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Dallas Stars Waste Early Lead, Rally, Defeat Panthers

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Kari Lehtonen couldn't finish the game, Jamie Benn has now gone eight games without a goal, defensive turnovers were abundant, but somehow the Stars still held on. Colton Sceviour's OT winner makes two in a row for the Dallas Stars, which at this point in the season, represents a major step forward.

Yeah, there was a fight too.
Yeah, there was a fight too.
Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Welcome back Dimitry Kulikov! The Stars took Thursday night’s shootout in Florida. Colton Sceviour stayed perfect in the shootout, and the Cats wasted a stellar performance by netminder Dan Ellis. For Dallas, it was another game without Tyler Seguin, and a first after Trevor Daley’s most recent injury. It was also a showdown between a pair of phenomenal rookie defensemen (John Klingberg and Aaron Ekblad), and a game with playoff implications (serious for Florida, a bit more muted for the Stars). Finally, it was a chance for the Stars to continue to evaluate important pieces in roles up the lineup.

One of those important pieces got Dallas off to the best possible start. A canny keep by Jason Demers combined with poor Florida defensive zone coverage left Curtis McKenzie alone in front of the net for the game’s first goal. Shawn Horcoff added a second by way of an egregious neutral zone turnover and Brian Campbell’s stick. Neither play spoke well of the Florida blueline.

Things could have been much worse for the home team. If the early stages of the first period left any impression, it was of a scrambling Panthers squad gifting Dallas one high-quality opportunity after another. The trio of Ryan Garbutt, Cody Eakin, and Vernon Fiddler all came agonizingly close to extending the lead. They could not, and it came back to bite the Stars in the form of a Brandon Pirri effort near the end of the period. A poor defensive change stood out, this time, as did the fact the score was 2-1 despite a dominant period.

The second period started no differently from the first. Part of a powerplay helped the Stars leap to a 14-7 advantage in shots, but they could not find a way to translate that pressure into more goals. Then came the turnovers. The puck-control malaise that had afflicted the Panthers in the first seemed to drift down to Dallas’ bench. Suddenly, both teams found themselves engaged in the worst possible game of reverse one-upmanship.

It was a game the Panthers would win. A bobbled puck found Jussi Jokinen, who found Kulikov exiting the penalty box. Kari Lehtonen was able to get his glove on the shot, but could not prevent the puck from trickling into the back of the net. Shots were 18-11, but the score was knotted 2-2. Three shots later saw Lehtonen yanked as Jonathan Heuberdeau celebrated a 3-2 Florida lead. The Stars would manage only three shots the rest of the way, two of which came during the disappointing frame’s final minute.

With Minnesota up on Washington, the Stars needed a strong third period effort. What they got was a lot of huff, a ton of puff, but very little of actual substance. Thirteen minutes, to be exact, before a frenetic series saw Alex Goligoski knot the game at three goals apiece. Goose’s goal was a tipping point in a period that, ultimately, saw the Stars outshoot the Panthers 8-2.

They just couldn’t get more than the one goal, which left overtime for the second time in two games. Thankfully, the result was the same. Jhonas Enroth weathered an early Jordie Benn-induced storm in overtime to make it two in a row for the good guys.