DALLAS - It certainly didn’t turn out the way they planned it, but for the Dallas Stars, all that matters is that they came away with the W.
After surrendering a 3-1 lead late in the third period, the Stars received a goal from rookie Tom Wandell at 2:12 of overtime to pull out a 4-3 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning Saturday night at the American Airlines Center.
Playing the second leg of back-to-back games in different cities following a disappointing 5-2 loss in Phoenix Friday, the Stars scored three power play goals to build a seemingly ironclad two-goal lead. But the Lightning climbed back into it in the final five minutes with goals just 47 seconds apart.
The Stars were forced to kill off a power play over the final two minutes of regulation just to make it to overtime, but Wandell received a nice pass from Loui Eriksson before beating former Dallas goaltender Mike Smith between the pads for his fourth goal of the season for the game-winner.
“I saw Loui came down two-on-two and I know he’s a really smart player, so I was just looking to get open,” Wandell said of the play, which gives him his team-leading third game-winner of the season. “It wasn’t the best shot, but it went in. It was a big win today. Yesterday wasn’t the best game for us. We came back strong and we won.”
“The two points is crucial,” coach Marc Crawford said. “When we ended up killing that penalty off with two minutes to go, getting into overtime, our guys breathed a big sigh of relief. I liked our chances going into overtime. We got our couple of opportunities in overtime and scored on the second one. It’s huge, we get the two points. They’re not always going to be masterpieces. Tonight I thought we did a lot more things correctly than not.”
The Stars, who are now 12-7-7 on the season, won for just the third time this season in 10 games that have lasted beyond regulation. Dallas is now 3-0-1 in their last four on home ice, and 5-1-3 in their last nine at the American Airlines Center.
Dallas received a big performance from the power play unit, which was 3-for-6 on the night, as captain Brenden Morrow, Stephane Robidas and Jere Lehtinen each scored in regulation. Robidas also added an assist, while former Tampa center Brad Richards, facing his former team for just the second time, contributed two assists.
Goaltender Alex Auld got the start in goal, one night after relieving Marty Turco late in the second period in Phoenix. Auld was outstanding, making 25 saves for his fourth victory of the season.
After going down 1-0 early in the second period, the Stars looked like a tired team playing its second game in as many nights in different cities, but the game turned in their favor with several power play opportunities late in the second. With consecutive 5-on-3 advantages, the Stars scored on both of them, just 1:11 apart, to seize control.
Up by a goal heading into the final period, the Stars cashed in on another power play to go ahead 3-1 after Morrow netted his 10th goal of the year at 3:34. Just 17 seconds after Tampa’s David Hale entered the penalty box for a retaliatory roughing penalty against Steve Ott, rookie Jamie Benn’s accidental pass found a wide open Morrow in front. Morrow popped an in-close wrist shot over Smith’s pad for the two-goal lead.
Dallas had another chance to pad their lead after Alex Tanguay’s four-minute high-sticking penalty for cutting Mark Fistric’s mouth, but were unable to put the knife in.
“We had a four-minute power play, and we want to try to put our foot down and have a killer instinct, right through our team, and figure out a way to make it 4-1,” Richards said. “It seemed like we just kind of let our foot off and let them back in the game.”
Tampa Bay began their comeback by converting on a late power play of their own, as Steven Stamkos fired a laser beam of a snap shot from the left circle that beat Auld on the short side to collect his 17th goal of the season with 4:54 remaining in regulation.
The Lightning came right back and tied it just 47 seconds later on a goal by former Star center Jeff Halpern with 4:07 left. On an innocent-seeming backhander from the right side of the crease, Auld seemed to pull off the post early and Halpern’s shot managed to slip past him on the short side.
About a minute later, Tampa Bay nearly took the lead when Paul Szczechura clanked a point-blank wrist shot off the goalpost.
Dallas then had to kill off a Tampa power play over the final two minutes after a phantom tripping call on Modano, with Auld being forced to make tough saves on Ryan Malone and Kurtis Foster to send it into overtime.
“It was a bad third goal there that went in on us,” Crawford said. “It happens. You have to persevere and battle through it. Alex made a couple of really good saves on the penalty kill.”
The Stars nearly received a gift goal just under six minutes in, after a Smith giveaway in the Tampa zone led to a prime opportunity from Wandell, whose snapshot from the left face-off circle forced Smith to make a fabulous stop after scrambling back into the crease.
