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Sharks top Stars in final game before Stadium Series

by Steve Hunt

DALLAS -- Andrew Desjardins scored two second-period goals andAntti Niemi made 37 saves to lead theSan Jose Sharks to a 5-2 victory against the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center on Thursday.

"He played a really good game," Sharks coach Todd McLellan said of Desjardins, who had scored three goals all season entering Thursday. "That line (Tomas Hertl, Chris Tierney and Desjardins), for the minutes they got, were responsible defensively, provided us some momentum and scored two big goals, so they all deserve a lot of credit."

Marc-Edouard Vlasic scored in the first period and empty-net goals by Patrick Marleau andTommy Wingels put the game away after Dallas came within 3-2 on Erik Cole's goal with 2:16 remaining.

The victory moved the Sharks (30-22-8) into the second Western Conference wild-card position for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. They are two points ahead of the Los Angeles Kings, who have played three fewer games. The Sharks and Kings play Saturday in the 2015 Coors Light Stadium Series at Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. (10 p.m. ET; NBCSN, CBC, TVA2).

It was an impressive bounce-back effort for the Sharks, who were routed 5-1 by the Nashville Predators on Tuesday.

"We've got to start winning. This was a huge game. We've got these guys right there, so I think this was a huge game for us," Desjardins said. "We've got to start learning to win and start getting on the winning track again, so I think this was a big start."

Trevor Daley had a goal and an assist and Jamie Benn had two assists for the Stars (27-23-8), who are six points out of a playoff berth.

"When you give a team a lead like that, you know it's going to be hard to come back," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "I liked the fight. We had trouble with the hands. We missed opportunities."

San Jose went ahead to stay when Vlasic scored his seventh goal of the season 3:24 into the opening period. After some deft stickhandling byLogan Couture to gain space against Dallas defenseman Alex Goligoski, Couture made a perfect pass to a streaking Vlasic, who finished top shelf at the near post for his first goal in 14 games.

"That's always what you want to do, create some momentum and get that first one and put the other team on their heels," Vlasic said.

Desjardins, who began the game with three goals all season, made it 2-0 at 3:38 of the second period when Hertl's wrist shot from the right circle hit his stick and deflected into the net. He scored again at 6:14 on a screened wrist shot from the right point that sailed past goaltender Kari Lehtonen's blocker.

Ruff then lifted Lehtonen, who stopped 14 of 17 shots, and replaced him with Jhonas Enroth, who stopped all nine shots he faced.

"It was just a little momentum change," Ruff said of his rationale for the goaltending change. "We needed an effort out of Jhonas, and he gave it to us. I wanted to rest (Lehtonen). We have five games in eight nights."

Dallas made it 3-1 at 8:00 when Daley scored a power-play goal. Niemi stopped Benn's wrist shot, but Daley poked in the rebound for his 15th goal of the season. It came with Sharks center Joe Thornton off for tripping.

"It's a good hockey club over there," Daley said of the Sharks. "We're both jockeying for some position, so it's a tough one to lose. We have to put it in the past, and flush that one out."

Dallas had two power plays early in the third period but the Sharks killed both opportunities. Benn had a chance to cut the deficit in half at 12:15, but his wrist shot from the right circle hit the crossbar.

"I thought when we got up 3-0, we focused so much on that area of the game that we took our foot off the gas a little bit and then they got some momentum on their power play," McLellan said. "I think they had three [power plays] in a row where we had to kill, but [our penalty kill] was improved and the goaltender played a tremendous game as well."

Vlasic feels the main reason San Jose left Dallas with two points was a solid all-around defensive effort.

"As a group we were really good," Vlasic said. "Goalie made some huge saves when we needed him. I thought we did a great job blocking shots, boxing out, forwards helping the d-men."

Cole's 16th of the season gave the Stars a chance to pull Enroth for an extra attacker in hopes of tying the game, but Marleau scored into the empty net from his own blue line with 1:05 remaining and Wingels hit the empty net 11 seconds later.

"We're going to move on," Benn said. "We can't be dwelling on this one."

Thursday marked the NHL debut for Stars forward Brendan Ranford, the nephew of former NHL goaltender Bill Ranford. He skated on the Stars' fourth line and finished with 9:19 of ice time, earning solid reviews from Ruff.

"I liked Ranford's game," Ruff said. "He showed some composure with the puck."

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