What Happened: The Stars were out shot and out played early in the first period, but Richard Bachman stopped everything that came his way. Brenden Morrow, who’s been on a hot streak since his return from injury, added another tally on the score card to put the Stars up 1-0 nine minutes into the game. The Stars followed that up with a solid penalty kill when Vernon Fiddler was called for a holding minor. The Stars went on the power play for the first time with under two minutes remaining in the first, and then went on their first 5-on-3 of the season (yes, really) a minute and a half later. The Stars were unable to convert with the short amount of time remaining in the period, but took the power play into the middle frame. Just over a minute into the second, the Ducks took yet another penalty, giving the Stars another 5-on-3 opportunity, and Alex Goligoski didn’t let it slip away, blasting a shot from the point to put the Stars up 2-0. With the Stars still on the power play, Mike Ribeiro cashed in again to give the Stars a commanding 3-0 lead just 30 seconds later. Unfortunately, it was not to last, and the Stars got into penalty trouble of their own, and the Ducks netted two power play goals over the next 10 minutes of play from Teemu Selanne and Lubomir Visnovsky to cut the lead to 3-2. The trouble continued when Nick Bonino tied the game at 3-3 just under four minutes after Visnovsky’s goal. The third period was a frenzied affair, both teams looking for the tiebreaker, but the Stars struck first. Michael Ryder scored his 11th goal of the season after taking a pass in the slow from Loui Eriksson. The Stars sunk the dagger eight minutes later when Eric Nystrom scored his 11th of the season. That would be good enough to win the game, 5-3.
What It Means: The power play finally woke up, at least it did in the second period. The two power play goals were crucial, and the Stars looked lethal on both. Oddly enough, the penalty kill didn’t have a good night, letting the Ducks score twice on three opportunities, which led to the Ducks being able to tie the game. Despite the reversal of special teams fortunes, it didn’t kill the Stars. Letting a three-goal lead evaporate in one period hurt, but the Stars came back strong in the third, showing their meddle and not letting the disappointing second half of the middle frame get to them. Aside from special teams, the Stars now have a three way tie for the scoring lead on the team, those three being Eriksson, Ryder, and Nystrom, all with eleven goals on the season. Eric Nystrom and his line, the REV line (credit to Bob Sturm), were responsible for burying the Ducks in that final stretch of play after a long, hard, cycling shift. Too often have we seen teams get outplayed and outworked by this line, and Nystrom seems to always be in the right place to put the puck in the net after a long shift, when the opposing defense is running on fumes. They’ve played like this all year, and other teams can’t seem to figure them out, but that’s alright, having a third line as consistent and productive as the Stars do is a rare thing. Dallas takes over first place from the San Jose Sharks, and threw some more dirt on the Anaheim Ducks‘ grave in the process. The fighting and bickering that marred the last minutes of the game is proof this Anaheim team is sick and tired of losing, but they just can’t string together victories. The Stars continue to get solid play from Bachman, and are coming full circle on the injury front. They seem poised to return to the top of the Western Conference, and with Kari Lehtonen just a couple short weeks from returning, the future looks brighter and brighter each passing day.
What’s Next: The Stars continue the holiday home stand Wednesday night in another nationally televised game, this time against the Philadelphia Flyers. The Flyers have lost their Captain Chris Pronger for the season, and their star Claude Giroux for an indefinite amount of time due to concussions, but it’ll still be a challenging match up, and the team has no shortage of players to make up for the glaring absences in the line up. The Stars got a strong start to the home stand with the victory of the Ducks and a win against one of the East’s best is an opportunity to good to pass up. Make sure to tune in, or get out to Dallas to see it yourself.
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