Friday, December 23, 2011
Stars head into Christmas break with two big points
By Mark Stepneski
DALLAS -- The Dallas Stars headed into the NHL’s Christmas break with two big points, knocking off the Nashville Predators 6-3 at American Airlines Center Friday night.
“We were all talking that if we could two points tonight it would be a nice two days we could have for Christmas where a guy doesn’t have to search for answers,” said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. “It was a nice win here and getting 20 wins at Christmas was a nice way to have a break.”
The win gave the Stars a 2-1-0 record on their three-game homestand, pushed their record to 20-13-1 on the season and took two points away from a key Western Conference rival. With the victory the Stars moved a point ahead of the Predators in the standings.
The Stars started strong Friday, scoring three goals in a 3:05 span of the first period to chase Nashville starter Pekka Rinne from the net.
“We knew they played last night and that was one of our keys, getting on them right away,” said Stars center Vernon Fiddler. “I thought the guys were getting the pucks deep right off the bat and playing a simple game.”
Fiddler opened the scoring at the 9:25 mark. Radek Dvorak tipped the rebound of a Sheldon Souray shot to Fiddler, who beat Rinne with a shot from the right circle.
Just 1:16 later Loui Eriksson scored off the rush from the left circle to put the Stars up 2-0.
The Stars had a 3-0 lead 1:49 later when Steve Ott tipped home a Trevor Daley point shot, ending the night for Rinne, who surrendered three goals on seven shots and was replaced by Anders Lindback.
Gulutzan liked the strong start for the Stars, but he really liked the way the Stars scored their goals.
“We were shooting the puck. We had traffic, a tip in and a couple deflections. Those are the type of goals we need,” he said. “We scored a couple pretty ones and a couple ugly ones. We need to score more ugly goals. We always look for the pretty plays. It was nice. That was our battle cry here at the start of the game and it was nice to see it executed.”
The Predators, who rallied from a 4-1 deficit Thursday night to defeat Columbus, made a game of it in the second, scoring twice in less than three minutes to cut Dallas’ lead to 3-2.
Matt Halischuk scored off a scramble in front of Stars goalie Richard Bachman at the 8:56 mark to make it a 3-1 game. Martin Erat scored off a one-timer with Nashville on a five-on-three power play at 11:45 of the second to pull the Predators within 3-2.
But the Stars extended the lead to 4-2 less than three minutes later when Brenden Morrow sent a pass from the left boards to Mike Ribeiro, who scored from the right circle at 14:10 of the period.
The Predators scored their second power play of the game at 4:38 of the third to make it a 4-3 game. Colin Wilson set up David Legwand, who put the puck into the open side of the net from close range.
But the Stars answered 30 seconds later when Eriksson set up Jamie Benn, who beat Lindback from close range to give the Stars a 5-3 lead.
“Ribby’s goal was real big and then Benny’s line answers in the third,” said Gulutzan. “Those things take a bite out of an attack of a visiting team, especially on that is playing its second game in as many nights. Those response goals by us hurt any team and I am sure they really hurt Nashville.”
Predators coach Barry Trotz agreed, those response goals hurt his team.
"You're battling back, gaining momentum, the next shift is crucial,” Trotz said. “We did that twice, and that's unacceptable if you want to win the game. We've got to firm up.''
The loss was just the second in the last eight games for the Predators (6-2-0). For the Stars it was their fifth win in the last seven games (5-2-0).
“These last seven games we were 5-2, and that was a big push for us,” Gulutzan said. “We exceeded our expectations in these seven.”
*Stars defenseman Sheldon Souray left the game early in the second period with an ankle injury. He will be re-evaluated after the break, but Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said the injury did not appear serious.
*Stars defenseman Stephane Robidas missed his second straight game with a foot injury. Tomas Vincour (knee) and Kari Lehtonen (groin) also missed the game due to injury.
*Stars defenseman Philip Larsen returned to the lineup after missing two games with a charley horse.
*The Stars dressed seven defensemen and eleven forwards in the game. Toby Petersen and Jake Dowell were the healthy scratches for Dallas.
*Stars forward Adam Burish was shaken up after being hit hard into the boards by Nashville’s Blake Geoffrion in the third period. Gulutzan said Burish was fine. Geoffrion received a minor penalty for boarding.
*Friday’s attendance was 15,245