The Dallas Stars sounded the goal horn three times in the first six minutes en route to a 5-2 victory over the visiting Carolina Hurricanes Saturday afternoon.
Winger Patrick Eaves led the way for the Stars, scoring two goals, including a power-play marker. Eaves’ second goal of the day was his 21st of the season, a career high for the 32-year-old, and came in his 600th NHL game.
Asked if he pays attention to such milestones, Eaves said, “Not really, to be honest,” before changing the subject to his primary focus, the team and their last-ditch effort to make the playoffs. “We just have games coming every night and it’s who’s next and what’s in their lineup. We are looking to see what we have to do. We will have our hands full tomorrow in Nashville and hopefully it will jumpstart a road trip for us.”
Stars captain Jamie Benn was happy to praise his teammate, saying, “He [Eaves] deserves a lot of credit. He has put in a lot of work this year, saves all of his energy for games. He’s a hard-working guy and people don’t see what he does on his days off, but it’s paying off, so it’s good to see him scoring goals.”
“We played the game the right way,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff of his team’s effort. Ruff singled out the defensive pairing of Jamie Oleksiak and Stephen Johns, calling their play “excellent.”
Outside the visitors’ dressing room, Hurricanes coach Bill Peters assessed his team bluntly.
“We weren’t good enough for long enough,” said Peters. “We didn’t have enough guys going. The Staal line was very good here tonight. It was engaged in what they were trying to get accomplished, but the other three lines were not nearly as good as we needed them to be.”
While the Stars jet to Nashville for a Sunday evening tilt, the Canes head back home to begin their bye week. After five days off, they’ll have a five-game homestand which they’ll try to leverage in order to climb back into the playoff race.
“Finally, we got a little bit of puck luck,” Ruff said. “I hope we didn’t use it all up in one game.”
The Stars had a heapin’ helpin’ of puck luck in the first period alone, scoring three goals in the first six minutes to put the Hurricanes back on their heels before some fans found their seats. In the opening minute, the home team won a defensive zone draw, then Stars rookie blueliner Esa Lindell poked the puck past Canes defenseman Jaccob Slavin and was off to the races, firing a wrister past goalie Cam Ward to cap off the 2-on-1 rush.
Five minutes later, Patrick Eaves scored his first goal of the day off the rush, tipping a Cody Eakin pass to Ward’s right as the goalie moved left.
Any doubt as to which club the Hockey Gods favored was erased 22 seconds later, when left wing Curtis McKenzie’s attempted cross-ice pass went off Hurricanes defender Matt Tennyson and in.
To their credit, the visitors battled back after their host’s early onslaught. Though the teams finished the period tied at nine shots on goal apiece, the Hurricanes led 28-12 in shot attempts, 11 of which were blocked by the Stars.
Five minutes into the second period, the Hurricanes struck the Stars’ net. Rookie Sebastian Aho found himself a patch of open ice in the left faceoff circle and slapped a one-timer past Kari Lehtonen.
The teams traded shots and scoring chances without result for much of a back-and-forth, fast-moving middle frame. With the Stars leading 3-1, the next goal would be critical for both clubs.
At the 16:17 mark, Hurricanes defenseman Brett Pesce was boxed for holding Antoine Roussel, sending the Stars to the power play against the NHL’s top penalty kill. Fifty-two seconds later, Eaves pounded home his career-best 21st goal of the season to regain the Stars’ three-goal lead.
Brett Ritchie was whistled for high-sticking on the ensuing faceoff, and it was Carolina’s turn with the man-advantage. The Canes’ power play was cut short when Roussel drew another call, this one tripping against Jordan Staal. The Stars ended the period with 32 seconds of 5-on-4 time remaining.
The Hurricanes killed off the remainder of Staal’s penalty to begin the third period, then went back on the power play three minutes later after Johns tripped Aho. The Stars were 14 seconds away from killing the penalty when Canes forward Elias Lindholm took a shot from the high slot. Lehtonen made the initial save but lost sight of the puck. Alert defenseman Justin Faulk spotted it next to the goalie’s left leg and flipped the puck into the net to pull the visitors within two.
The tension dissipated five minutes later when Stars grinder Adam Cracknell attempted a wraparound backhander that popped straight up into the air, then came straight down onto Ward’s back and rolled into the net.
The Hurricanes couldn’t overcome so much “puck luck” in one game, and their frustration culminated in a fight between Staal and Oleksiak with just over five minutes remaining, the final fireworks of the day.
DAL – Esa Lindell (5) unassisted
DAL – Patrick Eaves (20) assisted by Cody Eakin (6) and Jamie Benn (31)
DAL – Curtis McKenzie (4) unassisted
CAR – Sebastian Aho (17) assisted by Elias Lindholm (21) and Jordan Staal (18)
DAL – Patrick Eaves (21) (PP) assisted by Radek Faksa (18) and Jamie Benn (32)
CAR – Justin Faulk (11) (PP) assisted by Elias Lindholm (22) and Jordan Staal (19)
DAL – Adam Cracknell (7) assisted by Curtis McKenzie (7)
THW Three Stars
First: Patrick Eaves (2 goals)
Second: Curtis McKenzie (1 goal, 1 assist)
Third: Elias Lindholm (2 assists)
Dallas Stars at Nashville Predators
Bridgestone Arena – 5:00 p.m. CST on Sunday, Feb. 12
Broadcast channels: TVAS, FS-TN, FS-SW
2016-17 Season Series: Oct. 18 – Stars 2, Predators 1
Nov. 23 – Predators 5, Stars 2
Dec. 8 – Stars 5, Predators 2
Colorado Avalanche at Carolina Hurricanes
PNC Arena – 7:30 p.m. EST on Friday, Feb. 17
Broadcast channels: FS-CR, ALT
2016-17 Season Series: First Meeting of the Season