Morrow delivers in return as Stars down Ducks
March, 11, 2012
By Mark Stepneski | ESPNDallas.com
DALLAS -- Stars captain Brenden Morrow made an impact in his first game in more than a month, scoring a power play goal as the Dallas Stars ran their winning streak to five games and their points streak to ten with a 2-0 win over the Anaheim Ducks Saturday night at American Airlines Center.
“It feels good. I was a little nervous to make sure it didn’t screw things up with the way the team was playing and rolling,” Morrow said. “Kari (Lehtonen) made sure I didn’t do that sitting in the penalty box three times.”
Morrow, who had missed the last 18 games with back and neck issues, played 16:34, registering three hits and picking up six minutes in penalties during the game. He also provided an emotional boost.
“It’s huge,” said Stars forward Steve Ott. “He’s our leader, he’s our captain.”
The Stars got another stellar performance from Lehtonen, who stopped all 21 shots he faced for his third shutout of the season and his second in the last eight games. Lehtonen is 7-0-1 with a 1.45 goals against average and .950 save percentage in his last eight starts.
“The last three weeks we’ve been playing real solid and everybody has been helping me out. I’ve been trying to do the same. It’s just fun when you can get wins,” Lehtonen said. “With every win it gets more exciting. Guys are smiling and working hard. It’s just a great time of the year to be in it.”
The Stars were determined to get Lehtonen the shutout after the Stars goalie lost a shutout bid with 30 seconds remaining in a game at Edmonton last week.
“The best part of my day was when that buzzer rang and he got the shutout,” Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said. “That guy deserves that and we owed him one.”
The victory kept the Stars three points ahead of Phoenix in the race for first place in the Pacific Division and the third seed in the Western Conference. The Stars have a six point lead over the ninth place spot in the standings.
Specials teams were key for the Stars, who were 1-4 on the power play and 4-4 on the penalty kill. During their ten game points streak the Stars have killed off 30 of 31 opposition power plays.
“That’s just commitment from those guys,” Gulutzan said of the Stars penalty killers.
The Stars scored at 2:37 of the second period, just one second after a 35 second five-on-three power play expired. Jamie Benn sent a pass across the crease to Morrow, who put the puck into the open side of the net.
“Those four-footers with an empty cage are pretty easy to hit some times," Morrow said. "Jamie Benn made a great play to hit me backdoor with an empty net.”
The Ducks had some power play time in the second period, but couldn’t cash in. One of those penalties was a boarding minor on Dallas defenseman Stephane Robidas for a hit on Ducks forward Corey Perry, who played a couple shifts after the hit but eventually left the game. The hit didn’t sit well with Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau.
“If that wasn’t a five-minute penalty then I don’t know what is,” Boudreau said. “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.”
The loss was a huge blow to the Ducks, whose chances of making the playoffs took another hit. They are eight points out of the final playoff spot with just 13 games remaining in the season.
“We are running out of time,” Boudreau said. “It’s not fun when you’re running out of time but it wasn’t for lack of effort. They’re giving it everything they’ve got right to the end and we’re really proud of their effort right now."
Michael Ryder rounded out the scoring for Dallas with an empty net goal with 46 seconds remaining to make it a 2-0 final and keep the Stars the hottest team in the NHL.
*Stars forward Radek Dvorak left the game in the third period with an ankle injury and did not return. There was no news on his status moving forward.
*Stars defenseman Sheldon Souray missed Saturday’s game with a lower body injury.
*Forwards Jake Dowell, Ryan Garbutt and Toby Petersen were healthy scratches for the Stars.
*Michael Ryder’s goal was his 30th of the season, tying his career high.
*Saturday’s attendance was 18.228