DALLAS – Down a goal with less than a minute left in regulation, the Dallas Stars appeared to have little more than a slim chance against NHL points leader Vancouver.
Moments later, Mike Ribeiro and Loui Eriksson provided a stunning boost to the Stars’ playoff chances.
Ribeiro scored the tying goal in the final minute of regulation and Eriksson netted the winner at 3:52 of overtime to give the Stars their fourth consecutive victory, 3-2 over the Canucks on Sunday.
“It took us 59 minutes to get the second goal, but I thought we stuck with it for 60 minutes and we showed some resolve,” Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said. “We got a result at the end and it’s a big win for our hockey team going down the stretch.”
With a shootout looming late in overtime, Steve Ott carried the puck deep in the Vancouver end and passed to Trevor Daley at the left circle. Eriksson skated to the net and knocked Daley’s goal-mouth pass by Roberto Luongo.
“I was looking at (Daley) and it was a great pass,” Eriksson said after his 21st goal of the season. “I was open there … so it was pretty easy to put home.”
Ribeiro’s goal with 52.5 seconds left in regulation pushed the game into extra time.
With goalie Kari Lehtonen on the bench in favour of a sixth skater, Ribeiro deflected Alex Goligoski’s shot from the point for his 14th of the season.
Michael Ryder added a power-play goal for the Stars, who hadn’t won four in a row since Oct. 29 to Nov. 8.
“They’re a desperate team,” Luongo said. “They’re playing for their lives. They’re in playoff mode right now. Got to give them credit, they battled to the end and came away with a win.”
Ryan Kesler scored in the opening minute of the second period for the Canucks, who were 8-1-1 in their previous 10 road games. But the Canucks were playing their sixth game in nine days and they seemed to be dragging a bit by the overtime.
“Logically, six games in 8 1/2 days in six different cities, that’s a lot of hockey,” coach Alain Vigneault said. “But that being said, we had the game where we wanted it, going into the third with a one-goal lead. Unfortunately, we lost it.”
Mason Raymond added a goal and Chris Higgins had two assists for Vancouver, which improved to 87 points. The Canucks were 12-1-3 in their previous 16 games overall.
Dallas has 70 points, eighth in the Western Conference.
The teams played the first of four meetings this season. Last season, Vancouver swept the four-game series by a combined score of 20-5.
“They’re the top team in the league for a reason, a (Stanley Cup) finalist (last season),” Gulutzan said.
Vancouver held an 8-6 shots advantage in a scoreless first period.
“Coming into this building, where they play real tight-checking hockey, you’ve got to work and take what they give you, and they don’t give you a lot,” Vigneault said.
The Canucks picked up the pace at the start of the second and were rewarded when Kesler notched his 19th goal of the season.
Kesler’s shot from the top of the left circle came off a 3-on-2 break 56 seconds into the period, glancing into the net off Lehtonen’s glove.
Lehtonen allowed another shaky goal when Raymond’s sharp-angle shot from the left boards went in between the goalie and the right post at 13:11 of the second. Raymond’s eighth of the season gave the Canucks a two-goal lead.
Ryder scored his team-high 25th of the season on Dallas’ second power play of the game with a one-timer from the left circle at 18:04 of the second.
NOTES: Dallas rookie D Philip Larsen was in the lineup despite a cut on top of his head sustained in Friday night’s 4-1 home win over Minnesota. Larsen’s helmet was cracked when he was struck by a Minnesota slap shot. … Lehtonen has started 16 of Dallas’ last 18 games. … C Jamie Benn (leg), LW Brenden Morrow (neck, shoulder) and C Jake Dowell (finger) are out for Dallas. … Vancouver is without D Keith Ballard (concussion), LW Andrew Ebbett (collarbone) and LW Aaron Volpatti (shoulder). … As Monday’s deadline approaches, several Stars have been trade targets, including Morrow, Ribeiro and Ott. Vancouver has been mentioned among the teams that might be interested in Morrow and/or Ott.