Bill Meltzer: Star Gazing: Stars Roll With the Punches, Halt Losing Streak

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The Dallas Stars halted their seven-game winless skid with a 4-3 comeback victory over the Arizona Coyotes in Glendale on Tuesday night. Overcoming a very poor first period performance, the Stars rallied back from a 2-0 deficit with a late second period surge and then prevailed in the waning minutes of regulation on a shorthanded goal by Ryan Garbutt with 1:46 remaining in the game.

At its core, despite its notable offseason additions of Jason Spezza and others, the Stars are still a team that goes as far as Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn and Kari Lehtonen take the team. That was the case again last night.

Seguin, who has racked up five goals over the last two games, scored even strength and power play goals late in the second period to tie the game at 2-2 and set up the dramatic final 20 minutes. The Coyotes took a two-goal lead at 11:06 of the middle frame a turnover inside the offensive blueline and a some indecisive coverage by Jamie Oleksiak contributed to a Joe Vitale goal high to the short side from the circle. Seguin struck back at 17:59 and 18:56 of the middle period to square up the square.

Lehtonen, who has had a bit of an inconsistent start to the season, stepped up last night both early and late in the game. After yielding a Connor Murphy point shot goal off a Jordie Benn turnover at 1:42 of the first period, the Big Finn singlehandedly kept the Stars close through a first period in which the team got outshot by a 16-7 margin. He also came up big several times in the third period to finish with 34 saves. Arizona’s Mike Smith stopped 28 of 32.

Jamie Benn, meanwhile, tried to set an early competitive tone for the team by dropping the gloves just six seconds after the opening faceoff with Arizona’s Martin Hazal. Likewise, defenseman Brenden Dillon fought Kyle Chipchurra before the game was five minutes old.

The Stars’ captain has been in a scoring drought of late. Benn has just one point (an assist in Saturday’s loss to San Jose) in his last five games and is eight games removed from his last goal. To his credit, however, he is continuing to shoot the puck (five shots on goal last night and 33 in the last seven games) and play a physical game. A pair of second period minors last night did not help the team’s cause but he also drew a pair of penalties on Arizona. Overall, it’s just a matter of time until he breaks loose.

At 15:39 of the third period, the Stars took their first lead of the game. Colton Sceviour won a battle behind the net and centered the puck out front to an open Erik Cole, who made no mistake in putting Dallas ahead 3-2. Fifty-eight seconds later, however, Mikkel Boedker’s sixth goal of the season re-tied the game at 3-3. The sequence started with a failed clear by Dillon and ended with the rebound of a Michael Stone shot going directly to Boedker near the right post.

The game’s climactic moment happened at 18:44 of the third period. With Patrick Eaves in the box for high sticking Zbynek Michalek, the Coyotes shot the puck wide of the net. Garbutt collected the puck along the defensive boards and then chipped it past Keith Yandle at the Dallas blueline. From there, Garbutt raced off on a breakaway and beat Smith on the forehand to give the Stars a 4-3 advantage they would not relinquish.

Special teams were a positive factor in this game for the Stars. Dallas went 1-for-4 on the power play and killed off six penalties including the final one that resulted in Garbutt’s game-winning score. The Stars also paid the price to block shots, especially on the penalty kill, and finished with 25 blocks on the game (led by a half dozen from Trevor Daley).

Rookie defenseman John Klingberg enjoyed a successful NHL debut for the Stars. In 18:32 of ice time paired with veteran Alex Goligoski, Klingberg finished at plus one with one block and three takeaways against zero charged giveaways. With yesterday’s trade that sent veteran Sergei Gonchar to the Montreal Canadiens, Klingberg will have an extended opportunity to stake down a regular NHL job.

Struggling Jordie Benn was moved down to the third defensive pairing last night by head coach Lindy Ruff. Kevin Connauton was a healthy scratch, while third line center Cody Eakin missed his third straight game with an upper-body injury.

The Stars return to action tomorrow night with a tough task at hand. Dallas will pay a visit to the defending Stanley Cup champion Los Angeles Kings, who have had some recent struggles of their own but sport a 7-1-1 record on home ice at the Staples Center. Game time is 9:30 p.m. CST.

This post originally appeared on www.hockeybuzz.com and we thank them for permission to rebroadcast it here.