Cole scored on a breakaway with 4:49 left in regulation to give the Stars a big 4-3 win against the Minnesota Wild on Saturday after the franchise honored Mike Modano by retiring his No. 9 in a pregame ceremony.
"I know these guys really wanted to play hard for him. All the activities outside the game were awesome and these guys wanted to cap it off and make it a real special day for him," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said of Modano. "It's the biggest day, I think one of the biggest days in franchise history when you put a guy like that up in the rafters and then you cap it off with that type of game."
The win pulled the Stars within three points of the Wild for the first wild-card spot in the Western Conference.
Cole, who also added an assist, broke a 3-3 tie when he intercepted an errant pass by Wild defenseman Keith Ballard near the Dallas blue line. Cole raced up the middle of the ice before beating Minnesota goaltender Darcy Kuemper with a well-placed wrister just under his blocker for his 15th goal of the season.
"Bad read on my part," Ballard said. "It was pretty obvious what I was looking to do. I don't know if I telegraphed it a little bit or I just kind of misjudged how high he was playing in the D zone. It's a split-second decision of is he open or is he not and I thought I could slide one across to him, but obviously the guy picked it off."
Haula went hard into the crease and collided with Lehtonen, knocking off the goalie's helmet and drawing blood. He was assessed a charging major and a game misconduct. Seguin tied the game during the long power play.
"He went in hard, [Lehtonen] hit the crossbar hard," Ruff said. "Likelihood it's a concussion on just a dirty play. He should be suspended. Fourth-liner takes out our goaltender.
Minnesota coach Mike Yeo saw the play a bit differently.
"It's a tough one. I'm not sure what else a player can do. You're trying to score a goal," Yeo said. "But you watch the replay and he's trying to make a play to score a goal. He gets tripped up a little bit. There's really nowhere for him to go, so I would say it's incidental but what can you do? I'm not going to sit here and complain about that."
Tim Thomas, acquired Wednesday at the NHL Trade Deadline in a trade with the Florida Panthers, made his Dallas debut in relief of Lehtonen.
"In a certain way, [it was] one of the easiest wins I ever got in my career," Thomas said. "But it was great to see the team come back. They deserved it. When the going got tough, we found a way to win and it's really nice to see [Erik] Cole score that goal."
The Stars jumped out to an early lead when captain Jamie Benn scored 31 seconds into the game with a wrister from the right circle. After some solid passing from Seguin and Rich Peverley, Benn finished for his 25th of the season, beating Kuemper on the short side over his glove.
Minnesota tied it when Haula scored a shorthanded goal at 16:32, beating Lehtonen top shelf with a wrister from the left circle after Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski was unable to control the puck near the Dallas blue line. Mikko Koivu's cross-ice pass found Haula, who finished for his third goal of the season.
Dallas regained the lead when rookie Alex Chiasson scored a power-play goal on a tip-in 1:55 into the second period. After Benn won a faceoff in the right circle following a penalty against Kyle Brodziak, the puck made its way over to Seguin, who fired a hard shot from the left point. Kuemper made the save, but the puck trickled through his legs and Chiasson knocked it in for his 11th goal of the season.
Charlie Coyle tied the game at 11:15 with a power-play goal after a flurry of activity in front of the Dallas net. Lehtonen stopped shots by Jonas Brodin and Matt Moulson, but Coyle knocked the puck into the net for his seventh goal of the season.
Minnesota took its first lead 1:23 into the third period when Brodziak whistled a wrister past Lehtonen from the left circle after a turnover in the Dallas zone. Stars defenseman Brenden Dillon was trying to clear the puck, but his cross-ice pass was intercepted by Brodziak, who scored his sixth.
The Stars tied it at 3-3 at 11:11 when Seguin connected for a power-play goal during Haula's charging major. Seguin collected his own rebound after his initial effort was turned away by Kuemper and flicked in his team-leading 29th of the season.
"Special teams are going to win games, especially in a playoff-type game like that was tonight," Seguin said. "I've played in a bunch of playoff games and that's about as close as you're going to see to it in a regular season game."
Kuemper stopped 34 of 38 shots. Lehtonen made 26 saves before departing with the injury, and Thomas stopped all six shots he faced in relief.