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Hemsky helps Stars spoil Rangers' comeback bid

by Dan Rosen

NEW YORK -- One night after starting their three-game road trip with what center Tyler Seguin called an embarrassing loss, the Dallas Stars got a win they needed to keep pace for a wild-card spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs from the Western Conference.

Ales Hemsky scored the winning goal with a stick side shot across his body from the top of the right circle with 3:58 remaining in overtime to lift the Stars to a 3-2 victory against the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden on Sunday.

Jason Spezza and Erik Cole also scored for the Stars (24-21-8). Kari Lehtonen made 34 saves for his 22nd win.

The Stars had lost seven of their previous 10 games by one goal, including Saturday, when the last-place Buffalo Sabres defeated Dallas 3-2 in regulation despite the Stars finishing with a 40-24 advantage in shots on goal and 87-36 in total shot attempts.

"It helps you to believe again because we've had some tough stuff happen to us," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "To win in overtime, that helps us. It's been a little bit of a struggle."

The Stars (56 points) are tied with the Minnesota Wild and Los Angeles Kings. The Colorado Avalanche have 55 points. They all trail the Calgary Flames, who with 61 points in 53 games currently hold the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference.

Dallas finishes a three-game road trip against the Boston Bruins on Tuesday.

"We lost lately a lot of points where we beat ourselves in a lot of games, and finally today we get a little break and we get a win, so hopefully we can keep going," Hemsky said. "If you want to make the playoffs you've gotta win those tight games."

The game was extended by Rangers forward Chris Kreider, who forced overtime by scoring a 6-on-4 power-play goal with 1:20 remaining in regulation.

Rangers goalie Cam Talbot left the net with eight seconds left in the power play and Kreider scored on a rebound a few seconds later. Stars defenseman John Klingberg was in the box for a delay of game penalty.

"I was too nice of a guy and wanted to give an Eastern Conference team a point," Lehtonen said while laughing. "That was the only thing that messed up a nice night."

It was Lehtonen's mistake that led to the goal. He came out of his net to try to shoot the puck down the ice instead of either leaving it for defenseman Alex Goligoski or at the very least shooting it to the wall, out of harm's way.

Instead, Rangers forward Mats Zuccarello intercepted the puck to create the chance. Lehtonen got back to stop Zuccarello's shot, but the rebound came to Kreider below the right circle and he put it back in.

The goal came at the end of a busy period for Lehtonen, who faced 20 shots in the final 20 minutes. The Stars generated two shots in the third period.

"There's two things tonight," Ruff said. "[Lehtonen] got in the net and he looked good, looked composed and I liked the way he played. He made a big mistake late and his teammates covered up for him. I think both parts are good. He was there in the third when we were hemmed in a few times, and at the end the guys were there for him."

The Rangers (30-16-5) lost to the Nashville Predators 3-2 on Saturday at Bridgestone Arena. In losing back-to-back games, they failed to move into third place in the Metropolitan Division. They are one point behind the Washington Capitals with three games in hand.

"It was good to get the point; it was good the guys stuck with it and had a good third period," Rangers forward Rick Nash said. "But we have to play a complete game, especially at this point in the season when points are hard to come by."

Talbot, who has become the No. 1 goalie in wake of Henrik Lundqvist's vascular injury, was in net for both losses this weekend. He made 22 saves on Sunday after making 20 saves on Saturday.

New York starts a four-game road trip Tuesday against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre. The Rangers' current backup goalie is Mackenzie Skapski, a 20-year-old rookie who has never appeared in an NHL game.

"We've got to be a lot more consistent," Nash said. "We've got to be a lot better."

That's how Lehtonen said he was feeling coming into the game. He was 4-3-2 with a .902 save percentage and 3.00 goals-against average in eight consecutive starts before sitting Saturday. He felt he needed a strong performance for his confidence.

"It was nice to be back there and be a difference maker," Lehtonen said. "They were coming hard in the third and it was fun to be the guy again after a couple of struggling games and a couple games where other goalies were a lot better than me."


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