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Thursday, January 6, 2011
Special teams key for Stars

By Mark Stepneski

Early in the season the Dallas Stars’ power play on the road wasn’t doing them many favors. It’s been coming around lately, and Wednesday night it helped them secure a big two points in Chicago.

The Stars scored three times on the power play, including a Mike Ribeiro goal that snapped a 2-2 tie midway through the third period and held up as the game-winner in a 4-2 victory over the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center.

The Stars’ power play, which was 2-42 in the first 13 road games of the season, has picked up the pace away from home recently. It has tallied in six of the last seven road games and is 8-31 (25.8%) during that stretch. It was 3-3 on this night.

“We struggled at the beginning of the season, but we’ve been doing better things lately,” Ribeiro told reporters after the game. “We moved the puck well today. A bounce here or there and we score.”

Ribeiro’s game-winner, which came with 9:14 remaining, was an attempted pass to captain Brenden Morrow that bounced off Chicago defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson and past Chicago goalie Corey Crawford.

The Stars used the power play to build a 2-0 lead in the first period. Morrow scored off a rebound 2:40 into the game to give the Stars a 1-0 lead, and less than five minutes later Ribeiro tipped a Brad Richards point shot into the net to make it a 2-0 game.

“Power plays were the difference tonight,” said Stars coach Marc Crawford. “Our power play was performing almost perfectly. We entered the zone extremely well, we got a couple of pucks to the net with people around it and made a couple of bang-bang plays. Those sorts of things happen. It does put a team on its heels and it was an important start.”

Chicago bounced back in the second, scoring two goals in a 2:08 span to tie the game. It was almost three goals in a 3:18 span but a Viktor Stalberg penalty shot attempt rang off the right post, the crossbar and then the left post before bouncing out.

“It was a great shot,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. “It would have been a great stretch there.”

But the game remained tied. The Stars penalty kill, which was 4-4 against Chicago’s top ranked power play, killed off two Chicago chances with the man-advantage early in the third period before Ribeiro notched the game-winner.

The Dallas penalty kill had to deliver again in the final two minutes. Lehtonen, who made 35 saves in the game, came up with a big stop and Steve Ott scored a shorthanded goal into an empty net to seal the win, the sixth straight on the road for the Stars.

“These were big points. Our special teams were the difference. Our goalie made a big save late they could have tied it up,” said Morrow. “It does feel good. We had two big games at home and lost them before these two on the road. These have been big character games for us.”

Notes: Stars lose Skrastins, Niskanen

*The Dallas Stars played the entire third period with just four defensemen. Karlis Skrastins and Matt Niskanen did not play the final 20 minutes after they collided during warm-ups for the third period. Niskanen suffered a broken nose and chipped teeth. Skrastins was dazed after the collision. Both players will be re-evaluated on Thursday.

*Forward Toby Petersen sat out the game due to what was described as lower body soreness.

*Mark Fistric was a healthy scratch on defense.