Sunday, November 6, 2011
Stars get off to strong start on road trip
By Mark Stepneski
The Dallas Stars opened their four-game road trip impressively, beating the Carolina Hurricanes 5-2 in Raleigh Sunday afternoon.
The Stars became the first team to hit 10 wins this season and their 10-3-0 record gives them the best points percentage in the league at .769.
“Guys are really working hard to want to get better. You have to remember that last year they missed the playoffs by two points. They’ve got something to prove,” Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said of his team’s strong start to the season. “As a new coach it’s been easy going into that locker room when you’ve got 20 hungry guys. The seven new guys we’ve brought in have contributed to our character and, obviously, to all elements of our game. We’re a confident group right now and that’s half the battle.”
The Stars got off to a strong start, scoring early in the game, taking a 3-1 lead into the first intermission and extending it to 5-1 through the first 40 minutes.
“We played really well today,” said Stars forward Loui Eriksson. “We had a good start, we played really hard and it’s a good start to this road trip.”
And in their last two wins the Stars have found some offense, scoring 12 goals. The line of Eriksson (three assists), Jamie Benn (two goals) and Ryder (one goal and two assists) chipped in a total of eight points.
Eriksson and Benn both now have 15 points this season and are currently tied for 7th in the league in scoring. Eriksson is tied for seventh in goals and Benn is tied for fifth in assists.
“They are both cerebral players and they just kind of feed off each other,” said Gulutzan. “They think the game so well. You’ve got two smart guys playing together and they’re having a good streak right now.”
Eric Nystrom scored his third goal in the last four games and Stephane Robidas scored on the power play.
Kari Lehtonen stopped 30 of 32 shots, bouncing back from Friday’s game when he gave up a season-high six goals.
“It was good for him to get right back in the saddle when you’re half off it,” said Gulutzan. “It was a good game for him.”
The Stars scored a little more than five minutes into the game and never looked back. Vernon Fiddler set up Eric Nystrom off the rush and Nystrom beat Carolina goalie Cam Ward with a shot from the left circle to put the Stars up 1-0 5:20 into the game.
The Stars extended the lead to 2-0 by cashing in on their first power play as Stephane Robidas scored off a blast from the point at the 12:55 mark.
Carolina answered with a power play goal by Chad LaRose just 23 seconds later, but the Stars were able to extend the lead with 27.8 seconds left in the first when Eriksson sent a pass from behind the net to Benn to make it a 3-1 game.
The Stars added two more in the second period to make it a 5-1 game. Eriksson set up Ryder, who roofed a shot over Ward early in second to make it 4-1. That ended the afternoon for Ward, who was replaced by Brian Boucher.
Eriksson set up Benn on a shorthanded two-on-one late in the second to make it 5-1.
“I saw the puck go around the corner there and we got a two-on-one,” said Eriksson. “It was a nice shot by Benny.”
Carolina’s Tuomo Ruutu scored a power play goal in the third to round out the scoring in the game. Carolina has lost it’s last two games by a combined score of 10-3.
“It’s a physical man’s game and we tried to play on skill. It just wasn’t going to get it done for us,” said Carolina coach Paul Maurice. “We were just soft on pucks all over the ice.”
The Stars continue the road trip Tuesday when they take on the Washington Capitals, who are 9-3-0 this season and are 6-0-0 at home this season.
*Steve Ott missed his second straight game with a hip injury.
*Jake Dowell and Adam Pardy were healthy scratches for the Stars.
*The Stars have won five of their last six games against Carolina.