-- The return of captain Brenden Morrow
was just the boost the Dallas Stars
needed to continue the surge that has carried them to the top of the Pacific Division.
After missing 18 games with an upper-body injury, Morrow returned on Saturday and scored a power-play goal in his return and Dallas improved to 9-0-1 in its last 10 games by blanking the Anaheim Ducks
"Those four-footers with an empty cage are pretty easy to hit sometimes," Morrow said. "Jamie Benn
made a great play to hit me backdoor with an empty net."
Morrow's power-play goal 2:37 into the second period was the only tally of the game until Michael Ryder
hit the empty net in the final minute, extending his points streak to nine games. Morrow had last played on Feb. 2 at San Jose and his last goal had come on Jan. 17 against Detroit.
"I thought early on he was getting his feet wet and as he went on, he was getting better then he got in some penalty trouble. But I thought it was a good first game for Brenden," Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said.
The Pacific Division-leading Stars (38-26-5, 81 points) won their fifth straight game behind 21 saves from Kari Lehtonen
, who won his fourth straight start and got his third shutout of the season. They remained three points ahead of second-place Phoenix, which beat San Jose 3-0.
"The last three weeks we've been playing real solid and everybody has been helping me out. I've been trying to do the same," Lehtonen said. "It's just fun when you can get wins. Guys are smiling and working hard. It's just a great time of the year to be in it."
Dallas also saw second-line winger Steve Ott
return after missing Thursday's shootout 4-3 win against San Jose due to back spasms. Morrow returned to his customary spot on the right side with Ott on the left and Benn in the middle of the second line.
After a quiet first period, the Stars got a 5-on-3 power play for 35 seconds when Sheldon Brookbank
was called for roughing at the 36-second mark and Francois Beauchemin
was sent off for hooking at 2:01. Dallas was unable to convert during the two-man advantage, but Morrow put the Stars ahead with a 14-foot snap into the right side of the net at 2:37 with the Stars still up a man.
Anaheim's first power play of the night came at 10:18 of the second when Stephane Robidas
was guilty of boarding the Ducks' Corey Perry
. The reigning Hart Trophy winner was seen on the visiting bench holding his shoulder but was able to return. However, after several shifts in the third period, he left the ice for the rest of the game.
"Got a lot of character, a lot of gumption and everything else that's positive," Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said of Perry trying to go in the third. "Tried to go twice and just couldn't go. The X-rays were negative. So that's the one thing. Now I guess it's just a pain issue."
However, it was clear that Robidas receiving only a minor penalty didn't set well with the Anaheim coach.
"If the Corey [Perry] penalty wasn't a five-minute penalty then I don't know what is. He's in the most vulnerable position, headfirst going into the boards, and he's getting a shove," Boudreau said. "Whether it's a big shove or a little shove, it's a shove of a defenseless person into the boards. I don't know how many times I've heard that and you put your best player out in a game we had to win."
Just 25 seconds after the Stars killed off the penalty to Robidas, they put the Ducks back on the power play when Morrow hooked Ryan O'Marra
. Once again, the Stars penalty kill answered the bell, killing off their 23rd straight opposing power play.
Morrow took two penalties in the third, a delay of game minor at 5:29 and a tripping call at 14:44, but the second power play was nullified just five seconds later when Anaheim's Teemu Selanne
was called for holding the stick.
Ryder had a breakaway on Jonas Hiller
at 13:27 of the third, but Hiller got his pad on the shot to keep his team in the game. He also denied Vernon Fiddler
on a bang-bang play with 2:10 left and finished with 20 saves.
The Stars lost forward Radek Dvorak
for the rest of the night midway through the third period with a lower body injury.
"He hurt his ankle a little bit there, so we'll see how that transpires," Gulutzan said. "I don't know if there's a shot or whatever but we'll see what happens."
The Ducks finish a three-game road trip in Colorado on Monday, while the Stars next play on Tuesday night at Minnesota, the first game of a back-to-back that will take them to Winnipeg on Wednesday.