Dallas Stars: Viktor Stalberg

Postgame observations

January, 6, 2011
1/06/11
1:24
AM CT
Some postgame observations after the Dallas Stars won 4-2 at Chicago Wednesday.

Special teams. It was pretty easy to pinpoint where this game was won. The Stars were 3-3 on the power play and 4-4 on the penalty kill. Put up those numbers in a game and you’ll usually win the game. The Stars got pucks and people to the net on the power play. They got some good bounces, but they did the work to create those bounces. The Stars were shorthanded four times and Chicago got a total of six shots on goal. It was some good work on the PK.

Goaltending. It was another strong showing from Kari Lehtonen, who stopped 35 of 37 shots. He’d probably love to have that Fernando Pisani goal back that made it a 2-1 game, but he had a lot of big stops in this one. The save on Marian Hossa early in the first period was huge. He had a couple of nice saves on Jonathan Toews when Chicago was trying to climb back into the game. Great stop late in the game on Patrick Kane with Chicago on the power play in the final two minutes and the Stars protecting a one-goal lead. Of course, he also got some help from both posts and the crossbar on that Viktor Stalberg penalty shot.

A bounce here, a bounce there. Sometimes the bounces go your way and sometimes they don’t. On this night the big bounces went the Stars’ way. Just 1:10 after Chicago had tied the game in the second period, Blackhawks forward Viktor Stalberg was awarded a penalty shot. He got off a great shot but it hit the right post, the crossbar and then the left post before bouncing out. Mike Ribeiro’s game-winning goal was attempted pass to Brenden Morrow that bounced off Chicago defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson and by Chicago goalie Corey Crawford.

Ott’s goal. Steve Ott’s empty net shorthanded goal that made it a 4-2 game had an interesting twist to it. Ott should have never been on the ice. He should have been in the penalty box because it was his high stick that caught Jordan Hendry with 2:02 left in the game that gave Chicago the power play. But the ref nailed Jamie Benn with the infraction and he ended up sitting in the penalty box instead, leaving Ott available for the penalty kill and the shot at the empty net.

A calamity of errors. That’s what Stars coach Marc Crawford called the situation that led the Stars to playing with just four defensemen in the third period. Karlis Skrastins and Matt Niskanen collided in the third period warm ups, leaving both players out for the rest of the game. Niskanen has a broken nose, chipped teeth and a cut on his hand. Skrastins was dazed after the collision. They’ll get evaluated on Thursday and we’ll see where things stand heading into Friday’s game against the Rangers.

What a difference a year makes. So, the Stars hit the midway point with a 24-13-4 record for 52 points. They are first in the Pacific Division with a five point lead over second place San Jose. And they are third in the Western Conference, five points behind first place Vancouver. At this point last season they were 18-12-11 for 47 points. They were fourth in the division, 14 points behind first place San Jose. They were 10th in the conference, four points out of the final playoff spot and 14 points out of the conference lead, which was held by San Jose at the time.

Special teams key for Stars

January, 6, 2011
1/06/11
12:12
AM CT
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.

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