VANCOUVER – Even with his coach pleading for him to shoot more lately, and after seeing a pair of perfect 2-on-1 passes end up shot wide of empty nets earlier in the game, Dallas center Mike Ribeiro was thinking pass all the way.
Eventually, he didn't have a choice.
Ribeiro, who had already helped set up Loui Eriksson's tying power-play goal, was below the faceoff circle when he finally decided to shoot, lifting the puck quickly over the blocker-side shoulder of Vancouver goalie Roberto Luongo with 23 seconds left in the second period, and putting the Stars ahead for good. Jamie Benn extended the lead early in the third, and Ribeiro added a second goal midway through the final frame, as Dallas beat the Canucks 5-2 on Tuesday night to take a two-point lead atop the tightly packed Pacific Division.
"Yeah, Coach was right, but I was still looking to pass," Ribeiro said. "When you get to the crease, it's time to shoot."
The Stars, who added an empty netter from Stephane Robidas with 3.9 seconds left, had plenty of chances to shoot in tight on Luongo.
Despite missing many of them they still managed to complete a three-game Western Canadian sweep, win their fifth straight on the road, and improve to 7-0-1 in the last eight. The run starts with defense, said Ribeiro, when asked about all the odd-man rushes.
"Keep following the game plan, stay patient and most of the time teams will break and make a mistake and that's when you can score," Ribeiro said. "Our game plan was top stay above the puck and not give those guys odd-man rushes because they have so much skills and we won battles on the boards to create odd-man rushes (the other way) and we capitalized on a few of them."
They also missed quite a few, led by Adam Burish and a couple of empty-net opportunities for Jamie Benn, who finally put one through Luongo 4:25 into the third. It became the game-winner when Alexander Edler floated a knuckler over Richard Bachman's shoulder three-and-a-half minutes later.
"Big goal," Benn said. "A little bit of a rough start for me but just keep sticking with it, and I was able to squeak that one in there."
It made a winner out of Bachman, a rookie backup making just his second start in 17 games so No.1 Kari Lehtonen could rest up for a showdown with San Jose on Thursday. Bachman looked calm on a penalty shot miss by Zack Kassian 24 seconds into the game, finishing with 29 saves to improve to 8-3-1, earning the Stars two crucial points after starting the season in the AHL.
"He made some big saves for us," coach Glen Gulutzan said. "He's a real character kid and he handles pressure really well and we had no qualms putting him in here."
Bachman made his best stops when the game was tight, including a diving glove to take a rebound chance away from Ryan Kesler to keep it 1-0 in the second period. He got some more help to keep the Stars ahead early in the third, with defenseman Philip Larsen sweeping a loose puck off the goal line behind him after a Jannik Hansen deflection just two minutes before Benn scored.
But if he looked calm early, Bachman insists it was just good acting.
"I guess I fooled you," Bachman said. "In the first period, I actually felt some jitters. It was the first NHL game I started in Canada and the atmosphere was amazing, and starting off with a penalty shot to warm up is never what you want. Once that was done it helped me settle in and after the first period I was comfortable."
Higgins, who also had an assist, beat him low blocker side off the rush from the top of the faceoff circle to open the scoring 6:45 into the second period, and Edler's long shot hit a stick before tumbling over his shoulder. But he made enough big stops to have the sloppy Canucks a second straight loss -- the first time in more than four months they have dropped consecutive games.
"Obviously, that's not the type of hockey we want to be playing," said Luongo, who finished with 26 saves and was fortunate not to have given up more given all the grade-A scoring chances. "Luckily they didn't connect on most of them."
It could have been worse if Burish hadn't also whiffed on a couple of empty net tap-in feeds from Ott on odd-man rushes, and Benn whiffing on one empty net and having his shot at another awning cage blocked by a sliding defender.
"We won a lot of battles on the boards," Ribeiro said. "They like to pinch and we were able to win those battles and create 2-on-1s. Just play well defensively."
It was a concept that often seemed foreign to the Canucks, who fell behind St. Louis in the Western Conference race with the loss.
"The last 30 minutes, they were by far the better team," Vancouver coach Alain Vigneault said. "We made some mistakes in their end that led to those odd-man rushes, whether it was our third man or forwards not reloading quick enough to get back or turning the puck over led to a lot of quality chances we gave them. … We were probably a little off tonight, and it showed."
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