DALLAS – It undoubtedly caused both coaches’ blood pressures to go up, but for the 11,981 fans at the American Airlines Center Friday night, it was a highly-entertaining game.
Loui Eriksson scored his second goal of the game at 3:55 of overtime to lift the Dallas Stars to a wild, crazy 7-6 triumph over the Colorado Avalanche.
The Stars bounced back from deficits of 2-0, 5-4 and 6-5 in the contest for their second straight victory and improve their record to 9-3-0 on the year, including a stellar 6-1-0 mark at home.
“It was just one of those nights you don’t like as a coach but if you came to the game, you feel like you got your money’s worth,” confirmed Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. “We made some individual mistakes and some errors. I think they played really well and caused us to make some mistakes, but I didn’t mind us structurally. I might change my mind when I watch the video, I just thought that individual errors from everyone cost us.”
“This is not how we drew up how we’d play today,” said Eriksson, who now has a team-leading eight goals on the season, tied for third in the NHL. “There were a lot of goals out there today. We stuck with it and won the game. We got the two points. That’s what it’s all about there.”
Following an unusually long five-day break since their last game, the Stars showed some signs of rust and displayed some inconsistencies in their game, but also had a dominant second period in which they scored four goals, three on the power play, to erase a 2-0 deficit. Then they allowed three straight goals to fall behind 5-4 early in the first, but continued to battle back.
It was Stephane Robidas’ first goal of the season, which was originally credited to Jamie Benn, with 4:10 left in regulation that tied the game 6-6 and set the stage for overtime.
On the game-winner, Eriksson curled out from behind the Colorado net into the right face-off circle and fired the puck into the crease. It went past goaltender Semyon Varlamov and off Avs defenseman Erik Johnson, who was wrestling with Benn near the left post, and in.
“I got the puck behind the net there, I was just trying to get around the front,” said Eriksson of the play. “It’s always nice to have that feeling in the group that we can do that.”
“I think we’re going to chalk this one up to a little rust, a little break,” said captain Brenden Morrow. “It’s two points nonetheless. We were resilient, we battled hard. We were down a few times but we fought, scratched, clawed and got the win.”
Another huge contributing factor to the triumph was the Dallas power play, which was officially 3-for-6, although it was essentially 4-for-6, since Eric Nystrom’s third period tally came just as the penalty was expiring.
After going 2-for-15 over their previous six contests, it was a welcome outburst for the Stars’ PP unit.
“The power play was good and it was shots with somebody in front,” said Gulutzan. “It’s a pretty simple thing and I think once we watch that, maybe we can learn something from it. It’s just getting shots with somebody in front having a net presence. The power play, if anything, gave us confidence.”
In goal, Kari Lehtonen gave up a few he probably would like back, but he still made 34 saves while improving his personal record to 9-1-0 on the year.
“Today is I think the first night that I think Kari’s been average,” Gulutzan said. “Some huge saves and some things I think he’d like to have back. But you look at the great goalies, they all have an off night, but it’s like once every eight games. I’ll take that any day of the week, and I think Kari is trending towards being one of those elite goalies. Yeah, tonight wasn’t his best night, but I’ll take the eight that he’s already saved us this year.”
Tied 4-4 entering the final period, the Stars surrendered their third consecutive goal, as Daniel Winnik scored just 1:57 in. After Lehtonen stopped Shane O’Brien’s innocent-looking backhander from the right sideboards, the rebound went right to Winnik in front, and he slipped it under Lehtonen’s outstretched pad and in.
The Stars responded with what should have counted as their fourth power play goal, tying it at 6:01 on Nystrom’s second goal of the season. After Radek Dvorak’s one-timer from the right face-off circle clanked off the left goalpost, the rebound bounced right to Nystrom in front, and he slammed it home past the diving Varlamov.
Matt Duchene completed his first career hat trick with a spectacular goal that will undoubtedly be replayed on all the highlight shows, as he dipsy-doodled his way into the slot, slipping around Robidas before popping the puck under Lehtonen’s arm and in at 8:32 on a Colorado power play to make it 6-5.
“Honestly, I didn’t plan to do that,” said Duchene, who had a four-point night and was named the game’s first star despite losing. “I was going to make a pass, I saw Robidas kind of open up and I saw the pass wasn’t there, so I just tried to pull it through him and I was able to get by. And the shot, honestly, I thought I just hit him in the chest, but then I saw it trickle through him, so it was a pretty lucky bounce there.”
Robidas came up with the equalizer at 15:50, as he received a nice pass from Ryder and leaned into a blazing one-timer from the right point that zipped past a perfectly-executed screen in front by Benn, who was standing practically right on top of Varlamov.
In overtime, Lehtonen made a nice point-blank save on Milan Hejduk’s point-blank wrist shot from in front at 2:03, and Dallas escaped unscathed when Erik Johnson was set up for a point-blank one-timer in the slot at 3:08, but his blast sailed over the top of the net.
That set the stage for Eriksson’s dramatic game-winner 47 seconds later.
