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Mike Ribeiro scores three goals in Stars' 4-1 win over Panthers

SUNRISE, Fla. - This time, Mike Ribeiro got that elusive third goal.

Ribeiro had his first NHL hat trick, Mike Modano also scored, and Marty Turco made 27 saves in the Dallas Stars' 4-1 victory over the Florida Panthers on Wednesday night.

Ribeiro entered this season with 11 multigoal games. He scored three straight goals and completed the natural hat trick with an empty-net goal with 26 seconds left.

"This is my first one," said Ribeiro, who is in his ninth NHL season. "I've had a lot of two goals in the first period and couldn't finish ever. It's a tough thing. I'll take it. Even at the end, when I threw the puck in, I thought it was going to bounce at the side of the net."

Karlis Skrastins scored for Florida, and Tomas Vokoun stopped 21 shots. It was the first game in January that the Panthers failed to get at least a point (5-1-3). The Panthers enter the all-star break tied for ninth in the Eastern Conference, one point behind Carolina for the final playoff spot.

"We've picked up points in eight straight games," Panthers coach Peter DeBoer said. "It's a disappointing loss but definitely not devastating. We're still right in the thick of things and we'll look at it as the glass half full with where we're at in the season and here we have a chance to get to."

Dallas is one of a group of teams battling for a Western Conference playoff spot.

"You can grasp momentum because we're going into the break, the timing of it is good," Dallas coach Dave Tippett said. "But it's more about building the belief system in your team that if you do the extra things that allow you to win it enhances your chances. That's what we did in the second and third periods that was a tale of two games."

Ribeiro's second goal stretched Dallas' lead to 3-1. Ribeiro took control of the puck off the boards in the neutral zone and skated in alone on Vokoun. Ribeiro's wrister beat Vokoun on the glove side at 3:45 of the third.

The Stars took a 2-1 lead on Ribeiro's goal with 32 seconds left in the second. Matt Niskanen took a slap shot from just inside the blue line that James Neal deflected to Ribeiro on the left side.

Dallas tied it at 1 on Modano's power-play goal at 12:33 of the second. Brad Richards passed from the left circle to Modano to the right of the net. Modano's shot got by Vokoun and went high into the net.

"We felt like we kind of pushed them back on their heels (in the second)," Modano said. "We were a little more efficient with what we were doing."

The Panthers took a 1-0 lead on Skrastins' goal. Kamil Kreps shot from the right circle is blocked by Turco but Skrastins backhands in the rebound at 12:41.

"We're by no means happy with just being close," Florida's Keith Ballard said. "We've shown this year we're a pretty good team. Once we've done that we expect it every night. That's the difference between the teams that make it and the teams that don't."

Notes: Florida D Nick Boynton (flu) and L Ville Peltonen (bruised right knee) missed their second consecutive games. ... Dallas RW Fabian Brunnstrom (high ankle sprain) practiced Tuesday, but did not play. ... Dallas is 7-4-2 in its past 13 games.


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