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Stars escape with 6-5 win over Carolina

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

The Dallas Stars finally won in their first game back home after a long road trip this season, but it was an adventure, and it wasn’t pretty. The Stars blew a four-goal lead in the third period, but Patrick Sharp scored on the power play with 18.5 seconds remaining to help them escape with a 6-5 win over Carolina Tuesday night at American Airlines Center.

“We got two points. That’s probably the best part,” said Stars captain Jamie Benn. “[Carolina] played a pretty good game from start to finish. They probably outplayed us most of the game. We just capitalized on our chances early and then found a way to get a big [power play] goal at the end.”

The Stars, back home after a four-game trip, had a 4-0 lead after one period after cashing in on four of their first eight shots and then took a 5-1 lead into the third period.

“We took advantage of some opportunities, got some good looks, scored some goals,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “But they came in hard, they came in heavy, they won more battles than us. It was a feeling that if they kept playing like that, they'd get back in it.”

Carolina did get back in it, rattling off four straight goals in the third period to tie the game, but the power play and Sharp bailed out the Stars. John Klingberg set up Sharp, who scored off a blast from just beyond the top of the right faceoff circle.

“Klinger kind of one-touched the puck back to me and I knew I had to get it to the net,” Sharp said. “It wasn’t the best shot. I got slashed as I was shooting, which might have affected the goalie and the puck squeaked in.”

Benn (one goal, three assists) and Tyler Seguin (one goal, three assists) both had four points in the game. Valeri Nichushkin had one goal and two assists. Johnny Oduya had one goal and one assist. Patrick Eaves scored one goal and Klingberg had three assists. Kari Lehtonen got the start in goal and stopped 25 of 30 shots, but was pulled and Antti Niemi took over with 6:43 remaining. Niemi did not face a shot, but got the win.

The Stars improved their league-best record to 21-5-2. The Stars, who had lost their first game back home after two previous long road trips, are now 10-3-0 at American Airlines Center.

Carolina had a two-game winning streak snapped and fell to 10-14-4 on the season. Justin Faulk scored two goals and Victor Rask had three assists.

“We showed some fight to get back in it,” Carolina captain Eric Staal said. “We showed that we can score goals and think we’re gaining in that department confidence wise. But at the end of the day, you want to get points, you want to get something. Unfortunate [penalty] call, they got rewarded with a power play there at the end and were able to capitalize.”

Carolina got the first five shots of the game, but the Stars scored on their first two shots in a span of 26 seconds to take a 2-0 lead. Seguin set up Eaves, who scored from the left circle off the rush at 6:49 of the first. Nichushkin set up Jamie Benn, who tallied off the rush at the 7:15 mark and the Stars had the early 2-0 lead.

The Stars extended the lead by scoring a third goal on their fifth shot of the night. An Oduya shot from the point made its way through a maze of traffic and past Carolina goaltender Cam Ward at the 14:41 mark.

The Stars went on their first power play late in the first and made it four goals on eight shots when Klingberg set up Seguin, who scored into the open side of the net from the bottom of the left circle at 18:44 of the first.

“Special teams is huge for us. We really focus on them,” Seguin said. “We hadn’t been getting too many consistent looks on the power play as of late throughout the games, but a lot of chances tonight and we’re happy we could bear down.”

Eddie Lack took over for Ward in the Carolina net to start the second. Jaccob Slavin scored at the 3:10 mark of the second to cut the Dallas lead to 4-1. But Nichushkin scored on a breakaway with 34 seconds left in the second to make it a 5-1 game.

Carolina dominated the third period, getting nine of the first ten shots scoring four times to tie the game. Faulk scored on the power play to make it 5-2. The Stars challenged the goal, saying Staal interfered with Lehtonen, but the goal stood. Phillip Di Giuseppe scored a little more than a minute late to cut the lead to 5-3. A little more than five minutes later, Faulk scored again on the power play. And then Jeff Skinner scored on the rush four-and-a-half minutes later to make it a 5-5 game with 6:43 left. That ended Lehtonen’s night, and Niemi took over.

“I [thought about changing goalies earlier]. I wanted [Lehtonen] to fight, but he wasn’t seeing the puck,” Ruff said. “I think he got maybe a little rattled over the interference and thought that call should have gone his way, but he wasn’t seeing it after that. I probably should have taken him out one sooner.”

The Stars got the final six shots of the game, the last one being Sharp’s game-winner on the power play.

“We’ve had some funny games lately,” Benn said. “We were down 3-0 in Minnesota and came back. We were up 3-0 in Calgary and lost. We pretty much dominated Edmonton and lost. We didn’t do much tonight and won a game, so I think in the end hockey evens itself out. Two points is two points.”

*Carolina outshot the Stars 30-20 and had a 68-40 advantage in attempted shots.

*Patrick Sharp led the Stars with four shots.

*The six goals scored matches the season-high for the Stars. They also scored six against Winnipeg on Nov. 12.

*The four-point nights pushed both Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin to 39 points each on the season. The two are tied for second in the NHL in scoring.

*Benn’s goal was his 19th of the season, which is tops in the NHL.

*Patrick Eaves’ goal was his first of the season.

*The Stars were 2-3 on the power play and 1-3 on the penalty kill.

*The Stars won 33 of 64 faceoffs (52 percent).

*Tyler Seguin won 9 of 12 faceoffs (75 percent). Cody Eakin won 8 of 13 (62 percent). Jason Spezza won 7 of 12 (58 percent). Vernon Fiddler won 6 of 18 (33 percent).

*John Klingberg led the Stars with 25:10 of ice time.

The Stars host the Philadelphia Flyers Friday night at American Airlines Center.

Jamie BennTyler SeguinValeri Nichushkin

Mattias JanmarkJason SpezzaPatrick Eaves

Patrick SharpCody EakinAles Hemsky

Antoine RousselVernon FiddlerColton Sceviour

Alex Goligoski
John Klingberg

Johnny OduyaJordie Benn

Patrik NemethJamie Oleksiak

Kari Lehtonen

Antti Niemi

Jason Demers (upper body)

Scratched: Jyrki Jokipakka, Travis Moen

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 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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