DALLAS – Columbus Blue Jackets defenceman Kris Russell picked an opportune time to score his first two NHL goals.
The 20-year-old rookie notched his first in the second period to jump-start Columbus, then struck for the tiebreaker on a power play with 6:15 left as the Blue Jackets rallied to stop the Dallas Stars’ three-game winning streak with a 4-2 victory Tuesday night. Russell had only five assists in his first 45 games.
“He’s had so many scoring chances,” Blue Jackets coach Ken Hitchcock said. “It’s a big relief. He puts so much pressure on himself to contribute offensively. It seemed like the weight of the world was on his shoulders. He’s felt like he’s let a lot of people down (by not scoring more). We kept him on the power play because we knew this day would come.”
With the game tied at 2 and Dallas’ Joel Lundqvist in the penalty box for high-sticking, Columbus’ Nikolai Zherdev passed from the right circle to Russell streaking down the left side and toward the net. Russell steered the puck past Stars goalie Mike Smith.
“It’s pretty exciting,” Russell said. “I felt like this took forever. I was lucky to get some opportunities. This is a big character builder.”
Andrew Murray also scored, Zherdev had three assists, and Pascal Leclaire stopped 31 shots for the Blue Jackets, who salvaged the final game of the four-game season series with the Stars after losing the first three.
“We haven’t had a good record against them,” Hitchcock said. “We’ve been snakebit in some of our games with these guys. This is a big step, to win on the road against a good opponent.”
Rick Nash added an empty-netter on a Columbus power play for his 26th of the season with 2.5 seconds left.
Smith made 26 saves, Brenden Morrow scored his 20th goal, and Steve Ott also scored for the Stars.
In a scheduling quirk, the teams were meeting for the second time in four days, both in Dallas.
Smith got the start over regular No. 1 goalie Marty Turco. Smith was Dallas’ best player with 29 saves in a 3-1 win over Columbus last Saturday.
Murray, activated off injured reserve earlier in the day after missing five games due to a concussion, fired a loose puck past Smith at 8:03 of the third period to tie it at 2.
Stars coach Dave Tippett thought Columbus should have been whistled for icing on the play.
“It was clearly an icing call and the puck ends up in our net,” Tippett said. “It was very unfortunate but you’ve got to overcome those breaks.”
Morrow got the game’s first goal on a rebound at 3:51 of the second period, his fourth in the last three games.
Leclaire was caught out of position as Ott backhanded a loose puck into an open net for his sixth goal of the season at 8:38 of the second period, extending Dallas’ advantage to 2-0.
Russell got Columbus within 2-1 at 14:26 of the second period.
Columbus held a 14-5 shots advantage in a scoreless first period that included 10 penalties, one fight, four roughing calls, and plenty of pushing and shoving. Dallas had the better of the play in the second period with a 15-6 shots edge.
“There were some big swings in that game,” Tippett said. “We didn’t battle enough and we took offensive zone penalties and that killed our momentum. Our margin for error is so slim. We just didn’t have enough work.”
Notes: Columbus D Dan Fritsche missed the third period with a back injury. … Dallas was playing its third game in four days. … The Stars are without four key players: D Sergei Zubov (groin, foot), RW Jere Lehtinen (abdominal injury), D Philippe Boucher (shoulder) and LW Jussi Jokinen (leg). Zubov had an MRI on Monday and has been ruled out of the all-star game. C Mike Ribeiro will represent the Stars in his place. … Columbus C Sergei Fedorov (concussion) was placed on injured reserve on Tuesday.