The Dallas Stars got off to a sluggish start in their season opener, but they played a strong final 40 minutes to down the Anaheim Ducks 4-2 at American Airlines Center Thursday night.
The Stars were outshot 17-1 in the first period, took four minor penalties and gave up a shorthanded goal, but escaped the period tied 1-1. After that, they got their game in order.
"We know that first period wasn't our best but the last half of that game was more our style," said forward Adam Cracknell. "We talked about going hard to the net, getting to the paint and making it hard on the other team."
It wasn't round up the usual suspects when it came to goal scoring. The Stars got goals from defenseman Stephen Johns and bottom six forwards Lauri Korpikoski, Antoine Roussel and Cracknell. Both Roussel and Cracknell had one goal and one assist in the game.
"They did a good job of throwing pucks at the net, getting around the paint. They scored the hard goals," said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. "Those guys worked hard for their opportunities. They played well."
Video: Stars net two goals in the 3rd to nab win
Goaltender Antti Niemi was sharp in net, stopping 33 shots, including 16 of 17 in the first period when the Stars were badly outplayed.
"I thought Antti was excellent," Ruff said. "That first period we made some bad decisions, gave up some odd-man rushes and he made real good saves."
Andrew Cogliano scored both Anaheim goals and goaltender John Gibson stopped 16 of 20 shots.
"We were in the game. We minimized and did a good job against their better players," Cogliano said. "I think we had five chances early in the game that could have put us in a good spot. At the end of the day, we gave them a couple of easier goals in front of the net, and we weren't getting those, so they were doing a better job than us in those areas."
Despite being outshot 17-1 in the first period, the Stars scored on their only shot and headed into the first intermission tied 1-1. Johns made a nice outlet pass to start the Stars on the rush, went to the net and tipped in a Patrick Eaves pass to put Dallas up 1-0 at the 3:40 mark.
"It's fun scoring I don't think it'll ever get old," Johns said. "I just saw an opening and a lot of open ice. I saw Patty Eaves had the puck and I just went to the backdoor."
The Stars penalty kill had a big period, shutting down four Anaheim four power plays, including a double-minor, but the Ducks drew even on Dallas' first power play. Cogliano stole the puck from Jason Spezza at the Anaheim blue line and then scored on a breakaway at the 14:09 mark.
The Stars came out stronger in the second and grabbed a 2-1 lead at the 2:43 mark when Korpikoski took a pass from Devin Shore off the rush and scored from the left circle.
The Stars came close to extending the lead twice in the second period. Jason Spezza hit the post on a power play and Ducks goalie John Gibson stopped a point blank chance by Tyler Seguin in the final seconds of the period.
Cogliano scored from the slot 1:01 into the third period to tie the game, but 22 seconds later Cracknell backhanded the puck on net and Roussel put it past Gibson to give the Stars a 3-2 lead.
"It was just trying to get that momentum back and our line with Roussel and Faksa, that's our role," Cracknell said. "Roussel made a good yell, I knew he was backdoor, and I just whacked it over there. He's a guy that works for that puck, and he puts it in. It gives us back life, and you forget about that tying goal they scored."
Cracknell made it a 4-2 game at the 9:37 mark of the third, finishing off a Radek Faksa backhand pass from the corner.
Niemi came up with a couple of big saves late in the game to keep the Ducks from getting to within one goal, denying close range shots by Ryan Kesler and Ryan Getzlaf. And that kept it a 4-2 final.
*The Ducks outshot the Stars 35-20 and had a 64-49 advantage in shot attempts.
*Stephen Johns led the Stars with 4 shots on goal and 7 shot attempts.
*Anaheim's Ryan Getzlaf led Anaheim with 10 shots on goal and 15 shot attempts.
*The Stars were 0-4 on the power play and 5-5 on the penalty kill.
*Dallas won 21 of 58 faceoffs (36 percent).
*Jason Spezza won 6 of 14 faceoffs (43 percent). Devin Shore won 4 of 10 (40 percent). Tyler Seguin won 5 of 13 (38 percent). Radek Faksa won 4 of 14 (29 percent).
*John Klingberg led the Stars with 21:57 of ice time. Jason Spezza was next with 21:36.
*Attendance for Thursday night's home opener was 18,532, a sellout.
Stars honor fallen police officers
The Dallas Stars honored the five police officers killed in downtown Dallas on July 7, 2016 during Thursday's season opener against the Ducks. Players wore badges of the fallen officers on their helmets during the game. At Thursday morning's pregame skate, coaches wore Dallas Police Department baseball caps.
"It's a small way of trying to support our community and our police officers that do such a tremendous job inside our community to try to make it safe for all of us," said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. "It's tragic what happened in Dallas, and this is a small way for us to show our support."
Prior to the game, the families of two of the slain officers - DPD Sgt. Michael Smith and DART Officer Brent Thompson - participated in the ceremonial puck drop and received a lengthy and rousing ovation from the sellout crowd at American Airlines Center.
Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Patrick Eaves
Patrick Sharp - Jason Spezza - Jiri Hudler
Antoine Roussel - Radek Faksa - Adam Cracknell
Lauri Korpikoski - Devin Shore - Brett Ritchie
Patrik Nemeth - John Klingberg
Johnny Oduya - Stephen Johns
Dan Hamhuis - Jordie Benn
Scratched: Esa Lindell, Curtis McKenzie
Injured: Jamie Oleksiak (lower body muscle strain), Ales Hemsky (groin), Cody Eakin (knee), Mattias Janmark (knee)
Ruff: "I thought Antti (Niemi) was excellent."
Korpikoski: "It was fun to get involved in the offense right away."
Johns: "It's fun scoring goals and I don't think it will ever get old."
Razor: Antti Niemi earns "Man of the Match" honors
This story was not subject to 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.