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Surging Stars stifle Coyotes

by Jerry Brown

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The Dallas Stars are on a roll at the right time, while the Phoenix Coyotes just can't string two wins - or two consistent efforts - together.

In the kind of tight, low-scoring game that has been the hallmark of this series, Antoine Roussel scored the go-ahead goal 3:25 into the third period and the surging Stars beat the Coyotes 3-1 on Tuesday.

Roussel, snapped a 1-1 tie with his ninth of the season and first in 19 games. After a poor line change and a neutral zone turnover, Ryan Garbutt dropped the puck back to Roussel, who picked the top corner and rang his wrist shot off the crossbar.

Garbutt added his 11th into an empty net with 26.7 seconds left.

"We knew that was one of the biggest games of the year," said Roussel, who scored in his NHL debut against the Coyotes on Feb. 1, 2013. "We didn't start the way we wanted, but the third period was really good for us and we got away with the win. The last 10 minutes we locked it down and didn't give them much."

The Stars (26-21-9) improved to 5-1-1 in their past seven games. They are two points behind the Vancouver Canucks, who hold the final wild-card playoff berth in the Western Conference, and one point behind the Coyotes. Phoenix could have moved past the Canucks with a victory and into a playoff spot for the first time since Jan. 9.

"We've been playing hard every night, using our speed," Garbutt said. "Everyone has been playing to the best of their abilities and but having fun at the same time."

Red-hot Antoine Vermette scored his team-leading 21st goal of to give Phoenix a 1-0 lead midway through the second period, but Dallas' Shawn Horcoff matched it with a power-play goal just over three minutes later.

"They beat us. They played better than us," Phoenix captain Shane Doan said. "We had just a couple of mistakes, but those mistakes cost us. (Horcoff's) power-play goal that ties it back up is a big goal for them. We played more of a 60-minute game, but it wasn't good enough."

In the previous 29 games between Dallas and Phoenix, 18 had been decided by one goal. This game was just as tight. Goalie Mike Smith played a strong game for the Coyotes with 37 saves, but his teammates mustered very little offensively.

"We put a lot of pucks on Smitty but he played really well and kind of kept them in it," said Dallas goalie Kari Lehtonen, who made 27 saves for Dallas. "We were a lot better team for the first two periods. It's a low-scoring, tight game against Phoenix usually.

"I feel like the last seven or eight games we've played well, had the most chances and improved a lot."

Tyler Seguin assisted on Horcoff's goal to extend his point streak to six games and give him 55 points in 54 games.

Dallas spent the past three days in Arizona and many of the player's fathers made the trip, spending a day at a dude ranch before capping the mini-vacation off with a win.

"I think the dads really enjoyed it, and to have their sons win a game is great," Dallas coach Lindy Ruff said. "I think the one whose son's scored were probably especially proud and they got to see it live."

The Coyotes, who were 10-2-1 in the past 13 home games against Dallas and had won the past four, were outhustled and outplayed by the Stars all night.

"It's a game where every play is critical," Phoenix coach Dave Tippett said. "Right before they scored their first goal, we had the puck on our stick and all we had to do was get it down the ice. We didn't and it ends up in the back of the net.

"Against Pittsburgh (a 3-1 win on Saturday), we played solid, did good things with the puck and won enough one-on-one battles to stay competitive in the game. Tonight was the exact opposite.

Dallas had 13 shots in the first period and 18 in the second. But Smith was on his game with big saves on Rich Peverley and Seguin in the first and then Seguin and Alex Chiasson back-to-back in the second period to keep the game scoreless on the first 29 minutes.

Then the hottest Coyote got Phoenix on the board with a great individual play.

Vermette swiped the puck from Dallas' Jamie Benn in the neutral zone and raced in on Lehtonen. He fought off a late stick check from Jordie Benn, went forehand-to-backhand and slipped the puck between the goaltender's pads at 9:21 to give the Coyotes the lead.

Vermette's goal was his ninth in 10 games and extended his career-best point streak to eight games.

The lead didn't last long. Less than two minutes later, Derek Morris was called for tripping, giving Dallas its third power play of the night.

Smith stopped Peverley in the slot but Seguin chipped the puck to Horcoff, whose whirling, no-look backhander slipped under Smith's pad at 12:32 to even the game. Horcoff's goal was his seventh of the season and his fourth on the power play.

"I thought the penalty on Morris was a soft call," Tippett said.

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