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Stars spoil Devils' reunion with OT win to open road trip

On a night where New Jersey celebrated its 2000 title, Dallas cared more about the present with a needed victory

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

NEWARK, N.J. -- If you were around in 2000, this sure seemed like karma.

As the New Jersey Devils honored their Stanley Cup champions on the 20th anniversary of that historic season, it seemed all too convenient that the celebration came against the team they beat -- the Dallas Stars.

 

[WATCH: All highlights from Stars' win over Devils]

 

Highlight after highlight showed Ed Belfour allowing a goal or Mike Modano being stopped, or someone getting hit. It was wonderful for the sold out arena, but it also was a bit prickly for those who remembered the fierce six-game series that Dallas lost on home ice.

Ironically, not a whole lot of the current crew was around back then, so they really didn't see this as any sort of revenge. They just wanted to get a big win to start a big road trip.

Video: DAL@NJD: Bowness on Stars picking up two key points

That said, when the Stars battled to take a hard-fought 3-2 victory in overtime, there was much rejoicing. The team is on a three-game New York road trip and will follow that with seven more contests away from home during a frenetic February. So, being able to muscle through an interesting night in Newark was pretty important.

"We need every point we can get," said Stars interim coach Rick Bowness. "It's a great way to start the road trip, and it's a great way to start a very tough month."

Dallas was in a bit of an odd slump. The Stars were 2-4-0 in the past six games, including a 7-0 loss at Minnesota and a 5-3 defeat to Toronto. That was uncharacteristic for a team that was leading the NHL in goals against average, so when they faced a struggling Devils team that wanted to fete the crowd on memories and good feelings, the thought was a return to details would be significant.

They seemed to be on point until they earned a first-period power play. A miscommunication between Joe Pavelski and Miro Heiskanen allowed Kevin Rooney a wide-open shot on Ben Bishop, and the Devils had a 1-0 lead 13:09 into the game.

Video: DAL@NJD: Pavelski pots backhander for OT winner

It was the sixth straight game the Stars allowed the first goal and the 10th time in the past 12 games. That's shocking. But Dallas is a team that is 11-14-2 when allowing the first goal and 8-13-1 when trailing after two periods, so it kinda has this comeback thing down.

"Just grind, just play to our identity, just muck and grind," said Tyler Seguin. "We knew we were going to get an ugly one, and we just found a way."

The Stars, in fact, found a way to take the lead. Corey Perry had a fantastic shift creating a couple of scoring chances, and fed Jason Dickinson for a nice shot from the slot that slipped past Devils goalie Louis Domingue. That tied things up late in the second period.

Then, Jamie Oleksiak fed rookie Joel Kiviranta early in the third period, and Kiviranta scored his first NHL goal. The 23-year-old from Finland, who has 11 goals in 38 AHL games, stuck with the play as he took a shot on goal, gathered his own rebound, and deposited it in the net.

Video: DAL@NJD: Kiviranta on scoring first career goal

It was a perfect way for a Stars player to score this season.

"We've all had our first goal, so we know that feeling," Seguin said. "The confidence he's going to get from it … he plays with some swag, so it's great for our team."

Dallas was trying to hold onto that one-goal lead when the Devils broke through and tied things up at the 11:53 mark of the third period, but that might actually turn out to be a good thing. While New Jersey picks up a point in the standings, it's in the Eastern Conference, and that really doesn't affect the Stars. Meanwhile, Dallas got another chance to show what it can do in overtime.

The Stars are now 5-0-1 in their past six games that have extended beyond regulation. In that span, Dallas has outshot the opposition 22-5 in overtime and pretty much dominated play.

Video: DAL@NJD: Kiviranta nets rebound for first NHL goal

"Speed is important … and the guys who are going," Bowness said of his player deployment in the 3-on-3 overtime. "We've got a lot of guys that can play in overtime that we can trust, so that's a good option."

Dallas earned the game-winner when Mattias Janmark went hard to the net and forced a rebound. Pavelski then chipped in the puck for his ninth goal of the season -- and just his second in the past 19 games.

"It felt good," Pavelski said when asked about the reason for success in the extra period. "I think guys are fairly responsible 3-on-3 and not giving up a crazy amount of chances, and we've created some looks."

Now, the team can move forward on this road trip and build on the positive momentum. Pavelski's breaks his drought, Kiviranta scores his first goal, and Perry finished with one of his stronger performances.

Video: DAL@NJD: Seguin discusses Stars' OT win over Devils

While the players said they really had no motivation to ruin the evening for Devils fans, they did have maybe an even stronger drive -- to win for themselves. The Stars are a team that has to gather points to stay in a very tight battle for playoff position in the West. What's more, they're in a season-long fight to "play the right way."

They did both on Saturday, and that's a pretty big deal.

"Character is built on the road, and good teams need to find ways to win on the road," Seguin said.

And if they do that while putting a little damper on something that happened 20 years ago, well, all the better for the old fans.

Don't miss your chance to see the Stars take on the Minnesota Wild when they return home to American Airlines Center on Friday, Feb. 7 at 7:30 p.m. Get your tickets now!

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.

Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for DallasStars.com and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika, and listen to his podcast.

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