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No comeback needed: Stars blank Ducks for sixth straight win

Dallas continues to show that consistent play can roll up victories and points in the standings

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- One of the concerns for Stars fans in recent years has been that their team has played down to the competition.

It was a legitimate gripe.

Put the Stars up against the best in the league, and they typically were game for the fight. Give them a team they "should" beat, and they often didn't.

 

[PHOTO JOURNAL: Go behind the scenes of the Stars' sixth straight victory in Anaheim]

 

But during this six-game winning streak, the Stars have beaten Detroit, Los Angeles and Anaheim -- teams that rank 31st, 28th and 27th in the league by points, respectively. That's been a testament to how interim head coach Rick Bowness has drilled the team, and the calm he has given on the bench.

The Stars in games against the Red Wings and Kings got down a goal and then methodically bounced back. Dallas on Thursday didn't give up that first goal for the first time in six games, but still was methodical and machine-like in a 3-0 victory over the Anaheim Ducks.

Video: DAL@ANA: Bishop denies 27 shots for 33rd NHL shutout

There were surges for and surges against. There were some great saves by Ben Bishop, who earned his 33rd career shutout by stopping 27 shots. But, in the end, there was an even, predictable performance by a Stars team that now is 26-14-4 (56 points).

"I think we're just sticking to our game plan, and it was no different tonight," said Bishop. "We knew they were going to be a desperate team, and I thought we did a good job all three periods. It's tough on a back-to-back, but they guys did a great job for 60 minutes."

That was a big deal. Dallas has been getting behind, but has been able to be smart and calm when they do get down. It's part of a maturing process that has taken place over the past two seasons, and it's also a sign that the reconfigured coaching staff is starting to hit its stride.

"Our team doesn't rattle easy. We know we're a good team," Bowness said.

Asked how he attains that state of mind on the bench, Bowness said he just does.

Video: DAL@ANA: Gurianov cranks one-timer for opening PPG

"We believe in our team and we trust them," Bowness said. "We've got a veteran team and the kids that we have are great kids and good players. We believe in them. That doesn't mean we're going to win every game, we're not. But if we trust the team, we'll bounce back."

Thursday's game was a great sign of that balance.

Roope Hintz and Denis Gurianov connected on the first goal. Hintz found a wide-open Gurianov for a one-timer and Gurianov slapped in his 10th goal of the season. He is tied for fourth on the team in goals behind Hintz, who leads with 15. Not bad for a couple of guys taken in the 2015 draft. In the meantime, Bishop hit Tyler Seguin with a great stretch pass, and Seguin then fed Alexander Radulov for his 13th goal of the season.

That gave the Stars a 2-0 lead after two periods, and Bishop made it stand up. In between, players like Andrew Cogliano had some great shifts in helping keep the scoring chances down. The 32-year-old Cogliano was returning to Anaheim for the first time since being traded to the Stars last season, and he and Corey Perry (who is serving a five-game suspension for an elbowing incident) each were given video board tributes and standing ovations.

It was a great sign of the respect each has in the league, and it's a display that will be repeated Saturday in San Jose when Joe Pavelski returns there for the first time. It's also a sign that this is a wily veteran team that knows how to play consistent hockey.

Video: DAL@ANA: Radulov finishes off Seguin's feed for PPG

"We're getting contributions from different guys. I think our team defense has been pretty good, and I think that's the difference," Cogliano said of the reason for the six-game win streak. "We have everyone buying into that, so when you have that, you're defending well and you're limiting chances."

Asked if it was a good sign that the Stars are beating teams they should, Cogliano said he doesn't look at it that way.

"I thought there wasn't a lot of room out there, to be honest. I thought the Ducks and the Kings both defended really well, so I don't look at this as teams…I know where they are in the standings, but I thought it was two games that were among our toughest," Cogliano said. "I thought it was more positive how we won the games. We could have taken a backseat and not continued to push forward, but I thought the last two games have shown we want to be a good team and we want to win games different ways."

The Stars rank seventh in the NHL in points, and that sounds about right for this group. They lead the NHL in goals against and save percentage, and they score enough to make that defensive play hold up. They typically aren't going to blow anyone out, but they also aren't going to blow games, either.

That wasn't always the case with this team.

Video: Gurianov, Bishop propel Stars to shutout win

Bowness is steering the ship with a quiet no-nonsense approach. He stresses group play, he stresses trust, and stresses balance.

"I think he goes with the mature mindset of the whole team, and we kind of feed off of him," Bishop said. "Bones kinds of says what he needs to say, he doesn't overreact, and everybody respects him in this room."

He also leans heavily on assistant coaches John Stevens, Todd Nelson, Derek Laxdal and Jeff Reese, and that's just part of the entire "team" vibe. Add to it the fact he doesn't stress about the lack of scoring that was a big topic earlier in the season, and you have a pretty good blueprint going forward.

"The guys are very comfortable with the way we play, and they take great pride in our defensive play," Bowness said. "If we do that, we'll get enough scoring opportunities and put the puck in the net. We all know we've got great goaltending, our defense has been outstanding, our forwards when they work hard like that, yeah, that's how we should we play."

Because right now, it seems to work on more nights than not.

Don't miss your chance to see the Stars take on the Buffalo Sabres when they return home to American Airlines Center on Thursday, Jan. 16 at 7:30 p.m. Get your tickets now!

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.

Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for DallasStars.com and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika, and listen to his podcast.

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