The Dallas Stars got a boost from two returning players, a stellar performance from goaltender Kari Lehtonen, a solid 60-minute team performance and a much-needed win, topping the Detroit Red Wings 4-1 at Joe Louis Arena on Thursday night.
“It was a big win for us,” said center Mike Ribeiro. “It’s a boost of confidence, especially when you lose a lot lately.”
The victory snapped a five-game losing streak for the Stars and the much-needed two points put them back into the top eight in the tight Western Conference playoff race.
“We know the urgency of each and every game and there’s going to be a lot more like this. It was a real solid effort for us,” said Stars coach Marc Crawford, whose team also snapped a seven-game road losing streak. “We had good spirit in the group. I think the return of [Adam] Burish and [Krys] Barch helped pick up the enthusiasm of our guys. We got [Jamie] Benn back the last game. Any time you add three significant bodies like that back into your lineup it gives your team a boost.”
The Stars got a big boost from Lehtonen, as well. The Stars netminder was outstanding, stopping 38 shots in the game, including 31 over the final two periods as the Red Wings tried to climb back into the game.
“He had to make several saves throughout the game,” said Crawford. “He was sharp throughout. It’s unfortunate he lost the shutout late.”
The Stars got off to a strong start in the game, creating some good chances and then scoring two goals late in the first period to take a 2-0 lead.
Ribeiro opened the scoring when Brenden Morrow put a shot on net, had it deflect off a Detroit stick and go right to Ribeiro, who put the puck into wide open net from point-blank range with 3:18 left in the first period.
“I’ve been looking for those,” said Ribeiro. “They don’t come often.”
The Stars made it 2-0 when Loui Eriksson scored on a shorthanded breakaway with 23 seconds left in the period.
“We got off to a real good start. That was huge and it carried on the whole game," said Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski. "I think they got a little frustrated."
After Detroit had a power play goal waved off for goaltender interference, the Stars extended their lead to 3-0 midway through the second period. Krys Barch scored off a slow developing play where he got the rebound of his own shot off a Detroit player and lofted a shot on net that eluded Red Wings goalie Jimmy Howard.
“A goal by Barchy, a slow-motion goal was a big one for us,” said Ribeiro. “I thought he was skating backwards there for a minute. We’ll take those goals.”
Said Barch: “I was a buck-thirty into my shift and my shifts usually run 30 seconds. I was looking for an oxygen tank. Everything just happened subconsciously. I think I always dump the puck at the blue line. It was a lucky bounce, ended up on my stick, got a second opportunity and it found the back of the net.”
After that the Stars and Lehtonen came up big on the penalty kill, stopping a couple of Detroit power plays in the second to keep it a 3-0 game and then shutting down Detroit until Tomas Holmstrom scored on the Red Wings’ sixth power play with 3:31 left in the game.
Jamie Langenbrunner scored into an empty net with 1:43 remaining to make it a 4-1 victory for the Stars, who won for only the second time in February (2-8-1).
“It was such a desperate win for us,” said Crawford. “It puts us back in a playoff position, and we’ve got to keep rolling out performances like this.”