DALLAS – A combination of youthful enthusiasm and veteran composure under pressure turned out to be a winning recipe for the Dallas Stars.
Propelled by the first NHL goals from rookies Antoine Roussel and Brenden Dillon, the Stars finished off the Phoenix Coyotes 4-3 with shootout goals from veterans Jaromir Jagr and Jamie Benn on Friday night.
After netting four goals in the opener against Phoenix, the Stars had scored only nine times in the next six games before breaking out.
“I think there’s still room for improvement offensively, as far as putting more shots on net and creating more zone time,” said Dallas coach Glen Gulutzan, whose club has been outshot in every game this season. “We’re still looking for some chemistry early in the season, and I think that will help our offence.”
Roussel scored in his NHL debut, Dillon had his first career goal and assist, and Michael Ryder also scored as Dallas (3-4-1) snapped a four-game losing streak (0-3-1).
“I thought the win itself was best for our psyche, and it gives us something to try to build off of,” Gulutzan said. “For sure, this game gets mental. The win helps for our belief, but as our belief increases, our game has got to get tidied up now/
“That’s how you get on a roll.”
Phoenix trailed 2-0 and 3-2 before getting even in the third period. Radim Vrbata had the only goal for the Coyotes (2-4-2) in the shootout.
Martin Hanzal scored twice in the second period after missing two games because of a lower-body injury, Vrbata added a goal and an assist, and Oliver Ekman-Larsson had two assists for Phoenix.
“I thought our team hung around the game, competed really hard and gave ourselves a chance to win, but in the end gave a point up,” Coyotes coach Dave Tippett said. “We’ll take that point, put it in the bank.”
With the Coyotes ahead 1-0 in the shootout and the Stars down to their final shooter, Benn beat goalie Mike Smith with a wrist shot.
After Dallas’ Kari Lehtonen denied Ekman-Larsson, Jagr’s wrist shot hit the bottom of Smith’s glove, rolled over the goalie’s pad, and trickled over the line to give the Stars the win.
“I think it’s pretty exciting for the fans,” Gulutzan said. “The fans, seeing Number 68, a guy of that calibre, I think they got their money’s worth.”
Hanzal’s second goal of the night—and fifth of the season—tied it at 3 with 1:34 remaining in the second period.
“He was a good player for us,” Tippett said. “He was a guy that was questionable whether he’d be in the lineup or not. He gave us a heck of a game.”
Smith returned after sitting out four games because of a lower-body injury and looked solid in making 21 saves. He made a key shoulder stop on Stephane Robidas’ slap shot at 2:48 of overtime.
“Not really many positive things, but just tried to battle, stay in it, and give the team a chance,” said Smith, who is 5-1-5 against Dallas. “We found a way to get a point. We’d like two against a division rival, but we’ll take the point.”
Lehtonen made 31 saves to earn the win.
Hanzal tied it at 2 just 45 seconds into the middle period, one second after Jordie Benn’s holding penalty expired. After Ekman-Larsson’s slap shot from the right point bounced to Hanzal at the right side of the crease, Hanzal pulled the puck back from behind the goal line, and bounced it between Lehtonen’s glove and the post.
Just 21 seconds after Dillon fought Kyle Chipchura, Ryder notched his fourth goal of the season with a wrist shot from the left circle that deflected off Ekman-Larsson’s skate and inside the left post at 14:14.
Roussel, the eighth NHL player born in France, put Dallas ahead 1-0 at 9:53 of the first period. Roussel slipped behind Coyotes defenceman Michael Stone, sped in alone, and beat Smith with a nifty backhander over the glove.
“Just perfect,” said Roussel, who was also 6-1 on faceoffs. “That was fun, obviously. I’m happy that the first one is out of the way. That’s perfect to get a win, that’s what’s most important.”
The Stars struck again 2:10 later when Dillon’s slap shot appeared to deflect off defenceman Derek Morris’ stick before settling just inside the right post.
“Obviously, pretty excited,” the 22-year-old Dillon said. “The puck squirted out, we had a good screen in front, I saw an opening to take a shot and luckily enough, it went in. We got the win, that’s the most important thing.”
Vrbata got one back for the Coyotes at 14:00 when his deflection of Ekman-Larsson’s wrist shot ricocheted off Jamie Benn in the crease and past Lehtonen. It was Vrbata’s third goal of the season and third against Dallas.
The teams will meet again Saturday in Arizona.
NOTES: Dallas D Jamie Oleksiak, the Stars’ first-round pick (No. 14) in 2011, also made his NHL debut. At 6-foot-7, the 20-year-old Oleksiak is the tallest player in franchise history. In 15:32 of ice time, Oleksiak recorded one shot on goal, one hit and one blocked shot. … The 23-year-old Roussel is the first Stars player to score in his debut since Raymond Sawada did it on Feb. 19, 2009. … Phoenix LW Raffi Torres served the final game of his 21-game suspension, received after his hit that knocked out Chicago’s Marian Hossa in last year’s playoffs. Torres, expected to play on Saturday, was initially given a 25-game ban before it was shortened to 21. He sat out 13 playoff games last spring.