It was no Picasso, but it was two points for the Dallas Stars. And it was a roller coaster ride. The Stars built a four-goal lead through two periods and then had to hang on for a 7-6 victory over the New York Rangers at Madison Square Garden Tuesday night.
"Stars hockey," said Stars forward Patrick Sharp. "It seems like we've been in that situation a few times. We'd like to be better protecting the lead, but I feel a lot better getting out of here with the two points than going to overtime or blowing that one."
The Stars shook off an early goal by the Rangers to build a 3-1 lead after one period and extended it to 7-3 through 40 minutes. But New York poured it on in the third, scoring three times to cut the lead to 7-6 and outshooting the Stars 24-4, including three shots in the final five seconds.
"I wouldn't say it was our strongest game, but we came in with a fresh mindset and did what we had to do," said Stars captain Jamie Benn. "After last game which we didn't have the greatest effort and a little embarrassing, we came in here and got off to a strong start. They had a couple good pushes. Obviously, they had a good third period, but we did what we had to do. We hunkered down to the end and found a way to get two points."
Sharp scored two goals in the game, Benn and Patrick Eaves both had one goal and two assists, and Cody Eakin registered a Gordie Howe hat trick with one goal, one assist, and a fight. Antoine Roussel and Adam Cracknell also scored goals. Radek Faksa and Lauri Korpikoski both had two assists.
Antti Niemi got the start in goal but was pulled in the third period after allowing six goals on 28 shots. Kari Lehtonen played the rest of the way and stopped all eleven shots he faced. The Stars snapped a two-game losing streak and improved to 19-19-8 on the season.
"I'd like to see us put some games together," Sharp said. "It seems like when our backs are against the wall, and we need a win, we come out with a great effort. It would be nice to gather up some points and get back into contention because it is only going to get tougher as the season goes on."
Video: Sharp scores twice to lead Stars past Rangers, 7-6
The Rangers (28-16-1) lost their third straight game and allowed seven goals for the third time in the past eleven games. It was a rough night for goaltender Henrik Lundqvist who gave up seven goals on 27 shots and was pulled after the second period.
"It's tough. I feel like it's embarrassing, frustrating, and disappointing, at the same time," Lundqvist said. "The bottom line is I need to find another level; it's not good enough."
The Rangers took a 1-0 lead 27 seconds into the game when Derek Stepan scored on a wrap-around. It was the third straight game in which the Stars gave up an early goal and fell behind. This time they responded well, scoring three straight goals to take a 3-1 lead into the first intermission.
Just 38 seconds after the Rangers had a goal waved off for goaltender interference, Patrick Eaves scored on a rebound with the Stars on their first power play to tie the game at the 12:34 mark. And 12 seconds later, Faksa set up Sharp for a tap-in goal after a New York turnover. And then at the 17:54 mark Eakin set up Benn, who slipped a backhand shot through Lundqvist's five-hole to put the Stars up 3-1.
Just under two minutes into the second, Eakin, who had run over Lundqvist in a game in Dallas last month, and Kreider, who ran over Niemi in the first period, picked up fighting majors. Eakin was prepared for a response from the Rangers for his hit on Lundqvist.
"I didn't know if I was going to have to fight first shift or what was going to happen," Eakin said. "There were a couple hits the first shift, felt it out from there and got it wrapped up afterward, just get it over with."
The Stars made it a 4-1 game 4:32 into the second when Korpikoski set up Roussel, who scored from close range. The Rangers got back into the game midway through the second on goals by Mika Zibanejad and Pavel Buchnevich to cut the Dallas lead to 4-3.
But just 48 seconds after the Rangers pulled to within one, Sharp caught Lundqvist looking the wrong way and tucked the puck into the open side of the net to make it a 5-3 game at the 12:54 mark.
Cracknell scored off the rush at the 15:53 mark and Eakin put home the rebound of an Eaves shot at 17:40 of the second and the Stars had a 7-3 lead after two.
Magnus Hellberg took over in net for New York to start the third and the Rangers made a strong push over the final 20 minutes. A power-play goal from Kreider 3:11 into the third cut the lead to 7-4, and then Stepan and Zibanejad tacked on two more goals in the next 4:15 and the Dallas lead was down to 7-6, ending the night for Niemi. But the Stars and Lehtonen were able to hang on the rest of the way even as the Rangers kept up the pressure until the final seconds.
"It was a good feeling," said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. "We lost a lot of games that I felt we deserved to win. When I look at it, I still felt we deserved to win tonight. When you look at the schedule and the number of games, there is some goofy stuff going on, and we'll take the two points."
Notes: Oduya leaves game with injury
*Stars defenseman Johnny Oduya left Tuesday's game midway through the second period with an undisclosed injury. An update on his status is expected Wednesday.
*The 7 goals were a season-high for the Stars.
*Jamie Benn's three points were his first points in 11 career games against the New York Rangers.
*Cody Eakin's goal was his first of the season.
*Six Stars scored goals and 11 registered points in the game.
*Jamie Benn and Patrick Sharp co-led the Stars with 5 shots on goal. Benn was tops with 8 shot attempts.
*The Stars were 1-1 on the power play and 1-2 on the penalty kill.
*The Stars won 32 of 66 faceoffs (48 percent). Radek Faksa won 16 of 24 faceoffs (67 percent) for Dallas.
*John Klingberg led the Stars with 26:53 of ice time. Esa Lindell was next with 26:07.
*The Stars improved to 3-7-3 vs. the Eastern Conference this season.
The Stars conclude their three-game road trip Thursday when they take on the New York Islanders in Brooklyn. The Islanders (17-17-8) fired head coach Jack Capuano Tuesday. Islanders assistant GM Doug Weight will serve as interim head coach. Thursday's game against the Stars will be Weight's first behind as interim coach.
Antoine Roussel - Tyler Seguin - Jason Spezza
Jamie Benn - Cody Eakin - Patrick Eaves
Devin Shore - Radek Faksa - Patrick Sharp
Lauri Korpikoski - Adam Cracknell - Jiri Hudler
Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Johnny Oduya - Stephen Johns
Dan Hamhuis - Patrik Nemeth
Scratched: Jordie Benn, Brett Ritchie, Curtis McKenzie
Injured: Jamie Oleksiak (hand), Ales Hemsky (hip), Mattias Janmark (knee)
Lindy Ruff: "I thought we played one heck of a first period after that. You've got to give that group of guys in the room a lot of credit because they dug in."
Jamie Benn: "We came to the rink fresh with a new mindset and found a way to win a game and that's all that matters."
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.