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Costly Victory: Stars Lose Seguin, Hemsky and Eaves to Injury in Win Over Panthers

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

The Dallas Stars defeated the Florida Panthers, 2-0, Friday night at American Airlines Center, but it was a costly victory. The Stars lost forwards Tyler Seguin, Patrick Eaves and Ales Hemsky in the game, and all will miss “some time,” according to Stars coach Lindy Ruff.

The injuries took the luster off the Stars’ third straight win and their first victory at home since Jan. 17. The Seguin and Eaves injuries came late in the game and within a minute of each other on the game clock. Both injuries left the players down on the ice, and both had to be helped to the locker room.

“It’s obviously two scary plays, seeing your teammates on the ice,” said Stars center Jason Spezza. “We’re all a little bit concerned and want to make sure everyone’s alright and see what happens.”

With just under seven minutes left in the game, Seguin skated into the Florida zone, passed the puck and was hit low at the knees by Florida defenseman Dmitry Kulikov.

“Tyler is going to be re-evaluated (Saturday),” Ruff said. “We'll have probably a better idea, but it looks like he's going to miss some time."

The Stars were blunt in their thoughts on the hit.

"I think it's a gutless play for their D to do that,” said Stars center Vernon Fiddler. “[Seguin] has released the puck, and comes across and takes his knee out. There's no room in the game, and it's not a good play. It's a gutless play on his part, and we'll have to deal with that at a later time."

"It's a dirty shot,” said Ruff. “It's just something that you end up taking your best player out of the game. Not only out of the game, but he's taken him out of the lineup for a little bit for us. We'll let the league deal with it. I used to yell and scream about it, but it doesn't do any good. It's just a shot that didn't need to happen."

Kulikov was assessed a major penalty for clipping and a game misconduct. With the Stars on the five-minute power play, a John Klingberg shot hit Eaves in the head. He was down the ice for a few minutes before being helped to the locker room. Eaves was then taken to the hospital for x-rays.

"He took a pretty good shot there to the head. He has had a previous injury there, so we're fairly concerned with him. First, just health-wise,” Ruff said.

Hemsky left the game in the first period with a lower body injury and did not return.

“He's going to miss some time,” Ruff said. “It's been a tough night on the injury front."

With Seguin, Eaves and Hemsky out, the Stars will call up a couple players from Texas to help fill the void.

“It’s somebody else’s opportunity,” Ruff said. “It’s tough but we’ll call a couple of guys up. We’ve got [Curtis] McKenzie here so he’s in. We’ll call a couple more up, and they’ll both be going in and we’ll put some lines together.

As for the game, Kari Lehtonen stopped 37 shots for his fourth shutout of the season and Jamie Benn and Spezza scored goals. For the third time in the past two games, the Stars scored while on a lengthy penalty kill. The Stars snapped a three-game winless streak at home and pulled to within three points of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference.

"We were talking about [getting a win at home, and a couple guys said, 'Let's just try to play an ugly road game.' In some ways we did that,” Lehtonen said. “We got those first two goals and held it from there. We didn't panic, and that was nice."

Florida lost its second straight game and failed to gain any ground on Boston in the battle for the final playoff spot in the East. The Panthers remain four points behind the Bruins.

“We had [37] shots and I thought that the goalie was good for them, and I thought we played well,” Panthers coach Gerard Gallant said. “I can’t ask for anything more from our team. We made a couple mistakes and it cost us, but again, we get [37] shots and most nights you’re going to win those games.”

The Panthers went on a four-minute power play 8:30 into the game when Eaves was given a double minor for high-sticking, and the Stars struck shorthanded to take a 1-0 lead. Panthers defenseman Aaron Ekblad couldn’t handle a pass at the blue line, Fiddler poked the puck past him for a two-on zero rush and set up Benn, who scored from close range at the 9:27 mark.

"I saw (Ekblad) with his head down a little bit, and I knew that he was rolling a bit. So I just tried to pressure him as much as I could,” Fiddler said. “I found it at my feet. It hit me in the pads, and there it was. I saw (Benn) coming a little bit late to the net, and I think I'd rather have Benny shooting it than me."

The Stars made it 2-0 at the 17:09 mark when Spezza skated into the slot from the boards, made a spin move and scored off a wrist shot.

There was no scoring in the second period. Florida had an 11-7 shots advantage, but the Stars had some great chances to extend the lead. But Panthers goaltender Al Montoya had big stops on Cody Eakin, Spezza and Ryan Garbutt. Lehtonen was sharp in stopping all 11 shots he faced.

The Panthers kept coming the third period, but Lehtonen made 17 saves. And, of course, the game took a bad turn for the Stars with the injuries to Seguin and Eaves.

“In my career coaching, I’ve seen where sometimes this can make a team stronger,” Ruff said. “It can give another guy an opportunity and you don’t use it as an excuse you use it as an opportunity.”

Notes

*In his last three games, Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen is 3-0-0 with a 1.66 goals-against average and .957 save percentage.

*Stars captain Jamie Benn has scored three goals in the past two games.

*Stars center Jason Spezza is on a four-game points streak (two goals, four assists).

*The Stars scored their ninth shorthanded goal of the season, tops in the NHL.

*The Panthers outshot the Stars 37-28.

*The Stars improved to 16-7-4 when outshot by their opponent.

*The Stars were 0-3 on the power play and 2-2 on the penalty kill.

*The Stars won 33 of 66 faceoffs (50 percent).

*Tyler Seguin won 6 of 9 draws (67 percent). Jason Spezza won 9 of 16 (56 percent). Vernon Fiddler won 6 of 10 (38 percent). Jamie Benn won 5 of 13 (38 percent).

*Alex Goligoski led the Stars with 24:27 of ice time.

Stars lineup

Jamie BennTyler SeguinPatrick Eaves
Erik ColeJason SpezzaAles Hemsky
Cody EakinVernon FiddlerRyan Garbutt
Travis MoenShawn HorcoffColton Sceviour

Alex GoligoskiJohn Klingberg
Jyrki JokipakkaTrevor Daley
Jordie BennJason Demers

Kari Lehtonen
Jhonas Enroth

Scratched: Curtis McKenzie, David Schlemko

Suspended: Antoine Roussel

Injured: Patrik Nemeth (arm), Valeri Nichushkin (hip)

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.

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