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Eriksson's OT goal gives Stars 4-3 win over Devils

by Brian Compton
NEWARK, N.J. -- It looked like John MacLean's first game as an NHL coach was going to be smooth sailing, but Loui Eriksson had other plans.

After watching his team fall into an early 2-0 deficit, Eriksson scored twice -- including the game-winner at 1:36 of overtime -- as the Dallas Stars rallied for a 4-3 win against the New Jersey Devils at the Prudential Center on Friday night.

Eriksson, who had 29 goals last season, won it when he picked up the puck in his own zone after an errant pass, came down on a 2-on-1 with Brad Richards and ripped a 15-foot wrister from the right circle past Martin Brodeur, who made his 16th consecutive opening-night start for New Jersey (0-0-1). Brodeur finished with 24 saves.

"I was thinking pass when I got to the red line, but the D-man took Richie away pretty good … it was a pretty nice shot," Eriksson said. "It's a nice win."

The Devils, playing their first game with MacLean in charge behind the bench, started the night as if they would blow the Stars back to Dallas.

New Jersey needed just 2:45 to get on the scoreboard, as Travis Zajac scored the club's first goal of the season. With the teams at even strength, Zajac took a pass from Ilya Kovalchuk, raced up the right wing and let go a soft wrist shot that found its way through Kari Lehtonen's skates.

Zach Parise doubled New Jersey's lead at 7:13, as the Devils capitalized when Mark Fistric fell in the neutral zone, which allowed Kovalchuk to start a 2-on-1 the other way. The Russian superstar sent a cross-ice feed to Parise, who fired a gorgeous wrister from the left circle past Lehtonen to make it 2-0.

"It was a good start … a good first period," Parise said. "We were able to get a couple early and (Kovalchuk) hit one off the post. We had a lot of good chances."
Dallas coach Marc Crawford used his timeout after the goal, and the Stars began to settle down. They cut the deficit in half at 11:16 when Brenden Morrow drove to the net and redirected a pretty cross-ice feed from Mike Ribeiro past Brodeur.

"Give the Devils credit … they came out with a certain authority," Crawford said. "Those two quick goals were huge, and quite truthfully if they had scored the third one, then it might be a little bit too much. I thought our guys really got back into the game. I like the way that we played tonight."

Eriksson then tied the game 3:02 into the second period. After Brodeur denied James Neal's turnaround slap shot from the right circle, Eriksson swatted the rebound into the net to make it 2-2.

"We had a pretty tough start there," Eriksson said. "But I think we kept in it and we battled back. I think it was a good job by us. It was nice to get the two points."

Jason Arnott restored New Jersey's lead when he scored a power-play goal at 10:22 of the second. With Steve Ott off for charging, Arnott took a long feed from behind the net by Patrik Elias and fired a slap shot from the right circle through a crowd and past Lehtonen to make it 3-2.

But Richards tied the game just 1:16 later as the pesky Stars just wouldn't go away. Dallas outshot New Jersey 12-5 in the second period.

"I don't think they really did anything differently," Parise said. "I think we kind of did a lot of things to ourselves by turning pucks over. I don't think they did anything differently, I think we kind of did things a little differently."

Both teams had chances -- and hit goal posts -- in the third period, but neither could find the back of the net. After a rocky start to the game, Lehtonen stopped all 13 shots he faced in the third to force overtime. He finished with 27 saves overall.

"I thought we competed really hard," MacLean said. "The work ethic was there. We had some chances. All the little mistakes we made are all correctable. We've just got to keep plugging."

Follow Brian Compton on Twitter: @BComptonNHL

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