|Brett Ritchie celebrates his second goal as John Ramage breaks his stick on the net in frustration (Credit: Christina Shapiro/Texas Stars)|
"Anytime you're playing a divisional game, especially for first place, they're huge points," said Justin Dowling, who had a goal in the game.
Coach Desjardins continued, "We wanted to be ready for this weekend. We knew we'd have to play well to have a chance. We got a good start, and that's what you need."
The resounding win was driven by the line of Dowling, Mike Hedden and Brett Ritchie, which combined for three goals and three assists.
"Our line's starting to buzz a bit now these last few games," Dowling added. "We're starting to get good chemistry and it's good to have a week of practice."
After a slow start, the line has generated seventeen points in their last five games, a quarter of their total on the year. Tonight, Brett Ritchie had two goals and an assist while Justin Dowling scored his third of the year.
Cristopher Nilstorp shut out the Heat after allowing six in his last outing against the club. The win extends his record since December 1st to 7-1-1 and is his first shutout on the season.
The Stars got on the board early in the game thanks to a power play. The Heat sport the league's worst penalty killing and gave Texas a total of seven chances on the night for power play goals. The Stars made no mistake, scoring twice.
Brett Ritchie went first, collecting a rebound in front of Joey MacDonald to set the score at 1-0. Jyrki Jokipakka's initial shot rebounded hard off the pad and gave Ritchie a clean shot to the net. While Justin Dowling did not get an assist for the goal, he did a lot of great work on the initial zone entry.
"It was in our notes at the beginning of the name to make sure we were on key on the power play," said Dowling. "You want to take advantage of a low penalty kill. Today was really good for us to get two and one early in the first."
Less than ninety seconds later, Francis Wathier and Brendan Ranford were off to the race on a breakaway after Wathier blew past a fallen Heat blue-liner in the Texas defensive zone. Wathier streaked down the left side and sent a pass to Ranford on the right. The puck glanced off the skate of the backchecking defender and went in for the 2-0 lead. Abbotsford took their timeout.
"It was good [to force the timeout call]," said Desjardins. "We were pushing pretty hard. You have to have a good start, and we were ready."
They finished off the period's scoring with Dowling's goal, a patient goal that saw him wait out the play and fire a backhander past MacDonald after skating from circle-to-circle. Hedden and Ritchie assisted on the tally.
Up 3-0 after one period, the Stars kept their foot on the gas.
"There's no reason to get overconfident," said Desjardins when asked about what he told the team in the first intermission. "They are a good team and they've come back on us before. They're the first place club, so we're not going to relax."
After a scoreless second, Texas put down the Heat in the third period. Ritchie scored his second of the night 2:30 into the frame. He was the recipient of a beautiful pass from Hedden across the ice for the goal. That line has been generating again, adding to the Stars' depth scoring.
"I don't think it's a lot different than earlier in the year," said Ritchie. "It's just luck around the net and confidence with the puck. When the puck starts going in, you get more confident. At the start, it was just a matter of not getting the right bounces."
As the period progressed, the Heat got more frustrated and took some ill-advised penalties. The Stars cashed in one last time on the power play on one of those. Two-hundred feet from his own net, Sven Baertschi was called for holding, setting up the Texas power play. Travis Morin, of course, found twine on a wrist shot from the slot off his own rebound.
Texas has Utica up next tomorrow.
Injuries, scratches, and notes:
Montgomery, Meech, Sinkewich (scratch)
Nemeth, Glennie, Campbell, Petersen, Vause (injury)
Tonight's attendance was 5,628.
AHL Gamesheet - Texas v. Abbotsford - January 10 2014