Losers of four of six entering play tonight, the Dallas Stars needed a strong showing to wipe the bitter taste of a 5-4 defeat in Calgary on Monday night out of their mouth. The Edmonton Oilers are always there when you need them, luckily, and Dallas notched a 3-1 victory at Rexall Place tonight to move to 89 points and keep their post-season dream alive.
The two teams would trade opportunities in the first with largely uneventful action until Michael Ryder went streaking right down the throat of the Edmonton defense and beat a sprawled Dubnyk to give Dallas and early lead. Dallas would lead Edmonton 13-12 in SOG through one.
The Ribeiro trio would add to their lead just five minutes into the second period when they caught the Edmonton defense cheating and manufactured a 2-on-1. Ribeiro fed Eriksson, who returned the favor and the Stars took a 2-0 lead. They'd survive multiple Oiler power plays in the second, unlike in Calgary, to preserve the advantage through two periods.
Dallas would make it 3-0 four minutes into the third on the strength of a beautiful play by Loui Eriksson to go and retreieve a puck along the boards and make a heads up pass to Ribeiro, who in turn found a cutting Michael Ryder and a gaping net for Ryder's second of the night.
Edmonton would get on the board with about 12 minutes remaining after Kari Lehtonen appeared to get hit in the throat with a shot and collapsed. The puck came to an unmolested Alex Hemsky at the side of the net and the resultant gaping net goal was secondary to concern for the Dallas netminder, who shook it off and stayed in the game. Lehtonen finished with 31 saves on 32 Oiler shots.
The teams would trade uneventful third period power plays as the frame wore on and the increased special teams time took Reilly Smith, 20 year old rookie making his NHL debut, out of the equation, much to the chagrin of Stars fans.
Two points were the important part, of course, and they needed both as the Los Angeles Kings continue to nip at the Stars heels with a win over Calgary tonight. The Flames season is for all intents and purposes pretty much dead now with that regulation win.
Dallas is very much alive, however, and now face the dreaded back to back in Vancouver on Friday night and in San Jose Saturday. They'll need to collect two points in there somehow to keep their hopes afloat.
Additional thoughts on a good win in Edmonton after the jump...
- The Sharks/Ducks game just went final after the longest and onliest review of an empty net goal ever, meaning the Stars will wake up tomorrow in first place in the Pacific. Those two games with San Jose and just... so large. You can't overstate it.
- For all the talk about how dominant Jamie Benn was and for all the talk about the rookie making his abbreviated debut, it's the top line doing what a top line does that puts the Stars up 2-0 through two periods, then salting this one away with a third goal. Secondary scoring will be needed this weekend, but it's great to get this kind of production from the top line in a road situation.
- According to the broadcast only Evgeni Malkin and Steven Stamkos have more goals since the All-Star break than Michael Ryder. Salty company.
- Gulutzan shuffled his lines and played with Adam Burish and Tomas Vincour quite a bit, who alternated on those second and third lines. Tomas Vincour is not a bad fit next to Benn and Ott and that will be an option going forward, evidently, before Reilly Smith is considered, if tonight was any indication.
- Meanwhile Reilly Smith had a shot on goal in his first shift and impressed the broadcast crew with his hockey smarts. I hate to use a road game to evaluate such limited ice time, as it's always more informative to see someone live and judge that. He did not look out of place on the fourth line, for what that's worth. They hid his helmet after pre-game skate and he was able to find it, so there's that tidbit from the broadcast. Time will tell if they'll keep him in the lineup when healthier, more veteran bodies are options. He played just one shift in the second period. Special teams really limited his opportunity tonight. We'll have plenty of time to see him mature with this team in the future. Gulutzan had to make the decisions that were best for this game, so this story line was a bit muted tonight.
- Did Loui Eriksson lose the Lady Byng with that minor penalty? You laugh, but it's a funny thing. He's going to win it some day if St. Louis ever retires. They can't give it to Datsyuk every year. Can they?
- Sheldon Souray was physical and smart with his play in a way that didn't cross the line, and that's what the Stars need from him every game, regardless of how chippy things are or not. Side note: After he's said repeatedly he liked the city, the players and the fans (not the management), why are those people still booing him up there? Get over it.
- It's easy to see why the Oiler power play is so dangerous and ranked second in the league, even when they don't officially get many shots on net like through the first two periods tonight. The puck movement is phenomenal and they had the Stars biting on some things, leading to near connections on back door plays that should have been goals.
- The Stars' power play, on the other hand, is not very dangerous. In fact the Oilers had better shorthanded opps than Dallas had on the man advantage. It even had Ralph and Razor saying at various times during the game that Jamie Benn should be out there with some of the "top unit" guys, or even venturing to say that Reilly Smith should get a look - Not a thing you hear from the broadcasters every night.
- They're doing the wave there... that awful reflection from the ribbon board on the ice is really quite distracting on the broadcast. The benches are, and always have been, on the wrong side of the broadcast cameras. That place is a mess. Really? The wave? And that sickly shade the light is on the broadcast... it must be like watching a hockey game in a hospital exam room.
- Kari Lehtonen is a rock. The huge saves he made in the first period allowed Dallas to settle down and control that game. Then there was the epic stop on Eberle early in the third. AS Ralph said, he's the unquestioned MVP of this team. We could go on and on and on about him, but for the fact that we always do. You know the drill. There should really be more Kari Lehtonen jerseys at the AAC.
- Five games remain. Five more points might do it. We'll see.