The Dallas Stars and San Jose Sharks don’t see each other as often since NHL realignment, but it was like old times Saturday. The former division rivals played a revved up, physical game that had a playoff intensity to it and when the ice shavings settled, the Stars skated away with a 4-2 victory at SAP Center.
The Stars built a 3-0 lead through two periods and then held off a strong push from the Sharks over the final 20 minutes.
“It was a good game to get into because you are going to see emotions like that inside a playoff game with some physicality early,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “It’s a good test. The emotions were going both ways, the momentum in the game went both ways. We found a way to stabilize and ended up winning the game. You are going to see some of that.”
There were 51 hits in the game, several scrums and one fight. Stars forward Antoine Roussel was in the middle of a lot of it, but even Stars defenseman John Klingberg picked up a roughing penalty.
“I loved it. I thought it was great. I think it is great hockey when it is like that,” said Stars center Jason Spezza, who had two assists. “Teams are looking to get points. The feel of an intense game was good for our team. We showed good push back. Guys stuck together. I think [Roussel] did a great job sticking up for himself. We had some scrums, and everybody was in there. Those are fun games to play in as players.”
Mattias Janmark, who returned to the lineup after missing six games with an upper-body injury, scored two goals.
“It was a while since I played a game, so I was kind of excited to play,” Janmark said. “When you play a lot of games you don't appreciate it as much.”
Patrick Sharp and Jamie Benn also scored. Antti Niemi, making his first start since March 12, was excellent in goal, stopping 34 of 36 shots.
“He looked really good,” said Ruff. “He looked big all night, and he made some terrific saves.”
Niemi picked up his first win since Feb. 23.
“It’s an exciting game, exciting day,” Niemi said. “It’s been a while since the last game and the last win, so it feels pretty good.”
The Stars (45-22-9) won four the fourth time in the past five games and improved to 7-2-2 over their past eleven games.
The Sharks (41-28-6) lost their third straight game, all of them at home, but coach Peter DeBoer saw some positives.
“I think we played a pretty good game tonight. Obviously, we didn’t win,” said DeBoer. “It was one of those nights where every mistake we made ended up in our net, and we couldn’t buy one at the other end for a couple periods. You’ve got to be careful and keep the proper perspective. We want to be winning every game this time of year, but we’ve won a lot of games over the season where we’ve played like that.”
The Stars scored the only goal in a fast-paced, feisty period that featured a few scrums and an Antoine Roussel-Tommy Wingels fight. Wingels had hit Roussel just a couple minutes earlier.
“I thought a real dirty check by them on Roussel. Real dirty,” Ruff said. “I thought Roussel did the right thing.”
Wingels didn’t see it that way.
“You are allowed to hit in this game since you were a Pee-Wee, and he doesn’t like to get hit,” Wingels said.
The goal came at the 15:28 mark of the first when Janmark redirected a Jordie Benn shot from the point past Sharks goaltender Martin Jones.
The Stars extended the lead to 3-0 in the second period, which featured some more scrums including one late in the period that saw Klingberg and Sharks center Joe Thornton pick up roughing minors.
Niemi came up with a big glove save on Sharks captain Joe Pavelski at 3:22 of the second to keep it a 1-0 game. Exactly one minute later the Stars made it 2-0 when Spezza made a slick pass off the rush to set up Janmark, who scored from close range.
The Stars extended the lead to 3-0 with a power-play goal. With Pavelski in the penalty box for boarding Dallas defenseman Johnny Oduya, Spezza set up Sharp, who scored off a one-timer from the left circle at 14:19 of the second period.
San Jose made it interesting in the third, cutting the Dallas lead to one with a pair of quick goals. After a turnover in the Dallas end, Joel Ward scored into a wide-open net with San Jose shorthanded to make it a 3-1 game at 3:44 of the third. A little more than two minutes later, the Sharks capitalized on another Dallas turnover and Tomas Hertl scored on the rebound of a Pavelski shot to make it a 3-2 game. But the Dallas penalty kill came up with two big stops and Jamie Benn sealed the win with a late empty-net goal to send the Stars home with a 4-2 victory.
*The Stars are 9-6-3 vs. the Pacific Division.
*The Sharks are 8-9-2 vs. the Central Division.
*The Sharks outshot the Stars 36-17 and had an 80-33 advantage in shot attempts.
*Mattias Janmark registered the first two-goal game of his NHL career.
*Patrick Sharp scored his first goal since Feb. 20.
*The Stars scored 5-on-5, 4-on-4 and 5-on-4 in the game.
*The Stars were 1-3 on the power play and 6-6 on the penalty kill.
*The Stars are 34-35 (97.1 percent) on the penalty kill over the past 11 games.
*The Stars won 32 of 61 faceoffs (52 percent).
*Radek Faksa won 7 of 13 faceoffs (54 percent). Jason Spezza won 4 of 7 (57 percent). Vernon Fiddler won 7 of 14 (50 percent). Cody Eakin won 11 of 23 (48 percent).
*Alex Goligoski led the Stars with 26:31 of ice time.
The Stars return home for two games at American Airlines Center, taking on Nashville (Tuesday) and Arizona (Thursday).
Jamie Benn – Cody Eakin – Patrick Sharp
Mattias Janmark – Jason Spezza – Valeri Nichushkin
Antoine Roussel – Radek Faksa – Ales Hemsky
Colton Sceviour – Vernon Fiddler – Patrick Eaves
Alex Goligoski – John Klingberg
Johnny Oduya – Stephen Johns
Patrik Nemeth – Jordie Benn
Injured: Kris Russell (lower body), Tyler Seguin (Achilles), Jason Demers (shoulder)
Scratched: Brett Ritchie, Travis Moen, Jamie Oleksiak
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.