On a night that could have been devastating for their playoff chances, the Dallas Stars gave themselves a shot of life. The Stars beat the Anaheim Ducks 4-3 in regulation, pulling to within three points of the final playoff spot with four games remaining.
"There's no quit in our team, we're still in the race,” said Stars coach Marc Crawford. “We've just to keep coming out and having performances like this. This was a very deserving win for our team. You make your luck and tonight we played with the desperation that we've been striving for. We need that type of performance and energy in the next game. Huge win for us and hopefully we can get this to snowball."
The four remaining games for the Stars are all against non-playoff teams – Columbus, Colorado (twice) and Minnesota. They still have the potential to reach 97 points, which would give them a shot at the postseason. But the Stars say it is one game at a time.
“Our ultimate goal is to [run the table], but we just can’t hope that’s going to happen and it happens,” said Stars captain Brenden Morrow, who scored a goal and added two assists. “It’s 60 minutes at a time and tonight it took 60 minutes.”
And it took surviving a frantic final two minutes. The last two games against the Ducks the Stars lost the lead late in the game and then fell in overtime. On this night the Ducks had two potential game-tying goals waved off.
One came with 2:04 left when it was ruled that Saku Koivu interfered with Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen, and a Bobby Ryan power play goal with 48.9 seconds was negated because of a hand pass by Corey Perry at the top of the crease.
This time the Stars were able to hang on and get the big two points.
“Everyone is smiling, so that is a good thing,” said Stars center Mike Ribeiro, who scored two goals. “Usually when you win you get on a roll. There’s no more ways to lose, it’s find ways to win. We did. We got the bounces that we need, they disallowed a few goals. We battled through. We played hard, everyone played hard. All our lines played well and that’s what we needed.”
Ribeiro and his linemates – Morrow and Steve Ott – came up big in this game, matching up with Anaheim’s top line, producing some much needed offense and delivering in other key areas as well.
After falling behind 1-0 in the first period, Stars defenseman Jeff Woywitka took a pass from Morrow and beat Ducks goalie Ray Emery with a shot from just inside the blue line. Ott forced a turnover in the second period, leading to Morrow set up Ribeiro at the side of the net to give the Stars a 2-1 lead. Morrow jumped on the ice during a partial line change, and scored off a one-timer to put the Stars up 3-2. Ribeiro scored off a rebound with the Stars on the power play to give the Stars a 4-2 lead and that goal would hold up as the game-winner.
“The last three games I couldn’t get anything going. I was creating chances but nothing was going in,” said Ribeiro. “To come back with big goals like that and Brenden too, I think it is good for our line. We had too. We had to come out today and get that win.”
Ott and Ribeiro – along with Stephane Robidas, Karlis Skrastins and Lehtonen - were big on the penalty kill, which stopped a 1:20 five-on-three Anaheim power play in the second period when it was a 1-1 game and the Ducks power play chance in the final minute of the game. Ott won 14 of 22 faceoffs in the game as well.
“It was a great team effort,” said Ribeiro. “We are going to push forward. We are going to stay positive in our locker room and believe in ourselves.”
Dallas Stars defenseman Mark Fistric did not play in Sunday’s game. A Stars official said it was due to an injury, but the nature of it was not disclosed.