ANAHEIM, Calif. – Scott Niedermayer doesn’t particularly care who gets the credit for the Anaheim Ducks’ turnaround.
Still, there’s little debate how much the star defenceman impacts the team. Niedermayer had a goal and two assists Tuesday night, helping Anaheim beat the Dallas Stars 4-2 for its fourth consecutive victory and seventh straight at home. Anaheim is 10-2-2 since Niedermayer returned after contemplating retirement.
“We’ve been playing better as of late, and all the experts are going to say it’s because we got Scott Niedermayer back and we got Doug Weight here,” said Todd Marchant, who scored the go-ahead goal in the second period.
“Those two guys are not going to turn this ship around by themselves, but obviously they’re a huge part of it,” he said. “But having guys like that lifts everybody else’s game to another level. You can see it. The list goes on and on about guys who have been able to lift their game. Right now, individual confidence is growing every day, and so is our team’s confidence.”
Now that Niedermayer is back in the lineup, the Ducks look much the same as last year when they won their first Stanley Cup with Niedermayer skating off with the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP.
Goaltender Marty Turco and his Dallas teammates certainly thought so after beating them three straight times while Niedermayer was at home contemplating retirement.
“I think we expected what we got from them,” Turco said after making 32 saves. “That’s a good team, and they’ve been playing great.”
Todd Bertuzzi and Ryan Getzlaf each had a goal and an assist for the Ducks, who beat Dallas for the first time in four meetings this season and vaulted over the Stars into second place in the Pacific Division with their 10th win in 13 games.
Niklas Hagman and Loui Eriksson scored for Dallas, which has lost seven of nine.
“Before you start pointing fingers, you’ve got to take care of what you can control,” captain Brenden Morrow said. “I think you look in the mirror and ask yourself what you can do to help your team. And there are a lot of people who can give a lot more right now. Sometimes we are lacking a little bit of emotion out there.”
The Ducks put relentless pressure on Turco, particularly in the second period when they outshot the Stars 19-5 and grabbed a 3-1 lead with Marchant’s fourth goal and Getzlaf’s 18th.
Turco stopped Ryan Carter’s sharp-angle backhander from the right circle and swept the puck behind his net while on his knees, but Marchant beat defenceman Trevor Daley to it and scored on a wraparound at 9:02 of the period.
“We tried to get two guys in on the forecheck to put pressure on them, and we were able to sustain it shift after shift,” Marchant said.
Less than five minutes later, Getzlaf converted a rebound of Brandon Bochenski’s shot while Morrow was off for tripping Niedermayer.
Eriksson cut the margin to 3-2 just 23 seconds before the second intermission. But Bertuzzi restored Anaheim’s two-goal lead with 11:23 to play, just 16 seconds after Dallas rookie Nicklas Grossman was sent off for hooking.
It was the first time Dallas had allowed two power-play goals in a game since Nov. 10 at Los Angeles, when they blew a four-goal lead in the third period and lost 6-5 in overtime. The Stars came in leading the NHL with an 87.8 percentage on the penalty kill, and had allowed just three goals on 47 short-handed situations in their previous 12 games.
Defenceman Sergei Zubov returned to the Stars’ lineup after missing one game with a foot injury. He hooked Chris Kunitz from behind on a breakaway with 4:06 left, resulting in Kunitz’s first career penalty shot. But Turco made the save.
Hagman opened the scoring at 3:13, picking up a loose puck in the slot and beating Jean-Sebastien Giguere with a short wrist shot after Mike Modano’s centring pass caromed off Bertuzzi’s skate. Giguere had 22 saves.
The Ducks tied it less than 1 1/2 minutes later on a sensational rush involving Niedermayer, Bertuzzi and Corey Perry, who worked the puck back and forth in the Dallas zone as though they had it on a string. The play included two touch passes and a 360-degree, no-look backhanded pass from Bertuzzi to Perry, whose final touch pass set up Niedermayer’s one-timer from the left circle.
“It’s fun when plays work like that,” Niedermayer said. “You don’t see a lot of goals like that in the league today because players are too good and teams are too good defensively. So it’s nice to be a part of a play like that for sure. Both those guys made pretty nice plays.”
Notes: The Ducks, who swept their four-game homestand, will play 12 of their next 13 games on the road. … With Jussi Jokinen, Jere Lehtinen and Philippe Boucher still sidelined, the Stars reached 100 man-games lost to injuries. Anaheim’s total is 89, not counting the sabbaticals taken by Niedermayer and Teemu Selanne. … Anaheim C Rob Niedermayer, whose next game will be his 900th in the NHL during the regular season, injured his groin in the first period and didn’t return.