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Khudobin steals show, two points for Stars in win over Lightning

Seguin notched the OT winner, but the netminder proved to be Dallas' 'brick wall' in an improbable comeback

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

TAMPA, Fla. -- The Stars sit five points ahead of the first non-playoff team in the Western Conference.

That's a pretty comfortable cushion in today's NHL, but it was forged with some pretty hard work.

Anton Khudobin stole two points Thursday. He stopped 45 shots on goal, helped the Stars get to overtime against the Tampa Bay Lightning, and then watched as Tyler Seguin won the game, 4-3, in the extra frame with his second goal in two games.

It was a wonderful thing, and probably the third time this season Khudobin has stolen points. He had 38 saves in a 2-1 shootout win over Chicago. He had 38 saves in a 2-1 regulation win over Colorado. That's six points in the standings.

Hmmm, wonder how important those six points are?

Video: DAL@TBL: Bowness proud of Stars' fight in OT victory

"It'll go a long way," said forward Jason Dickinson, who scored the game-tying goal in the third period. "When it comes down to the playoffs, it could be a matter of that one point. If you get it or you don't, you might be in or you might not. We're lucky to have these goaltenders to always give us a chance."

Khudobin and Ben Bishop are helping the Stars lead the NHL in goals against average and in save percentage. They are right now the best goaltending duo in the NHL, and coaches and players are careful to always include both when talking about how important goaltending is to this team.

 

[PHOTOS: See the best shots from Stars' come-from-behind win over Lightning]

 

But what Khudobin did Thursday was single-handedly put the Stars in position to get two points.

He allowed three goals against a very good Tampa Bay Lightning team that is second in the NHL in scoring, but the saves he made were breath-taking and timely. Whether it was the bang-bang reaction to a quick one-timer off a slick pass or the ability to hold the fort while several Lightning pounded the crease, Khudobin was both incredible and inspirational.

"Dobby was the first, second and third star tonight," said Seguin. "He was a brick wall. I don't think we can say we deserved that win … or even a point. He was incredible, he won the game."

Video: DAL@TBL: Seguin rifles wrister home for overtime win

The great thing about Khudobin's performance is that it also coaxed the Stars into coming out of their shells. Down 3-1 in the second period, John Klingberg made a nice play to set up Radek Faksa for a shot from the slot, and it slipped in for Faksa's eighth goal of the season. It was one of just five shots on goal in the period for the Stars, and it definitely restored a bit of confidence in a frustrated team.

Stars coach Rick Bowness said the team had lost structure in communication between the defense and forwards, and that Faksa's goal helped bring some calm back.

"The penalties took our life away, took our confidence away, and we just didn't execute," Bowness said of the Stars' yielding two power play goals in the first period. "We weren't very good, that's clear, but I'm proud of the way we fought back in the third period."

Dickinson said just knowing they had creeped to within 3-2 and that Khudobin was on his game allowed the Stars to breathe a little bit.

"That was a huge goal for us," Dickinson said. "It put a lot of belief back in us for the third period. It really just put it back into us that we're one shot away."

Video: DAL@TBL: Khudobin on Stars' come-from-behind victory

And while they were outshot 16-4 in the third period, they got that special one to go in. Dickinson carried the puck through the neutral zone and fed Andrew Cogliano for a shot from the slot. The puck trickled through the pads of Andrei Vasilevskiy, and Dickinson buzzed around to tap it in with 4:18 left in the third period.

Khudobin came up with more big saves, the Stars went to overtime, and Seguin scored his eighth of the season on a rush off a nice pass from Alexander Radulov, who had two points in the game.

 

[WATCH: All highlights from Stars at Lightning]

 

Radulov had a goal and an assist, Seguin had a goal and an assist, and Klingberg had two assists. For a team struggling to find its offensive identity, there was some positive in converting on four of 20 shots on goal.

"We can't play like that," Khudobin said. "At the same time, we got the W and we're feeling happy about ourselves, and we found a way to put the pucks in the net. And we can go with that."

It's a salient point, and something else that Khudobin adds: He is the ultimate team player even when he's left out on an island. He wants the team to play better overall, but he also knows that he can only do the job he's been given.

Video: DAL@TBL: Seguin on Khudobin's effort in Stars' OT win

He was asked if the Lightning were able to generate Grade-A chances against him, and he confidently answered: "They got Grade-A chances, but that's why we get the paychecks."

Indeed.

Bishop will get his chance on Friday when the Stars play at the Florida Panthers. The plan is to not force such a herculean effort from their goalie in that game.

'We are certainly not happy with the performance," Dickinson said. "We're happy with the result, and tomorrow I can assure you we are going to be a much better team."

A much better team that is already in a pretty good spot in the standings.

Don't miss your chance to see the Stars take on the Calgary Flames as they return home to American Airlines Center on Sunday, Dec. 22 at 6 p.m. The first 5,000 kids receive a Miro Heiskanen youth jersey presented by AT&T. 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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