“We’ve played a lot better games and lost. To end up fighting through it and finding a way to win it, it’s an important two points,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff.
The Stars fought through some sloppiness and shook off a 1-0 deficit to tie on a Jason Spezza power-play goal. The Stars won a key coach’s challenge early in the third period that took away an Ottawa goal that would have given the Senators a 2-1 lead.
That kept the game tied until the Roussel goal, which came when an Ales Hemsky pass bounced off an Ottawa defender to Roussel, who knocked the bouncing puck past Senators goaltender Andrew Hammond.
“I don’t think the pass was for me,” Roussel said. “It was just bouncing there.”
The Stars got a big performance out of goaltender Kari Lehtonen, who stopped 23 of 24 shots. Lehtonen wasn’t busy but had several sharp saves in the game.
“I feel like he has put three real solid games together, which is what we are looking for,” Ruff said. “He looked comfortable. He looked aggressive. He made some real important saves for us tonight.”
While Ruff liked what he saw from Lehtonen, he was far less impressed with other parts of the teams’ game.
“I wasn’t happy with our puck movement, Ruff said. “It might have been the worst puck moving game for missing passes and not making plays in the three years I have coached here. Somebody has to argue with me, but I can’t remember moving the puck that bad inside a game.”
But the Stars (40-20-7) survived and won their second straight game, staying even with Chicago at 87 points in the race for the top spot in the Central Division and Western Conference. The Blackhawks still hold first place in the division and conference based on the regulation/overtime wins (ROW) tiebreaker.
The Senators (31-29-7) lost for the third time in their last four games (1-2-1). They dropped to six points out of the second wild-card spot in the Eastern Conference.
“It’s unfortunate we couldn’t get the win because we played pretty well, especially defensively,” Hammond said. “Going into this game you know they are a high-powered offensive team, and I thought we did a great job shutting them down for the most part. It’s just tough to win in this league when you score one goal, and ultimately that’s what it came down to.”
Lehtonen came up big in the first period, stopping all 11 shots he faced including a shoulder save on a point-blank bid by Zach Smith with Ottawa on its first power play. Lehtonen got some help on Ottawa’s second power play when defenseman Johnny Oduya came up with a big block on a close range shot attempt by Ryan Dzingel.
Ottawa opened the scoring at 4:45 of the second period. After Jamie Benn couldn’t handle a puck behind the net, Jean-Gabriel Pageau set up Smith, who scored from close range to give the Senators a 1-0 lead.
The Stars answered almost ten minutes later by scoring on their first power play of the night. After taking a pass from Kris Russell, Spezza scored off a blast from the right circle with Brett Ritchie screening Hammond to tie the game 1-1 at 14:05 of the second.
“[The power play] can be the difference in games,” said Spezza. “Early in the year when we were winning a lot, we were scoring a lot of power-play goals. And I think our power play has been better of late.”
The Senators thought they grabbed a 2-1 lead at the 5:36 mark when Curtis Lazar scored on a backhand shot off a broken play on the rush. But the Stars challenged the goal, saying the play was offside. Video review confirmed the Stars’ belief, and the goal was waved off.
“We’ve had some tough calls that I’ve challenged that didn’t go our way. You have to hope some go your way,” Ruff said. “It was offside. Our guys said it was offside right away. So, I think that is the right call.”
And that kept it a 1-1 game until Roussel snapped the tie late in regulation.
Patrick Eaves, who missed six straight games due to the pneumonia, sat out a seventh straight game Sunday, but Lindy Ruff said the veteran forward could have played.
“Patty is ready. We just kept him out,” Ruff said. “There’s a good chance he could be back for Montreal. Could have played today.”
*The Stars became the third NHL team to hit 40 wins this season.
*Jason Spezza’s goal was his first against Ottawa, his former team. He now has goals against all 30 teams in the NHL.
*Antoine Roussel’s game-winning goal was his team-high sixth of the season.
*The Stars outshot the Senators 25-24. Ottawa had a 56-47 advantage in shot attempts.
*Jason Spezza led the Stars with 4 shots on goal and 9 shot attempts.
*The Stars were 1-2 on the power play and 3-3 on the penalty kill.
*The Stars are 24-9-0 when they score on the power play and 16-11-7 when they don’t.
*The Stars won 31 of 66 faceoffs (47 percent).
*Vernon Fiddler won 12 of 20 faceoffs (60 percent). Jason Spezza won 7 of 14 (50 percent). Cody Eakin won 6 of 9 (40 percent). Tyler Seguin won 4 of 10 (40 percent).
*Jason Demers led the Stars with 24:54 of ice time. Kris Russell was next with 24:16.
The Stars wrap up their two-game road trip Tuesday in Montreal. The Stars defeated the Canadiens, 6-2, in Dallas on Dec. 19.
Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Brett Ritchie
Mattias Janmark – Jason Spezza – Valeri Nichushkin
Antoine Roussel – Cody Eakin – Ales Hemsky
Radek Faksa – Vernon Fiddler – Colton Sceviour
Johnny Oduya – Jason Demers
Kris Russell – Alex Goligoski
Patrik Nemeth – Jamie Oleksiak
Injured: John Klingberg (lower body), Patrick Sharp (lower body), Jordie Benn (lower body)
Scratched: Travis Moen, Patrick Eaves
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.