RALEIGH, N.C. -- There is rarely time to reflect on career milestones in the middle of a season, but Dallas Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen allowed himself a moment to consider his 500th NHL game before the Stars faced the Carolina Hurricanes on Thursday.
"At the start of the game, I started thinking about my first game," Lehtonen said. "It was a nice little milestone. But after that, it was just another game. You need to battle and stay calm. It was good enough today."
The Stars (31-27-10) scored three goals in the first period and dominated the Hurricanes (25-33-8) for most of the game in a 5-3 win at PNC Arena.
Dallas had allowed 11 Carolina shots on goal when Cody Eakin extended the Stars' lead to 4-1 in the third period with his 16th goal. The Hurricanes then scored two goals in a 48-second span to make it a one-goal game, before the Stars' Patrick Eaves scored into an empty net to seal the win.
Victor Rask had a three-point night for Carolina, including the first goal of the game at 4:06 of the first period. Rask won the draw, cut to the net, and backhanded in the rebound of Brett Bellemore's hard wrist shot from the point for his 10th goal.
Dallas made it 2-1 after a long shift in the offensive zone. After winning several individual battles, Eakin passed from the goal line to the slot, where Goligoski snapped a hard shot past Carolina goalie Anton Khudobin at 10:38.
The Stars made it 3-1 on a Demers wrist shot that found its way through traffic from the right point at 16:25. The goal was unassisted, after Demers held in Eric Staal's clearing attempt along the boards.
"I thought some guys looked a little nervous," Hurricanes coach Bill Peters said. "We turned it over needlessly early, and then got a little rattled and didn't quite recover as quickly as we needed to. There were some simple plays that could have been made but they weren't made."
The Hurricanes had four shots in the first period. They continued to struggle in the second, but Khudobin kept them in the game. In the middle of the period, he made outstanding right-pad saves on Tyler Seguin and Ales Hemsky driving the net.
Eakin made it 4-1 when he got a stick on Goligoski's shot from inside the blue line at 11:37 of the third period.
But Carolina wasn't finished. Andrej Nestrasil scored his sixth of the season for Carolina on a goal-mouth scramble at 13:58. Less than a minute later, Chris Terry made it 4-3 with his eighth goal after Lehtonen bobbled a shot from Bellemore at 14:46.
"We got on our heels a little bit and they got a couple breaks too," Goligoski said. "It wasn't like we were playing too bad. They got a little momentum. I thought we regrouped well after that."
The Hurricanes had one good chance to tie it with the extra attacker when Staal fanned on a bouncing puck in the slot.
"You know you're going to have to battle," Dallas coach Lindy Ruff said. "You're going to have to block a couple shots, you're going to have to win some big 1-on-1 plays on your end. We had guys in the right place, and we were fortunate enough we didn't give them a Grade A opportunity."
Eaves scored his eighth goal when he cleared a rebound from the top of the Stars crease and into the empty net.
Dallas has won two in a row and four out of five.
As for Lehtonen, he was sharp when he needed to be. Two of his best saves came in the second period, first with a right-pad save on Alexander Semin's breakaway, then with a glove save against Elias Lindholm finishing a 2-on-1.
"That's a heck of an accomplishment for a goaltender," Ruff said about Lehtonen's 500th game. "He made the big save on the breakaway. I thought we were playing a real sound game. We made a couple mistakes where he covered up."
Lehtonen is 242-180-55 in his career. The years have rolled by quickly since he made his debut in the 2003-04 season with the Atlanta Thrashers.
"It's a long time ago," Lehtonen said. "I don't look the same. Sometimes I don't feel the same. But it's been fun times, and hopefully I can keep doing this for a while."