“He quietly goes about his business,” said Gulutzan of Eriksson. “I thought he was our best player tonight. He just gets things done. He’s quietly competitive and he’s a good player.”
The Stars started off slowly, falling behind early when Colorado’s fourth line struck just 5:36 into the opening period. After Kyle Quincey threw an innocent-looking shot on goal from the left sideboards, Lehtonen stopped it, but the rebound spit out right to Jay McClement in front, and he buried it over Lehtonen’s glove for his first goal of the season.
Colorado then increased their lead to 2-0 on Duchene’s first of the night at 12:17. With Dvorak feeling shame in the penalty box for high-sticking, the Avalanche power play, ranked second in the NHL entering the game, connected with just seven seconds remaining in the man-advantage when Duchene curled off the left sideboards into the face-off circle and rifled a deceptive wrist shot that beat Lehtonen between the pads.
Dallas had their best opportunity of the period with 1:41 remaining when Toby Petersen carried the puck into the Avalanche zone on a 2-on-1 rush. He opted to pass it across to Dowell, but Quincey intercepted it and cleared the zone.
Overall, the Stars, who were outshot 13-3 in the period, were probably fortunate to emerge from the first period down just 2-0.
Dallas seemed to come out with significantly more energy in the second, killing off the power play, although they dodged a bullet when Avalanche rookie Gabriel Landeskog’s scorching wrist shot from the left face-off circle deflected off Lehtonen’s shoulder and then the crossbar before going over the net at 3:05.
At that point, the shots were 16-3, but the Stars battled back, drawing a power play and then finally converting on a somewhat fluky goal at 5:39. On the rush into the Avalanche zone, Eriksson fired a low wrist shot from the slot that Varlamov stopped, but the rebound bounced straight up in the air. As Varlamov waved his blocker at the puck, Avs defenseman Ryan O’Byrne swiped at it with his hand, and the two collided in mid-air, knocking the puck down behind Varlamov just over the goal line.
Gritty winger Adam Burish then set up the next Stars goal, on another power play, as Souray connected for the 100th goal of his career at 12:44. Dallas’ PP unit needed just five seconds to strike, as Burish beat McClement on a face-off in the offensive zone, pulling the puck back to Souray at the right point, and the man they call ‘Hammer’ unleashed a bomb of a slap shot that whizzed over Varlamov’s shoulder to tie it at 2-2.
Lehtonen then came up with two huge saves with 5:10 remaining in the period to keep the game tied, after a Goligoski turnover in his own zone left Landeskog alone in front with the puck. Lehtonen denied his point-blank wrist shot, then stoned Winnik on the rebound.
The Stars then surged ahead just 31 seconds later when Ryder’s pass out of the right corner found Fiddler in the left circle, and Fiddler’s wrist shot beat Varlamov low to the far side at 15:21.
Dallas converted its third power play of the period at 17:02, just 32 seconds after David Jones entered the penalty box, when Goligoski notched his second of the season, firing a slap shot from the point that found its way through a screen in front and in to make it 4-2.
The Avalanche struck back just 43 seconds later, though, to pull back to within one on Duchene’s second of the night, off a sharp-angle, seeing-eye snap shot from the right side of the crease that beat Lehtonen over the shoulder.
Another 43 seconds later that, the Avs tied it on a fluky goal from Paul Stastny with 1:32 left in the period. With the puck behind the Dallas net, Stastny just threw it out front, where it pinballed off Lehtonen’s skate and over the goal line.
The Stars will hit the road for the next four games, starting with a Sunday afternoon matinee in Carolina (12:30 pm start, FSSW) against the Hurricanes, which also includes stops in Washington, Pittsburgh and Detroit.
“It’s always nice to win and have that confidence,” said Eriksson. “We have a tough challenge in this four-game road trip here. I think everyone is looking forward to that. It will be hard to go in and win those games, too.”
- The Stars set season highs in goals for, goals against, combined total goals, power play goals for, power play goals against (two), most power play goals combined, and most power play goals in a period. The 13 total goals represent the most by the franchise since the Minnesota North Stars relocated to Texas in 1993. The last time the organization was involved in a game with that many goals was Nov. 28, 1992 when the North Stars beat San Jose 10-3.
- Eriksson’s three-point night gives him points in three straight games, totaling five points (three goals, two assists). He also fired a team-high five shots on goal.
- Benn’s three assists give him a team-leading 11 on the season, while logging 23:02 of ice time, most among Dallas forwards.
- Ryder, who had one assist (and three goals) in the season’s first 11 games, earned three assists to almost double his point total in one game.
- Fiddler now has points in three straight outings, totaling four points (two goals, two assists). He also delivered five hits, tying Nicklas Grossman for the team high, while his three blocked shots also led the club.
- Robidas entered the game with just one point (an assist) in the first 11 games, so his three-point night (one goal, two assists) quadrupled his season point total.
- Texas Rangers second baseman Ian Kinsler dropped the ceremonial first puck before the game and received a loud ovation.
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