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Stars rally to beat Canucks 4-3

by Kevin Woodley

VANCOUVER, British ColumbiaDallas Stars defenseman Brenden Dillon grew up in the Vancouver suburbs with a poster of Henrik Sedin on his wall.

On Friday night, he spoiled the party for one of his boyhood idols.

Playing in his hometown for the first time in the NHL, Dillon scored the winning goal with 3:01 left as the Stars rallied from a two-goal deficit to beat the Canucks 4-3, spoiling a wild night that included Henrik Sedin breaking the franchise record for points.

"I don't think I could have drawn that up," said Dillon, who had 15-20 friends and family in the crowd. "Down 3-1 in this building, with all the fans, all the buzz. There was a good five minutes when Henrik got the record that you couldn't hear yourself think. It was a big win for us."

But it may have been a costly win for the Stars as well.

Just as any celebration of Sedin's record – and the return of Selke Trophy winning center Ryan Kesler from injury – was muted by the Canucks' blown lead, the Stars' party will wait for an update on star goalie Kari Lehtonen, who left the game with a groin injury.

Dallas coach Glen Gulutzan said Lehtonen, who departed with 6:11 left in the first period, will be re-evaluated back in Dallas. Asked to compare it to a groin injury that kept Lehtonen out a month last season, Gulutzan said: "to me it doesn't seem certainly as severe."

That sentiment was shared by Lehtonen's replacement, Richard Bachman, who was beaten on three of the first six shots he saw but battled back to stop the final 15 for his first win of the season.

Described by several teammates in the morning as the Stars' best player this season, Lehtonen left shortly after making a save with his right arm that knocked the stick out of his hand. He skated to the Stars' bench and tried to stretch, but left the game.

"The good news is he got up quick and he got up under his own power, so that's a good sign always as a goalie when you can do that," Bachman said. "But if they need me, I will be there."

Most of the young players were there to help the Stars to their fifth win in the last six games.

On a day that started with a lot of attention focused on Jaromir Jagr turning 41, rookie Reilly Smith scored his first NHL goal, and fellow 21-year-old Cody Eakins started the Stars' comeback late in the second period. Antoine Roussel, playing his seventh NHL game, tied it with 7:38 left and Dillon, an undrafted free agent playing just his 16th NHL game, netted the winner after pinching in from the left point, taking a pretty cross-ice pass from fellow British Columbia native Jamie Benn and snapping a perfect shot past Cory Schneider's glove on the far side.

"It was a great play by Jamie, we had the puck in the zone and I saw an opening, went to the backdoor and slid down and it was a perfect pass, right on my tape and I was able to go top shelf," Dillon said.

For all the scoring heroics, the Stars pointed unanimously to a string of three straight fights late in the second period as the turning point.

Down 3-1 with five minutes left in the period, Ryan Garbutt got it started by dropping the gloves with former Brown University teammate Aaron Volpatti. The gloves dropped with the puck two more times in three seconds, with Vernon Fiddler taking on Maxim Lapierre, and Eric Nystrom squaring off with Dale Weise.

"The Hanson Brother line," Bachman said of a new nickname for Garbutt, Fiddler and Nystrom. "All three of them dropping the gloves gave the guys a spark. That was a huge momentum change. It shows how much the guys care for each other and want this thing to go the right way."

Gulutzan agreed.

"It changed the game," he said. "It changed the mindset of players on our bench. You could see it. You could hear it. It was guys stepping to the plate that wanted to win and that's what character does."

It was particularly impressive given the momentum Vancouver has after Henrik Sedin set up twin brother Daniel and Alexandre Burrows to give the Canucks a 3-1 lead and pass Markus Naslund with 757 career points. The assists bookended a goal by Chris Higgins, and the second one set off a standing ovation that continued through three minutes of play and a video tribute at the next whistle.

"To be a part of something like that and getting a chance to get the record on home ice in front of your home fans, it was an honor and a great feeling out there," Henrik said. "It means a lot to me."

The good feeling didn't last long. The crowd was back on its feet for the three consecutive fights, but there was little to cheer the rest of the night – outside of the friends and family watching Dillon.

"I don't really know what happened," Henrik said. "We played a good game up to the halfway point and then they took over. Giving up four goals 5-on-5 -- that never happens with this team. Even though they had a few fortunate bounces, they took over the game."

Among the breaks was Bachman getting beaten by the first shot after Lehtonen left, only to have the apparent goal waved off because Mason Raymond made contact with him as the puck was already on its way in.

Smith opened the scoring 11 seconds later on a shot from the bottom of the right circle that somehow went under Schneider's arm. The Canucks stormed back, but Dallas got life from the fights and a bad rebound that Eakin banged in late in the second period.

"There's a couple goals he'd like back," coach Alain Vigneault said of Schneider. "He's bailed us out so many times before that we need to be able to find ways to win those games when the opportunity is there. The opportunity was there and we didn't do it."

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