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Stars top Sharks 4-3 in shootout

by Steve Hunt
DALLAS -- Tomas Vincour helped the Dallas Stars go home with two points Thursday night -- one at a time.

Vincour scored the tying goal with 1:15 left in regulation, assuring Dallas of at least one point, then had the only goal in the shootout as the Stars improved their Pacific Division lead by beating the San Jose Sharks 4-3 at American Airlines Center on Tuesday night.

With every point important as the playoff chase winds down, both teams gave everything they had. Thanks to Vincour, the Stars got the extra point.

"Yeah, I thought we played real gutsy. We played hard," Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said. "It's just a gutsy performance. Guys gutted it out."

Vincour tied the game at 3-3 by shoving the puck behind Antti Niemi during a scramble -- a video review confirmed that the puck had crossed the goal line. After a scoreless overtime and four unsuccessful shootout attempts by each team, the second-year forward beat Niemi with a backhander to start the fifth round.

"Vinny's good in those shootouts," Gulutzan said. "We had him in (AHL) Austin. He was good there and he did it for us tonight. That goal at the end [of the third period] was huge."  

Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen then stopped Logan Couture's attempt to give the Stars (37-26-5) an 8-0-1 record in their last nine games. With 79 points, they are four ahead of the Sharks (33-24-9), who lost the opener of a four-game trip and are 1-2-2 in their last five games. With 75 points, they are alone in eighth place in the West, one point ahead of Los Angeles and Colorado, and one behind seventh-place Phoenix. They have games in hand on all three teams.

"We took strides forward again," San Jose coach Todd McLellan said. "We're climbing a hill. We're not there yet but I thought we had a pretty good effort, did a lot of things well for most of the game."

Lehtonen made 45 saves; Niemi finished with 32. Joe Thornton assisted on all three San Jose goals.

"It was good to get a lot of shots," Lehtonen said.  "It was a perfect game to get a lot of shots, too, after getting three or four days' rest.  I was fresh, so that really helped."

Neither team generated a lot of offense until after the midway point of the second period.

Just after the 12-minute mark, Lehtonen made a huge pad save at the left point to deny Ryane Clowe's snap shot. On the return rush, Dallas' Michael Ryder beat Niemi with a 25-foot wrister for his team-leading 29th goal of the season, giving the Stars a 1-0 lead. Ryder has an eight-game point streak.

Dallas looked poised to head to the second intermission with the lead until San Jose's Torrey Mitchell knocked a 15-foot backhand past Lehtonen at 19:58. Mitchell stole the puck from Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski in front of the Dallas net and quickly converted for the equalizer.

San Jose came out flying and grabbed the lead 25 seconds into the third period when Patrick Marleau fired home a 25-footer for his 27th goal of the season. Marleau scored after Dallas defenseman Mark Fistric turned the puck over near his own net. Fistric was playing alongside Stephane Robidas on Dallas' top defensive pairing because Sheldon Souray, Robidas' normal partner, suffered a lower-body injury late in the second period and was unable to return.

The Stars tied it at 2-2 thanks on a 20-foot wrister by Jamie Benn at 6:42. Benn's goal came as he was able to get his shot just under Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle, who was diving in an attempt to block the Dallas center's attempt.

San Jose recaptured the lead at 16:28 of the third when Joe Pavelski snapped home his 24th of the season from the slot.

The Stars were without forward Steve Ott due to back spasms. Ott had played in 50 consecutive games before his latest injury.

Dallas had dropped the first three meetings of the season with San Jose by a combined score of 14-6, which made the win even sweeter.

"It gives us a little bit of a boost," Gulutzan said. "No question they've had our number. But I thought for coming back from the road we played a pretty good game."
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