BLUE JACKETS 4 | STARS 2
Two teams riding hot streaks were on a collision course tonight at American Airlines Center - and a familiar face supplied a game-winning goal that was satisfying on multiple levels.
Dallas came into the game 8-1-1 in its last 10 games with a three-game winning streak on home ice, while the Blue Jackets were 11-2-1 in their last 14 and playing some of their best hockey away from Nationwide Arena. Early on, it was a landslide in favor of the visitors but the talented Stars stars (ahem) found a way to get Dallas back in the game.
Goals from James Wisniewski and Ryan Johansen - the latter’s fourth goal in as many games - staked the Blue Jackets to a 2-0 lead in the first period and they built on it in the second period. They knew they needed to get to Stars backup goaltender Anders Lindback early and often, as the big Swede had only one win on the season and not playing with a lot of confidence.
Columbus got to the front of the net and put pucks on the target, won battles and out-skated the Stars through the first 26-plus minutes but midway through the second period, the ice started to tilt in Dallas’ favor.
Remember that sweet game winner we mentioned? It was a goal from former Star Kevin Connauton, playing his first game back in Dallas since being waived and claimed by Columbus in November. Johansen teed him up at the center point for a low, hard bullet that Lindback never saw, giving the Blue Jackets a 3-0 lead at 3:57 of the middle frame.
And that’s when the Stars started to move their feet, funnel pucks to the net and, eventually, find the back of it.
Ales Hemsky, who has a unique clause in his contract that requires him to score against the Blue Jackets, brought Dallas within 3-1 with a slap shot through a maze of bodies at the 5:28 mark. Two solid penalty kills by the Blue Jackets appeared to have their ship steadied, but the Stars kept coming and Antoine Roussel made it a one-goal game on a funky deflection in the slot at 13:14 of the second.
“That’s a very good hockey team,” coach Todd Richards said of Dallas. “They play fast. I thought our guys skated hard with them for 60 minutes.”
It was set up for an exciting third period, but neither team had much going until late in regulation when the Blue Jackets got a huge insurance marker from Mark Letestu, playing his first game since Oct. 28.
Alexander Wennberg made a nice play in the neutral zone to create a 2-on-1 with he and Letestu, and at the moment of truth, Wennberg found Letestu driving the net for a slam dunk with 2:58 remaining.
“This is a fun time right now,” Connauton said. “We’re stringing some wins together here. The fact that we walked out of (Dallas) with a win is a pretty good feeling.”
The top line of Nick Foligno, Johansen and Hartnell combined for seven points and was by far the most effective trio on either side.
Sergei Bobrovsky had himself a good night, making big saves early and again in the third period - in particular a pad stop on Jamie Benn that was one of Dallas’ better opportunities in the game. The Blue Jackets’ fifth and final penalty kill of the night came with Fedor Tyutin (who played his 700th NHL game) in the box for hooking, and it gave them a shot of energy down the stretch in the third to help close down the game and lock up two points.
at Toronto Maple Leafs
Friday, 7:30 p.m. ET
Air Canada Centre