NEW YORK – The Dallas Stars were beaten everywhere except the scoreboard.
They shook their heads and chuckled when it was over Sunday, marvelling at how they escaped Madison Square Garden with a 3-2 win over the New York Rangers.
“The coaches just asked me what I’m going to say to the media and I said I’ll say the goalie was really blanking good,” said Stars coach Dave Tippett.
Mike Smith surely was, stopping 39 shots and carrying the Stars to their fifth straight victory.
Dallas captain Brenden Morrow scored a power-play goal early in the third period, and the Stars – despite being outshot 41-18 – used a sizzling power play to win the first of a six-game road trip that will take them to all five teams in the Eastern Conference’s Atlantic Division.
“We looked like we were stuck in the mud there a little bit,” said Tippett. “Give our guys credit, they kept hanging around.”
Loui Eriksson scored his first of the season, on the power play, to tie it in the second after Jussi Jokinen got the Stars even at 1-1 in the opening period.
Jaromir Jagr snapped out of a slump with a goal, and Brendan Shanahan also scored for the Rangers, who dropped their second straight at home after winning five in a row in the Garden.
“I thought we played pretty good,” Jagr said. “We had a lot of chances, we just didn’t score goals.
“We made some mistakes and they scored on it.”
By Tippett’s count, Dallas had two scoring chances in the first two periods and converted both.
“It seemed like the ice was tilted for a lot of the game but we found a way to win and that’s what you’ve got to do on the road,” Smith said. “Sometimes it’s not pretty.”
Smith, sporting a new moustache and little more than a week removed from having four wisdom teeth pulled, made his fourth start in five games ahead of Marty Turco.
The Stars (12-7-4) are 5-0-1 since general manager Doug Armstrong and team president Jim Lites were fired.
“We had high expectations at the beginning of the year and we weren’t living up to it,” Morrow said. “I don’t know if it’s a coincidence or not, but I kind of took it to heart.
“It came under my watch that that happened.”
The Stars were 2-for-3 on the power play and have scored on 10 of 21 chances the last seven games.
The winner was set up by Mike Ribeiro, who deftly skated around defenceman Dan Girardi, and fed Morrow for a tap-in at the right post 4:04 into the third.
Smith did the rest, stopping Shanahan on the final shot in the closing seconds. New York is 1-2-1 in its last four with seven goals scored.
“I don’t have an answer for it,” Shanahan said. “We seem to get scoring chances, but we’re not burying them with any real consistency.”
Jagr gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead with some help from Stars defenceman Trevor Daley. Jagr attempted a pass from the bottom of the left circle to Martin Straka in front and Daley, skating towards the net, deflected it in with his outstretched stick at 6:30.
Jagr had gone five games without a point since posting a goal and assist on Nov. 14 at New Jersey.
It looked as though the Rangers would get out of the first period with the lead but Dallas tied it with the teams skating 4-on-4.
Scott Gomez darted in the middle of the Dallas zone but fell and had the puck smacked away by Stephane Robidas. Jokinen darted the other way with the puck, cut to his left in front of goalie Henrik Lundqvist and tucked a shot inside the post to tie it with 52 seconds remaining.
New York regained the lead 1:02 into the second when Shanahan scored his seventh goal.
The Rangers controlled the action throughout the period but Eriksson – replacing injured Jere Lehtinen on the Stars’ top line – got behind Marcel Hossa and Girardi after a pass from Sergei Zubov and beat Lundqvist between the pads with 8:06 left in the period.
New York held a 29-9 shots advantage through 40 minutes but had only a tie to show for it.
“It was a pretty good situation we were in considering how bad we were playing, and we only had one guy on board,” Morrow said. “We found a way and we kept it up.”
Notes: The Stars hadn’t visited MSG since a 3-0 loss to the Rangers on Nov. 4, 2003 . . . Lehtinen missed his second game due to an abdominal strain, and RW Antti Miettinen was also out (groin). LW Brad Winchester (abdominal strain) rejoined the lineup after sitting out nine games . . . Straka was back after leaving Friday’s game at Florida because of a sore hamstring . . . Lundqvist faced twin brother Joel, a Stars centre, for the second time. Their meeting in Dallas last Dec. 14 made them the third set of twins to square off as NHL opponents.