Despite dealing away many of their star players before this week’s NHL trade deadline, the Dallas Stars are delivering a clear message to the rest of the Western Conference that they aren’t packing it in just yet.
Jamie Benn scored the lone goal in the shootout and Kari Lehtonen stopped all three attempts as the Stars snapped the San Jose Sharks’ seven-game winning streak with a 5-4, come-from-behind victory on Sunday.
“They can keep thinking that. The only thing that matters is what we believe in this dressing room,” Benn said. “It’s not going to be pretty some nights. But the effort is going to be there and the heart and character will be there also. I think you saw part of that.”
Alex Chiasson started the second rally back from a two-goal deficit when he scored his second goal of his third career game early in the third period. Loui Eriksson tied it for the Stars, who have beaten division-leading Anaheim and the streaking Sharks the past two games.
Eric Nystrom also scored, and Lehtonen made 32 saves through overtime for Dallas, which moved within four points of Detroit for the final playoff spot.
“The situation we’re in, every game is important,” forward Ray Whitney said. “If we have any chance at all (to reach playoffs) it’s going to be a pretty impressive run at the end. If you look at these guys, they hit a hot streak at the right time. You can see how it catapulted them up in the standings. For us to have any chance, we’re going to have to go on a similar run.”
Tommy Wingels, Brent Burns, TJ Galiardi and Marc-Edouard Vlasic scored for the Sharks, who had won the first six games of their seven-game homestand. San Jose failed in its attempt to become the first NHL team to win every game on a homestand of at least seven games, according to STATS LLC.
“It’s very disappointing,” Wingels said. “We’re happy with the homestand as a whole but you’re only as good as your latest performance. There are things we need to clean up and move on.”
Benn beat Antti Niemi in the second round of the shootout when he skated out wide and then came back to the middle for a forehand shot. Lehtonen sealed the win when he stopped Burns on the final attempt.
This was the first of three meetings between the teams in a span of 17 days, and the clubs look far different than they did for the first meeting of the season in February in Dallas.
The Stars have traded key players Brenden Morrow, Jaromir Jagr, Derek Roy and Michael Ryder since winning 3-1 then. That loss was the ninth in 10 games for the Sharks, who have turned things around dramatically of late.
San Jose won in Anaheim on March 25 and then took the first six games of this homestand to vault from outside the playoff picture to the middle of the fight for home-ice advantage in the first round.
“I like to look at the positives, it was a good homestand,” captain Joe Thornton said. “Now we have to go win some games on the road. All in all, we needed to win some games at home and we did. It would have been nice to get the two tonight but we didn’t. But good homestand.”
The Stars twice erased two-goal deficits with Nystrom and Chiasson scoring 26 seconds apart in the second period to tie the game at 2. Chiasson and Erickson scored in the opening half of the third period to tie it at 4. The tying goal game when Erickson beat Brad Stuart to the rebound of a shot by Matt Fraser midway through the third.
“I just think we kept believing in here,” Chiasson said. “We were down 2-0, made it back 2-2, then were down 4-2 and made it back 4-4 and ended up winning in a shootout. This is just a passionate group of guys. You can see guys want to win here. I think we’re just going game by game, see where it takes us. We’re getting closer and closer.”
Galiardi, whose improved play has helped spark this recent run, had helped San Jose take the lead with a beautiful spin-o-rama goal in the second off a good play from newly acquired Raffi Torres.
Torres has long been reviled in San Jose for playoff hits that hurt Milan Michalek and Thornton over the years. He was even greeted by a mix of boos and cheers in his first game with the Sharks. But Torres quickly won over his new fans by dishing out some hard hits, drawing a penalty and earning two assists, including one on Galiardi’s goal.
Torres hit Nystrom to jar the puck loose in the offensive end and then stole it from Trevor Daley before feeding Galiardi in the circle. Galiardi then spun and fired a backhand with his back to the net, and the puck sailed just under the crossbar to beat Lehtonen. Galiardi even seemed surprised by the highlight-reel goal, holding his arms out in celebration.
Stars F Lane MacDermid, who scored in his first two games since being acquired in the Jagr trade, sat out with an upper body injury. … D Jason Demers returned for the Sharks in place of Matt Tennyson after missing four games with a head injury.