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Sharks rally to beat Stars 6-3

by Steve Hunt
DALLAS -- The San Jose Sharks met coach Todd McLellan's challenge.

After a poor showing Monday night in Chicago, the Sharks rebounded with by beating the Stars 6-3 on Tuesday at American Airlines Center. Joe Thornton and Dany Heatley scored twice as San Jose beat Dallas in regulation for the first time this season.

It wasn't easy -- the Stars grabbed a 2-0 lead early in the second period before San Jose scored four in a row, including goals by Ryan Clowe and Torrey Mitchell early in the third period for a 4-2 lead.

"I think we responded," said center Joe Pavelski, who finished with 4 assists. "We capitalized on their mistakes. We just have a lot of confidence now and momentum's a little bit more on our side."

Dallas cut it to 4-3 when Jamie Benn scored his 20th at 8:11 of the third. But Thornton and Heatley hit the empty net in the final minute while San Jose was killing a penalty.

"We challenged them after the effort that we had last night," McLellan said. "We haven't had to do that much lately. To come back, fall behind and then battle back in the game is pretty rewarding, especially against a team that plays that hard."

The win gives Pacific Division-leading San Jose 88 points, three in front of Los Angeles and two behind Detroit for second place in the Western Conference.

The loss kept Dallas seventh in the West with 82 points. The Stars remained one ahead of Calgary, which lost 4-3 to Phoenix -- and two in front of ninth-place Nashville, a 4-2 loser to L.A. at home.

After a scoreless first period, Dallas jumped in front when Mike Ribeiro's wrister at 3:28 of the second beat Antti Niemi top shelf for his 16th of the season -- and fourth against the Sharks.

Right after the Ribeiro goal, San Jose's Douglas Murray leveled Dallas All-Star winger Loui Eriksson with a punishing hit near center ice. Stars center Steve Ott quickly went to bat for his teammate; he and Murray dropped the gloves in front of the Sharks net.

Eriksson left the game with an upper body injury and did not return.

"That's one that they'll have to look at and I am sure that they will," Dallas coach Marc Crawford said of the hit on Eriksson. "We're hopeful that Loui is going to be all right. He's not feeling good right now and we'll see where he is at tomorrow."

Not surprisingly, Murray had a somewhat different take.

"When it comes to Eriksson, it's a 50/50 puck," the Sharks defenseman said. "If he pokes it by me, he's getting a breakaway. So as far as I remember the situation, I went to play the puck in the body on the same time and I hit him. You never try to hurt a guy, but it's unfortunate."

Ott saw things a bit differently.

"The Loui Eriksson hit, I think that is prototypical," he said. "He's reaching for the hit. The big guy knows what he is doing. He's bearing down and finishing the check. He did it again on [Tomas] Vincour and elbowed him right in the face."

San Jose went on the power play thanks to Ott receiving an instigator penalty, but 56 seconds later, Benn fed Toby Petersen for a shorthanded goal, his second of the season, at 5:08 to make it 2-0.

However, the Sharks got on the board at 6:23 when Thornton got his 19th of the season, deflecting Dan Boyle's shot past Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen. Just 31 seconds into a 5-on-3 set up after Benn was called for delay of game, Heatley tied it with his 23rd of the season by knocking a rebound past Lehtonen to make it 2-2.

Clowe put the Sharks ahead to stay 1:51 into the final period with his 23rd of the season after Pavelski stole the puck from Dallas' Jeff Woywitka. Just 1:40 later, San Jose made it 4-2 when Mitchell scored his sixth of the season, a tip-in after a great pass from Pavelski.

But Dallas was far from done. Patrick Marleau was whistled for hooking at 7:04, and Benn converted scored his 20th of the season 31 seconds later, poking the puck past Niemi after Ott dug the rebound of Jamie Langenbrunner's shot off the end boards and put it back in front.

Niemi, who was yanked in the 6-3 loss at Chicago on Monday, rebounded with a solid 34-save performance.

"It was important for us to show that we believed in him after pulling him in his old arena and in front of those fans [last night]," McLellan said. "We also thought it'd be pretty good motivating factor tonight to use him. We didn't think that his mates would hang him out to dry again like they did yesterday and it worked."

One of the few bright spots for Dallas was the performance of Benn, who had a goal and two assists in the loss.

"He was marvelous tonight, he really was," Crawford said. "He played hard all night, and made plays, scored goals, killed penalties, was good on the power play. There were lots of positives with him."

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