DALLAS -- After a pair of one-goal losses in the first two games of their three-game homestand, the Dallas Stars were determined to come away with two points against the San Jose Sharks before heading out on the road early next week.
Dallas got power-play goals from Jaromir Jagr and Michael Ryder, plus a late insurance goal by Jamie Benn in a 3-1 win Saturday night before a sellout crowd at American Airlines Center, snapping a two-game losing streak. Rookie goaltender Cristopher Nilstorp made 31 saves for the Stars to earn his first career victory.
"Yeah, we needed it. It was a hard-fought game," Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said. "You can see how good that team is coming into our building. It was a tough game, not a lot of territory out there."
Gulutzan also raved about Nilstorp's performance in his fourth career start.
"I thought he was solid. I thought the game started right for our goalie. He had some shots early but we kept them to the perimeter," Gulutzan said. "He settled right in and gave us a chance to win. I thought that was big."
San Jose fell for the eighth time in its last nine games, a formula that is clearly wearing on Sharks coach Todd McLellan.
"More of the same, pretty good effort but like I said after the game in Chicago, you can't take consolation in that," McLellan said. "You have to put points in the bank and we're not doing it right now. You can't win games scoring one goal. Power play scored a goal. It's the same thing. It's over and over. We've got to find ways to fix it."
After seeing its power play misfire on its first four chances of the game, the Stars finally broke through at 19:02 of the second period when Jagr flipped a wrister into the San Jose net from near the top of the crease. After Loui Eriksson fed Jamie Benn the puck from behind the Sharks' goal and with Antti Niemi focusing on Benn, the Dallas center spotted Jagr streaking towards goal and fed him perfectly for his fifth of the season to break the deadlock.
"We've got to get pucks to the net," Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski said of the Dallas power play. "There was progress but we still have room for improvement, I didn't think we were great out there by any means. But production matters, so it felt good to get a couple."
The Stars added a second power-play goal just 30 seconds into the final period, when Ryder beat Niemi to his right with a 28-foot wrister from the slot to make it 2-0. Benn's insurance tally came at 17:49, when he beat Niemi low on his glove side with a long wrist shot from the slot. Goligoski picked up his second assist of the night on Benn's tally.
"He [Goligoski] has been more and more aggressive in these last three games, using his skating to his advantage and getting pucks towards the net. That's going to be big for our club," Gulutzan said. "I thought the last couple games have been his best of the season. But I don't think we've seen the best of him yet. I think he's going to give us more here. He's getting rolling."
After a quiet first half of the opening period, Dallas drew the game's first power play when Goligoski was tripped near the Stars net by San Jose's Patrick Marleau at 10:54. The Dallas advantage grew to 5-on-3 at 11:52 when Marc-Edouard Vlasic was called for delay of game, but the Stars were unable to convert on either chance.
Both teams were down to just five healthy defensemen after the first period. San Jose's Brent Burns left the ice after just three shifts in the opening period and did not return. It was a similar story for the Stars' Aaron Rome, who suffered a lower-body injury in the first period and also did not return. Dallas finished with four healthy blueliners after Philip Larsen left the game with an apparent shoulder injury late in the third period after a controversial boarding call.
"Lars is being evaluated now, so I don't have an update. Rome got a shot in the foot so we'll have to see how that materializes tomorrow," Gulutzan said.
McLellan had no news on Burns after the game.
"I haven't got one [an update] yet," he said. "Obviously didn't return, so it's more than just out for a period or a shift. If it was something real minor, a bump or a bruise, we probably would have had him back. I don't know now until we get a report."
However, there is some positive news when it comes to the Dallas defensive corps as it appears Trevor Daley, who has missed the last two games with a neck injury is on track to return by Monday.
"Dales should be a game player for Monday. He'll skate tomorrow in Frisco and then get on the plane," Gulutzan said.
Dallas started the second period on the power play after Brad Stuart earned a tripping penalty at 18:50 of the first period. However, that advantage lasted just 34 seconds as Stars defenseman Jordie Benn was called for holding on Marleau to end the opportunity.
The Sharks went on the power play for the first time at 3:37 of the second when Larsen earned a delay of game call after shooting the puck over the glass. However, a tripping call on Vlasic at 5:06 on the Stars' Ryan Garbutt ended that chance prematurely.
And after Jagr was called for hooking at 5:25, things were relatively quiet for the next few minutes. However, at 8:21 Dallas' Jamie Benn and the Sharks' Joe Thornton dropped the gloves in a spirited and lengthy scrum that earned them both five-minute majors for fighting.
Gulutzan gave Benn a great deal of credit for helping energize his teammates with his scrum.
"Well, it certainly got us all off our seats. He has a passion to win and it sparked us for sure. There's our young bull there, going out there and getting things going. I thought it gave our team some energy," Gulutzan said. "We need to do whatever we can to manufacture stuff and I thought Bennie picked a good opportunity and certainly a good opponent to get us going."
Midway through the second period, Stars third-line center Vernon Fiddler had arguably the best chance of the game to that point, whistling a 34-foot slapper from the left side off the far post at 10:31.
After the Stars' Eric Nystrom was called for interference at 1:13 and Stephane Robidas for hooking at 2:17, San Jose broke through just two seconds into the two-man advantage when Marleau beat Nilstorp short side with a wrister. Thornton had won a faceoff in the left circle with the puck sliding to Marleau, who was near the far post and converted for his second goal in as many nights.
But there was a bit of controversy in the final frame. At the 9:03 mark, Thornton crashed into Nilstorp, earning a goaltender interference call. The Sharks' Logan Couture knocked in the ensuing rebound for an apparent goal, but it was quickly disallowed.
"I thought it was hockey play," McLellan said. "I thought it was a forward attacking the net. I understand about protecting goaltenders and all that type of stuff, but we score more goals early and maybe we don't even have to argue that call."
San Jose will now head home before kicking off a three-game homestand on Tuesday against Colorado. Dallas will begin a quick two-game road trip on Monday night at Nashville.