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Stars stay alive with win at Anaheim

by Curtis Zupke
ANAHEIM, Calif. – Scrape the dirt off Dallas: The Stars are far from dead.

Clinging to the slimmest of margins in its attempt to stay in contention for the postseason, Dallas got two goals from Mike Ribeiro and held on in a 4-3 thriller against Anaheim on Sunday night at Honda Center.

Dallas is three points behind Chicago for the eighth and final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

The Stars have four games remaining, and all are against non-playoff teams, including two against Colorado. Players said they need to win out to get in, and it just might be manageable.

"Usually when you win, you get on a roll here," Ribeiro said in a boisterous locker room. "There's no more ways to lose. We need to find ways to win and here we did. We got the bounces that we needed. We still allowed a few goals but the way we showed up – I think we battled through and everyone played hard."

The victory snapped a 0-3-3 spell and prevented Anaheim from clinching a playoff spot. It wasn't easy.

Anaheim had a goal waived off with 2:04 remaining when Saku Koivu interfered with goalie Kari Lehtonen, and another with less than 60 seconds to go when Corey Perry committed a hand pass to Bobby Ryan, who had knocked the puck into the top of the net during a 6-on4 advantage.

"Those were anxious times," Dallas captain Brenden Morrow said. "We're in desperation mode right now. Every point means something, and these were two huge ones. They got a late goal against us last time. We were able to hang on tonight."

The Ducks could have also moved into sixth place with a victory, which would have also clinched postseason berths for the Los Angeles Kings and Phoenix Coyotes.

Anaheim coach Randy Carlyle lamented the final minutes but said that that chance wasn't deserved.

"I don't know if we were worthy of it to get ourselves in a position to get that goal at that point," Carlyle said. "We made some mistakes in the hockey game – not from lack of effort – just some mental mistakes."

Carlyle watched his team give Dallas six power plays, including a two-man advantage in the second period. Anaheim also failed to score on a two-man advantage in the second.

"I don't think we're happy with the way we played overall," Koivu said. "The focus wasn't there. We made some mistakes. Dallas was ata must-win. They showed up, really defended well and got their breaks on the power play. Our five-on-three didn't score. Those are the difference makers."

The Ducks were looking at a two-goal deficit going into the third before Perry came up with a highlight play worthy of his Hart Trophy candidacy.

With George Parros serving a holding penalty, Perry stole the puck from Jamie Langenbrunner at the blue line and drove in to sneak a backhand past Lehtonen with 1:17 remaining in the period to bring the Ducks to 4-3.

It was Perry's NHL-leading 47th goal and franchise record fourth shorthanded strike this season. Perry has 16 goals in his past 13 games.

Dallas appeared to be in the driver's seat after Ribeiro gave it a 4-2 lead on a power play goal just shortly after its brief two-man advantage had expired.

That swing in the Stars' favor seemed to kill the home-crowd buzz surrounding Lubomir Visnovsky, who was a pre-game warmup decision, Carlyle said, because of an upper body injury suffered Saturday night when he was hit by San Jose defenseman Douglas Murray.

Anaheim announced before the game that Visnovsky's injury wasn't serious, and Visnovsky proved it  with a goal from a steep angle to make it 2-2 after the first period. 

Dallas couldn't clear the puck in a goal-mouth scramble, and it popped out to Visnovsky near the goal line on the left side. Lehtonen was still searching for it when Visnovsky scored.

Fewer than two minutes earlier, Visnovsky's turnover allowed Dallas to hem in Anaheim and convert when Ribeiro buried Morrow’s pass for a 2-1 lead.

Ribeiro had only one goal in his previous nine games but cashed in two to further his reputation as a Ducks killer with 38 points in 37 career games against Anaheim.

"The last three games here, I couldn't get anything going," Ribeiro said. "I was still creating chances but nothing was going in. To come back with big goals like that, and Brenden, too, I think it's good for our line. We had to. We had no choice today."

Both teams elected to play their goaltenders on back-to-back games.

Ray Emery did it for the first time in the NHL since his comeback from major hip surgery, although he did play on consecutive nights during his AHL conditioning stint.

The Stars got to him early when Jeff Woywitka took two strides across the Anaheim blue line and tied it at 1 on a wrist shot that tucked inside the right post using Ducks defenseman Luca Sbisa as a screen.

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