The Dallas Stars were looking for a solid outing from one of their backup goaltenders and some production from their power play, and they got both Saturday night. They also got a big night from center Jamie Benn, and it all added up to a 3-1 victory over the San Jose Sharks at American Airlines Center.
Stars goaltender Cristopher Nilstorp stopped 31 of 32 shots to secure his first NHL win, and give the Stars a much needed victory with No. 1 goaltender Kari Lehtonen still out with a groin injury.
“Of course it’s a great feeling to get your first win. The guys did an amazing job in front of me and helped me out today so I’m really thankful for that. It’s a great feeling,” said Nilstorp. “It means a lot for me. You get your first win, you get excited for next game now. My confidence builds up because of this.”
Benn had a goal, an assist and a fight for the Gordie Howe Hat Trick and the power play scored twice for the Stars, who improved to 9-8-1 on the season.
“Whenever you can get a chance to get points against your own division, it’s big,” said Benn. “We were fortunate enough to get two points tonight, and I thought our team played pretty good.”
Benn gave the Stars a lift midway through the game, dropping the gloves with Sharks captain Joe Thornton.
“I was trying to get myself going a little bit, and kind of get the barn rocking,” said Benn. “I think it wakes you up and gets your adrenaline going I felt good doing it. It was pretty exciting and I was just trying to get the guys going a little bit.”
Added Stars coach Glen Gulutzan: “Well, it certainly got us all off our seats. He has a passion to win and it sparked us for sure. There’s our young bull there, going out there and getting things going. I thought it gave our team some energy. We need to do whatever we can to manufacture stuff and I thought Bennie picked a good opportunity and certainly a good opponent to get us going.”
About ten minutes later, Benn set up the first goal of the game. He centered the puck to Jaromir Jagr, who tipped the puck past Sharks goaltender Antti Niemi with 57.3 seconds left in the second.
Michael Ryder scored on the power play 30 seconds into the third period to give Dallas a 2-0 lead. The Stars, who had been struggling on a power play recently, ended up 2-6 with the man advantage in this game.
“After we practiced it and worked on it, I thought our retrievals were good. I thought the guys battled for the puck,” said Gulutzan.” Just when you’ve got Bennie and Jags out there on that one power play, they make something out of nothing. I thought that was a real big one and Ryds, you can’t give him that shot in the slot because if he gets that time he’ll bury it. I thought our big guys made big plays.”
San Jose cut the lead to 2-1 with a five-on-three power play goal by Patrick Marleau early in the third, but the Stars held them off the rest of the way.
Nilstorp came up with a huge save on Thornton, who drove the net with just under eleven minutes left in the third.
“I was lucky there,” said Nilstorp, who ended up under Thornton at the side of the net after he made the save.
The Sharks scored on the ensuing scramble, but the goal was waved off and Thornton was penalized for goaltender interference.
“It felt like I was getting hooked to be honest with you. I’m going one way, and he’s going the same way. I really couldn’t do anything,” said Thornton. “And then the puck’s right there, [Nilstorp] is out of the crease, I’m out of the crease and I just thought it was going to be a good goal but apparently not.”
Benn scored on a snap shot from the slot with 2:11 remaining to make it a 3-1 game. The goal rounded out Benn’s Gordie Howe Hat Trick.
“The biggest thing was that our goalie played great tonight and got his first NHL win,” Benn said, “and our team got two big points against a division rival.”
The Sharks fell to 1-6-3 over their last ten games. They have scored seven goals over the last seven games.
“More of the same, pretty good effort but like I said after the game in Chicago, you can’t take consolation in that,” said Sharks coach Todd McLellan. “You have to put points in the bank and we’re not doing it right now. You can’t win games scoring one goal. Power play scored a goal. It’s the same thing. It’s over and over. We’ve got to find ways to fix it.”
Stars Notes: Rome, Larsen injured
*Stars defenseman Aaron Rome left the game in the first period after taking shot off his foot. His status is not known.
*Stars defenseman Philip Larsen left the game late in the third period after he and Sharks forward Tommy Wingels both went head first into the boards. Larsen, who suffered a cut on his forehead, is being evaluated.
*Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen (groin) skated in Frisco on Saturday. He is still listed as day-to-day, and he will travel with the team to Nashville and Columbus.
*Stars defenseman Trevor Daley (neck) took part in Saturday morning’s skate. He could play in Monday’s game at Nashville.
*Saturday’s attendance was 18, 584, the second sellout of the season.