NEWARK, N.J. – An overtime gamble backfired on the New Jersey Devils and Loui Eriksson happily made them pay for the mistake.
Eriksson scored two goals, including the winner 1:36 into the extra period, to give the Dallas Stars a 4-3 victory over the Devils on Friday night in the season opener for both teams.
The Devils pressed for the winner as defenceman Andy Greene abandoned his blue-line post to try for an offensive play. He attempted a cross-ice pass to Ilya Kovalchuk that did not connect. Eriksson picked up the puck and skated the length of the ice to beat Martin Brodeur from the right circle.
“We were trying to score a goal and we had everybody in the crease,” Brodeur said. “We made a good play but couldn’t put it in. They capitalized, going the full length of the ice to score on a 2-on-1.”
John MacLean, making his debut as Devils coach following the retirement of Jacques Lemaire, would have preferred a more cautious approach.
“Greenie jumped in there offensively and tried to make a play,” MacLean said. “He gave up a 2-on-1 and the guy made a heck of shot on Marty. Maybe he could have shot it at the net, but he tried to make a whole play, but he didn’t.”
Eriksson’s winner capped a spirited effort by the Stars who battled hard after falling behind 2-0 early. Brenden Morrow and Brad Richards also scored for Dallas.
Travis Zajac, Zach Parise and Jason Arnott had New Jersey’s goals.
Dallas is rebuilding, having missed the playoffs the last two seasons. Mike Modano and Marty Turco left over the summer with Kari Lehtonen replacing Turco in goal. Their younger replacements showed a lot spunk in front of a full house of 17,625 at the Prudential Center. After a shaky start, Lehtonen settled down to make 27 saves.
“I certainly didn’t get the start that I wanted; giving up an easy goal,” Lehtonen said. “It was great to see our guys keep going. When I was having a hard time, they picked it up.”
At the other end, Brodeur extended his own NHL record of consecutive season-opening starts by a goalie with one team to 16. He made 24 saves to launch his 18th season.
The top line of Kovalchuk, Parise and Zajac staked the Devils to a 2-0 lead early.
Zajac, taking a return pass from Kovalchuk, beat Lehtonen between the pads 2:45 into the game. Kovalchuk, the Devils US$100 million winger, again assumed the role of playmaker on a 2-on-1 break that developed when Stars defenceman Mark Fistric fell down at his own blue line. Kovalchuk dished a pass to Parise, who beat Lehtonen from the left side at 7:13.
Kovalchuk was unlucky midway through the period when he fired a shot off the post. That miss proved crucial about a minute later as Morrow scored for the Stars at 11:16, hammering home a crisp cross-ice pass from Mike Ribeiro to cut the New Jersey lead to 2-1.
“The Devils came out with a certain authority,” Stars coach Marc Crawford said. “Those two quick goals were huge. Truthfully, if they scored a third one, it might have been too much. The post that Kovalchuk hit wound up being very fortunate for us.”
Morrow’s goal changed momentum as the Stars dominated the second period, outshooting the Devils 12-5 while getting goals from Eriksson and Richards to make it 3-3.
Eriksson pulled Dallas even at 3:02 as he chipped James Neal’s rebound over Brodeur.
Arnott put New Jersey up 3-2 with a power-play blast from the right point at 10:22.
The Stars came right back with Richards capitalizing on a turnover in the Devils zone to pull Dallas even at 11:38.
The Devils outshot the Stars 13-3 in the third.
NOTES: It’s a busy opening weekend for both teams as they have games on Saturday. The Devils travel to Washington for the Capitals’ home opener while the Stars head to Long Island. … The Devils recalled D Matt Taormina from Albany (AHL) on Friday and demoted C Adam Henrique. … MacLean played 14 seasons for New Jersey. He is the club’s all-time leader with 347 goals. He is second with 701 points and third with 354 assists. … The teams meet again in Dallas on Feb. 22. … It was the first time Dallas started the season without a member of the 1999 Stanley Cup winning team on the active roster.