The Dallas Stars dug themselves an early hole for a second straight game, but this time they were able to climb out of it and secure two points. The Stars shook off an early 2-0 deficit and rallied to defeat the Buffalo Sabres, 4-3, at American Airlines Center in their final game before the All-Star break.
"It's a lot better leaving the rink with a couple of days off after a win then it would have been going the other way," said Stars forward Patrick Sharp. "I think the last week or so we have played really good hockey and probably haven't gotten the full results we have been looking for, but if we play that way good things are going to happen."
The Stars scored four straight goals to turn that 2-0 deficit into a 4-2 lead and then held off a strong push from the Sabres in the third period.
"Give them credit for digging in, fighting back," said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. "We got down by a couple, and I thought we did a good job getting back in it."
The win pushed the Stars to 20-20-10 on the season and pulled them to within three points of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference as they head into the break.
"It's been an up-and-down 50 games. We haven't hit our stride that we're capable of," Sharp said. "The last three, four, five games we've played really well. Hopefully, that's a sign of things to come. It's just a matter of stringing some games together and staying within striking distance."
Sharp scored two goals, and Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin also scored for the Stars. Antti Niemi got the start in goal but was pulled following the first period after allowing two goals on five shots. Kari Lehtonen played the rest of the way and stopped 21 of 22 shots including all 16 he faced in the third period.
"Yesterday I had one goalie that was suffering from dehydration. I had one goalie that was sick," Ruff said. "I picked - and they probably wouldn't admit it as an excuse - and I picked the guy that was sick because he said he felt OK. I didn't think he looked right. So, I went back to Kari."
The game included three video reviews, one of them lasted four minutes and another was conducted after the final horn had sounded and players had left the ice. All of them went Dallas' way. Two determined that close plays at the Stars net were not Buffalo goals and the Sabres also lost a challenge to try to overturn a Dallas power-play goal for offside.
"I've never seen them that long, I've never been a part of them that long," said Stars defenseman Jordie Benn. "The fans got pretty fun there and they turned off the Jumbotron for a bit because it was so long. It went in our favor, so I'll wait if it goes in our favor."
The Sabres (20-19-9) had a three-game winning streak snapped. They thought a couple of those video reviews could have gone their way.
"It's frustrating," Sabres coach Dan Bylsma said of the reviews. "The way the game was played out, the first two periods clearly we got outshot. We find ourselves with a goal at the end of the second and right in a game, and we throw everything we can at them in the third period, and you feel like you got goals by the goalie and across the goal line, but you come up empty."
The Sabres took a 1-0 lead 3:44 into the game. Evander Kane drove down the left wing on the rush and scored from close range. After the Stars missed on their first power play of the game, Buffalo went on its first power play and cashed in to take a 2-0 lead. Kane circled the net off the rush and centered the puck to Matt Moulson, who scored from the top of the crease at 9:30 of the first.
The Stars got on the board just under 90 seconds later when Sharp scored off the rush, beating Sabres goaltender Anders Nilsson with a shot from the top of the left circle 10:59 into the game.
The Stars opened the second period on a power play and scored to tie the game 1-1 when Benn scored from the bottom of the right circle at the 42 second mark. Buffalo challenged the goal, saying the Stars were offside entering the zone but a video review proved inconclusive, and the goal stood.
The Stars continued to control play in the period, and Sharp gave the Stars their first lead of the night, scoring from the left circle off the rush at 13:16 of the second for his second goal of the night.
"He's starting to look like the old Patrick Sharp," said Ruff. "He got rewarded tonight with the first shot finding the hole and the second shot was a really good effort getting up ice and putting it in the right spot."
The Stars made it a 4-2 game when Seguin put a rebound on net during a scramble and Sabres defenseman Cody Franson knocked the puck into the net at 15:24 of the second.
Buffalo cut the lead to one with 1:05 left in the second on a shot from the point by Kane that beat a screened Lehtonen to make it a 4-3 game heading into the third period.
The Sabres came with a strong push in the third, but Lehtonen was sharp. He and Esa Lindell combined to keep the puck out of the net during a frantic scramble and midway through the period Sam Reinhart put a backhand shot on net that Lehtonen stopped near the goal line. The Sabres thought the puck was over the line, but after a lengthy review which lasted four minutes, it was determined to be no goal.
"I don't know if it was tough to see on the video or what, but it was 100 percent over the line, so it's a tough one," Reinhart said.
"There's nothing definitive that says the puck went in on the initial shot," Ruff said.
And there was one more review, this one after the final horn and with the players already off the ice, to determine if Buffalo might have tied the game with 11 seconds remaining.
"The last one we finally got a view where it looked like it wasn't a goal," Ruff said. "It was damn close."
Close but no goal and the Stars headed into the break with a much-needed two points.
*The Stars outshot the Sabres 37-27 and had a 73-52 advantage in shot attempts.
*Jamie Benn and Jason Spezza co-led the Stars with 6 shots on goal. Spezza was tops with 12 shot attempts.
*Stars forward Patrick Sharp has scored four goals in his past five games.
*The Stars were 1-5 on the power play and 1-2 on the penalty kill.
*The Stars won 34 of 73 faceoffs (47 percent). Adam Cracknell won 9 of 14 (64 percent) for Dallas. Buffalo's Ryan O'Reilly won 25 of 37 (68 percent).
*The Stars have allowed the first goal in seven straight games.
*John Klingberg led the Stars with 24:00 of ice time.
The Stars and NHL are off from Jan. 27-30 for the All-Star break. The next game for the Stars is Tue., Jan. 31 vs. Toronto at American Airlines Center.
Jamie Benn - Cody Eakin - Patrick Eaves
Antoine Roussel - Tyler Seguin - Jason Spezza
Lauri Korpikoski - Devin Shore - Patrick Sharp
Curtis McKenzie - Adam Cracknell - Brett Ritchie
Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Dan Hamhuis - Julius Honka
Jordie Benn - Stephen Johns
Scratched: Jiri Hudler, Patrik Nemeth
Injured: Radek Faksa (lower body), Johnny Oduya (lower body), Jamie Oleksiak (hand), Ales Hemsky (hip), Mattias Janmark (knee)
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.