The Dallas Stars made it three wins in four games on their current road trip, defeating the Carolina Hurricanes, 5-3, at PNC Arena Thursday night.
The Stars were almost flawless for 53 minutes, building a 4-1 lead and holding a 31-11 shots advantage, but the Hurricanes scored two quick goals late in the third to make it interesting before the Stars sealed the win with an empty-net goal.
“For a majority of the game we played a pretty desperate brand of hockey,” said Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski. “They hit a couple, got a little momentum. That can happen on the road sometimes. But I thought we regrouped well after that.”
Goligoski, Cody Eakin and Patrick Eaves each had one goal and one assist. Curtis McKenzie and Jason Demers also scored for the Stars, who are 4-1-0 in their past five games overall. Kari Lehtonen, making a second straight start, stopped 15 of 18 shots to pick up the win in his 500th NHL game.
“It was exciting, especially at the start of the game. You start thinking about your first game and things like that. It was a nice little milestone,” Lehtonen said. “But after that it was just another game. You need to battle and stay calm. I was good enough today.”
Lehtonen became just the 65th goaltender in NHL history to play in 500 games.
“That’s a heck of an accomplishment for this league, for a goaltender,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said of Lehtonen’s 500th game. “I thought we were playing a real sound game, but we made a couple of mistakes that he covered up.”
The Stars, who wrap up their road trip Friday in Washington, improved to 31-27-10 on the season. The Hurricanes (25-33-8) lost for the fourth time in the past five games (1-3-1).
“They were quicker than us tonight,” Carolina coach Bill Peters said. “Everyone needed to be better tonight. Through 50 minutes, they were quicker than us.”
Carolina took the early lead Thursday. After an offensive zone faceoff win, Brett Bellemore put a shot on net and Victor Rask backhanded the rebound into the net to put the Hurricanes up 1-0 at 4:06 of the first.
But the Stars bounced back with three goals to take a 3-1 lead into the first intermission. The first two goals were fueled by the McKenzie-Shawn Horcoff-Brett Ritchie line. After some great work by Ritchie along the boards, he got the puck to Horcoff, who set up McKenzie for a close range goal to tie the game 1-1 at the 7:37 mark.
That line pinned the Hurricanes in their own zone a couple minutes later and after a line change, Eakin set up a pinching Goligoski, who scored from close range to make it a 2-1 game at 10:38 of the first period.
Demers scored off a shot from the slot at the 16:25 mark to give the Stars a 3-1 lead.
After outshooting the Hurricanes 14-4 in the first period, the Stars had a 10-7 shots advantage in the second. But Carolina had its chances. There were two power play opportunities, but the Stars killed both and did not allow a shot on goal. Lehtonen came up with two big saves, stopping Alexander Semin on a breakaway and then denying Elias Lindholm on a two-on-one.
“We gave them a couple of odd-man rushes and Kari was able stand tall for us back there,” Goligoski said. “It’s always good to see.”
The Stars extended their lead to 4-1 when Eakin tipped in a Goligoski shot at 11:37 mark of the third. The Stars held the Hurricanes without a shot for almost 14 minutes in the third, but Andrej Nestrasil scored on the rebound of a Rask shot to make it 4-2 at the 13:58 mark. Just 48 seconds later Bellemore scored off the rebound of a Rask shot, and it was 4-3. But that was as close as the Hurricanes would get. Eaves sealed the game with an empty-net goal, scoring from the top of Lehtonen’s crease with 1:10 remaining to make it a 5-3 final and send the Stars to Washington looking to make it four wins in five games on the road trip.
* Kari Lehtonen has played 296 of his 500 games with the Dallas Stars.
*Lehtonen is 3-0-2 in his past five decisions and 7-1-2 over his past ten.
*Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski has four points (two goals, two assists) over his past four games.
*The Stars improved to 16-11-2 vs. the Eastern Conference, including 10-3-1 against the Metropolitan Division.
*The Stars were 0-1 on the power play and 2-2 on the penalty kill.
*The Stars are 17-18 on the penalty kill over the past seven games.
*The Stars won 24 of 50 faceoffs (48 percent).
*Vernon Fiddler won 10 of 16 draws (63 percent). Cody Eakin won 6 of 12 (50 percent). Jason Spezza won 5 of 12 (42 percent). Shawn Horcoff won 2 of 9 (22 percent).
*Goligoski led the Stars with 23:24 of ice time.
*Stars defenseman John Klingberg (upper body) did not play.
*Stars forward Ryan Garbutt was the lone healthy scratch.
Jamie Benn – Cody Eakin – Tyler Seguin
Antoine Roussel – Jason Spezza – Ales Hemsky
Colton Sceviour – Vernon Fiddler – Patrick Eaves
Curtis McKenzie – Shawn Horcoff – Brett Ritchie
Jyrki Jokipakka – Alex Goligoski
Jamie Oleksiak – Jason Demers
Patrik Nemeth – Jordie Benn
Scratched: Ryan Garbutt
Injured: John Klingberg (upper body), Trevor Daley (lower body), Travis Moen (upper body), Valeri Nichushkin (hip)
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.