that when they needed it tonight. That empty-netter was a thing of beauty.
Powerless play - And now for the bad and the ugly, all wrapped up in one. At one point, the Stars have to snap out of this power play funk, right?
I don't think it's a coincidence that the slide started just about when Alex Goligoski went out with a broken thumb. But another 0-for-4 night where they never even really looked that dangerous now has them at 22 consecutive power plays without a goal, and they gave up several prime shorthanded chances as well. They need to figure this out and soon.
15:56 DAL EV E. Nystrom (8) Assists: V. Fiddler (6) & S. Robidas (5)
14:46 DAL EV M. Ryder (8) Assists: L. Eriksson (11) & P. Larsen (2)
16:24 COL EV K. Porter (1) Assists: D. Jones (7) & R. Wilson (12)
19:32 DAL EV-EN M. Ryder (9) Assists: L. Eriksson (12) & A. Pardy (1)
Defending Big D Three Stars
1 - Andrew Raycroft (DAL)
2 - Michael Ryder (DAL)
3 - Eric Nystrom (DAL)