When the Dallas Stars have their top two centers in high gear, they're a tough team to play against. The Edmonton Oilers found that out on Saturday.
Mike Ribeiro and Jamie Benn each had a pair of goals as the Stars beat the Oilers 4-1 at the American Airlines Center. It was the second straight two-goal game for Ribeiro. Benn has three goals and an assist in the Stars' back-to-back wins against Nashville and Edmonton.
Ribeiro got his pair despite having to go off for repairs for the second straight game. On Thursday, he returned after losing a tooth when he was hit in the face by a puck. Against the Oilers, he had to go off after a knee-on-knee hit in the second period, but returned to score the Stars' last two goals in the third.
"I don't like to miss games so I came back," said Ribeiro, who during the first period got rid of the full face cage he wore to protect his mouth. "It's sore. This morning, my mouth was really sore, I didn't take anything to help it, I don’t like to take (pain-killers), I just wanted to come play and once you skate and once you're out there, you don't feel the pain. I knew that and I'm fine. It's sore a little bit, but that's part of the game."
He said he ditched the cage because he was having trouble seeing.
"I'd rather be hurt again in my mouth than be uncomfortable out there, and once I took it off I was more comfortable and able to see the play," Ribeiro said.
It was the second straight win for Dallas and moved the Stars into seventh place in the West with 47 points. The slumping Oilers lost for the 10th time in 12 games, and the defeat could prove to cost more than two points as leading scorer Jordan Eberle left with a knee injury after getting his legs tangled with Benn in the first period. He did not return, and coach Tom Renney had no word on his condition.
"I don't know the extent of the injury or how long he's going to be out," Renney said.
The Oilers will be glad to head back to Rexall Place after going 1-6-0 on a seven-game trip necessitated by the World Junior Championship. Their only win came in Chicago on Monday.
"We didn't have the results we wanted," said Taylor Hall, who had five goals during the trip. "But we had a lot of good efforts. We need to stay together as a group and turn it around."
The Oilers had the lone goal of the opening period. Hall fired a shot from the left wing that Dallas goaltender Richard Bachman failed to corral with his glove. The puck deflected off the Dallas defenseman in front of Bachman and then knuckled over the goaltender and into the net at 17:19 for Hall's 14th tally of the season.
Bachman, a last-minute starter due to Kari Lehtonen's illness, settled in after that and finished the game with 25 saves. The rookie goaltender is now 6-2-0 in 10 appearances. He was pulled after 40 minutes in his previous start against St. Louis.
"We were going with Kari today, but he wasn't feeling good when he got to the rink this morning," Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said. "We have confidence in Bachs and Kari was a little under the weather -- he came and talked to us and said he wasn't feeling great; we've had a little bit of the flu going through here. We told him about 45 minutes before the warm-ups and he was ready. It was a good game for him."
Benn got the Stars even at 14:39 of the second period. The Stars were unable to convert on a 3-on-1, but defenseman Trevor Daley – the guy who missed the net during the odd-man rush, carried the puck behind the net and found Benn in front for a one-timer.
Dallas went in front at 7:03 with Benn's second goal of the contest. He now has 13 this season, and a team-leading 41 points. Ribeiro made it a two-goal advantage at 13:39 of the period. He took the puck from the right wing behind the net and backhanded it toward the crease. It glanced off two Edmonton defenders before ricocheting off an unsuspecting Nikolai Khabibulin and across the goal line.
He added an empty-net tally, his 10th goal of the season, with 1:14 remaining to seal the victory.
Eberle leads the Oilers with 17 goals and 43 points. Edmonton is already without rookie phenom Ryan-Nugent Hopkins, who left the team during the trip and returned to Alberta because of a shoulder injury.
"It's not an individual sport," said Renney, whose team is off until New Jersey comes to town on Wednesday. "Others will have to step up."
Material from team media was used in this report.