First of all, Nicklas Grossman was fantastic. He set a physical tone early, and he made it clear that the Stars were not going to take any guff from Anaheim.
The Ducks ran two Stars players behind the net, so Grossman came back and ran Ryan Carter against the boards. Grossman received a boarding penalty, but it didn't slow him down. He came back and put a big hit on Corey Perry. Before the period was over, Anaheim tough guy George Parros was telling Grossman he had to fight.
``We wanted to come out and set a pace and send a message, and I think we did that,'' Grossman said. ``I just think that's important for us, to establish the kind of game we want to play.''
Grossman isn't known as a big hitter or an agitator or a fighter. This was just the second fight of his career. However, Crawford said he made a big difference in the game.
``I thought our D was very physical. Robidas was terrific. Skrastins was experienced, the two big guys, Fistric and Grossman, played like big men. That's as physical a game as I've ever seen Nick Grossman play, and he had a fight to boot against one of the tougher guys in the league. So it's all good.''
Next, Kari Lehtonen was finally rewarded for all the good work he has been doing. He had 26 saves, he withstood a couple of flurries at the end, and he had a huge stop on Todd Marchant that may have changed the game. Marchant's chance came short-handed, and the Stars scored 11 seconds after Lehtonen stopped him.
``He's one of the heroes of tonight's game,'' Crawford said. ``He was big when he needed to be. He made very big, patient saves. We were saying after the game, that's the kind of goaltending you need. He was that much better tonight, and that was the difference.''
And the goal that won the game was a thing of beauty. The Neal to Eriksson to Richards combination struck again, and Richards buried one under the bar. However, it hit the crossbar, fell out against Jonas Hiller's back and finally fell back into the goal.
The Stars had seen similar shots stay out in recent games, but this one went in.
"We worked hard for the break tonight," Crawford said. "I don't know if it's a break, we deserved to score the goals that we did. We had several great chances. It was a real good game. Our guys have to be prepared to play as many of these games as they can. If we have that type of effort and that type of commitment to play an overall game, then we can be very successful. We score on a goal that bounces the right way for us, but if you work hard, most people will tell you that most breaks will go your way and we worked really hard tonight."
It was a huge play to stop a three-game losing streak. It was also a reminder of just how hard the team has to work.
"The last couple games, we had 1-1 games going into the third periods and we lost them," said forward Steve Ott said. "Tonight, a 1-1 game, and we ended up on top, so this is the direction we need to go in."
Can the Stars continue the trend on Thursday against San Jose?
``This was very important," said Richards. "That was three in a row (we had lost). It's tough in this league, you start losing like that on the road like that, it's tough. But we stuck together, got home and got our feet under us and that's kind of what we did. As quick as you lose ground, you can make it back up with a few wins and that's our goal on this homestand."