It did not take a lot tonight, but the Stars did plenty to completely blanket the visitors. The Minnesota Wild came into the AAC after losing in Nashville last night by a score of 4-0, and the Stars worked them over to hand them another 4-0 loss. The Dallas Stars gave a solid, although at times slow and uninspired, effort in front of a decent home crowd. And for the most part, the Wild just skated around and took it. In the end the boys in black picked up two more points against a team trying to fight for playoff standings in their conference and kept the momentum going.
Kari Lehtonen picked up his first shutout since coming over to the Stars last season and his 15th in the NHL. What was interesting, is that after all of the amazing efforts this season by Kari, the night he gets the shutout finally is the night that he had to do very little. The Wild only put 14 shots on net, and sitting in the arena watching the game, it felt like all but 2-3 of those were from distance. The Stars defense did a good job of keeping the Wild from even getting serious scoring threats, and the few decent shots that Minnesota got off were easily dispatched of by Lehtonen. A lot of it had to do with Minnesota’s effort, but the Stars did their job. Anytime they tried anything, the Stars just smothered their attempts. Even when the Wild had two full minutes of time with the puck in the attacking zone when the game was still 1-0, they did not even get a shot at the net. Dallas kept them to the outside, blocked some shots, and after the halfway point of the game it was a walk in a park.
What helped kill the Wild tonight was the Stars’ attack and capitalization in the second. After yet another stellar play by Jamie Benn to make it 1-0 in the first, the Stars attack early in the second period was very lethargic. The superkid provided another highlight reel goal, but then they just could not pocket the next goal. Then within a time span of 1:31 late in the 2nd, the Stars ran up the score to 4-0 and the game was already in the books by the time the 2nd intermission had started. The game just had the feel of it that if the Stars could make it 2-0, it would probably be over. Daley slings a puck at the net that bounces in, Wandell flicks one on net that eludes Theodore, and then Mike Ribeiro kept his recent hot-streak going with a goal after a Wild turnover. Within a few blinks of the eye, the game went from a 1-0 game that felt like the Stars should win but were a bounce away from being tied in, to a game where they pounced and did not settle for where they were. Ribeiro ends up with a goal and an assist, and now has 10 points in the last 8 games (and 6 points in the last three). I have been critical at times of Ribs with his style sometimes, and the fact that I think he could be moved for defense, but he has stepped it up since the trade deadline and is helping the Stars offense run with Richards still trying to get back into it. Between Ribs and Benn, the Stars are getting a solid one-two punch right now…and Richards is back and should be fine in another game or two.
The Stars keep the homestand going with two divisional rivals in the Kings and Sharks on Sunday and Tuesday night. They now have an eight game point streak going with a recent 6-0-2 record, and the streak will be on the line. But this seven game homestand could be what solidifies the Stars as a playoff team. So far 3 out of 4 points, and now the Stars are up to 4th now in the West. But the scary thing: 10th place is only four points behind Dallas right now. Can’t let off the gas pedal at all. March is the first round of the playoffs.