Auld made his first huge save of the night with 4:45 left in the first, as he denied a one-timer from Tampa’s Martin St. Louis from the slot after receiving a nice pass from Vincent Lecavalier.
Despite outshooting the Lightning 13-5 through the opening period, Dallas entered the second still scoreless.
The Lightning had the first prime scoring chance of the period 4:47 in, speeding into the Dallas zone on a 2-on-1 rush after Trevor Daley got trapped in the offensive zone. Malone carried into the slot, opted not to feed Steve Downie, and fired a wrist shot from the hashmarks that Auld made a nice save on.
Tampa broke through for the game’s first goal at 6:18 of the second, on Szczechura notched his second goal of the season. After stealing the puck from Matt Niskanen, Szczechura whipped a wrist shot from low in the right face-off circle that beat Auld over the glove.
The Lightning surged after the goal, forcing Auld to make sparkling saves over the next several minutes, denying Stamkos in close and turning aside Victor Hedman’s wrister on another odd-man rush with Daley trapped up ice again.
Just when it looked like Tampa might run away with it, Dallas snatched back the momentum thanks to a flurry of Lightning penalties late in the period. The Stars finally broke through during a 5-on-3 advantage for 1:04, set up when Smith inadvertently shot the puck over the glass. With 15 seconds left in the two-man advantage, Robidas blasted a one-timer from the high slot off a pass from Mike Modano that beat Smith through a screen provided by James Neal.
Still on the power play, Dallas went on another 5-on-3, this time for 28 seconds, when Andrej Meszaros was whistled for cross-checking, and the Stars capitalized on that opportunity as well. This time, it was Lehtinen recording his first goal of the season, in his 12th game, converting a pass from Richards at the right corner of the crease, burying it behind Smith for a 2-1 Dallas lead.
“I thought we did a pretty good job all night. We drew a lot of penalties,” Crawford said. “I thought their goalie, Mike Smith, was pretty good in the early part of the game. While it was his mistake that gave us the 5-on-3 and allowed us to get our first goal, he was a pretty important guy for them early in the game. I thought we generated quite a few chances. We did the things we wanted to, and really we weren’t giving up very much against them.”
Dallas has one day off before continuing its stretch of eight games in 13 nights with a visit to Detroit on Monday to face the Red Wings (6:30 pm start, My27), whom the Stars defeated 3-1 on Nov. 18. The Red Wings won in St. Louis earlier in the evening, 4-3 in a shootout.
“To go to Detroit now, we have good confidence,” Wandell said. “We beat them last time we were there, so I think we’ve got a good opportunity to go there and get two points.”
- Wandell now owns a modest three-game point streak and has five points (two goals, three assists) in his last five games.
- Morrow now has goals in three straight contests as well as a four-game point streak (three goals, one assist), following a six-game pointless skid. Morrow also delivered a game-high nine hits.
- Richards’ two assists give him 10 points (one goal, nine assists) in his last five games. He now has a team-leading 32 points on the season, moving him up to fourth in the entire NHL, while his 25 assists rank second in the league. His six shots on goal tied him with Robidas for the club lead.
- The red-hot Robidas now has four goals and seven points in his last five contests, giving him seven goals on the year, far surpassing the three he managed during all of last season. Robidas once again led the squad in ice time with 24:50.
- Lehtinen’s goal ended a nine-game point drought and gives him 499 career points.
- Modano’s assist on Robidas’ goal leaves him with three assists in his last three outings. Mo was also an impressive 10-3 on face-offs.
- Mike Ribeiro’s assist on Morrow’s goal gives him five points (two goals, three assists) in his last five games.
- Benn’s assist was his third point (one goal, two assists) in his last four contests after managing just one assist in his previous six.
- His assist on Wandell’s game-winner snapped a three-game point drought for Loui Eriksson.
- Second-year forward Fabian Brunnstrom was recalled from his conditioning assignment at AHL Texas, returning to the Stars’ lineup after missing eight contests due to a right shoulder injury. To make room for Brunnstrom, Krys Barch sat out as a healthy scratch for just the second time this season.
- Center Brian Sutherby was activated off the Injured Reserve list earlier in the day, but still missed his eighth straight game due to a groin injury.
- The power play unit is now 9-for-28 over the last five games and has provided seven of the Stars’ last 11 goals scored.
- In pulling out the victory in the end, Dallas is now 10-1-0 this season when entering the third period with a lead.