DALLAS – A tight game came down to a lucky break, and Vernon Fiddler and the Dallas Stars were the beneficiaries.
Fiddler scored the go-ahead goal on a fortunate bounce with 8:26 remaining to send the Stars to a 3-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils on Saturday night.
With the score tied 1-1, Fiddler sent a shot toward the net from the left of the goal that banked off the skate of Devils defenceman Mark Fayne and past goalie Johan Hedberg for Fiddler’s second goal of the season.
Fiddler was signed as a free agent over the summer to take key faceoffs and skate on a checking line. The Stars weren’t expecting much scoring out of Fiddler, however, so his 11th career game-winner was a bonus.
“He’s just a worker,” Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said. “He’s good in the circle, he’s a guy that has high character, so he’s perfect for any team, but especially us now. We’re real fortunate to have him.”
Kari Lehtonen stopped 31 shots and Loui Eriksson and Sheldon Souray also scored for the Stars, who’d won their first four at home before a 5-3 loss to Los Angeles on Thursday night.
Petr Sykora scored for the Devils, who closed a 1-3 trip.
Hedberg, the Stars’ backup in the 2005-06 season, made 21 saves in his sixth straight start while Martin Brodeur is on injured reserve with a bruised right shoulder.
New Jersey pulled Hedberg for an extra skater and had a 6-on-4 edge with 1:02 left after Dallas’ Michael Ryder went to the penalty box for interference. However, the Stars were strong all night on the penalty kill and Devils were unable to put pressure on Lehtonen.
Souray’s empty-netter with 2.7 seconds left clinched the victory.
“The (penalty kill) was excellent, and I don’t think they even got a shot in that last minute, so that was huge,” Lehtonen said.
Devils coach Peter DeBoer liked much of what he saw from his team, except for the unfavourable carom off Fayne’s skate, and final score.
“Tough bounce,” DeBoer said. “That was going to be the difference. We didn’t have a lot of luck around the net and they got one. Good for them. We’ve got to continue to build on what we’re doing….We deserved a better fate.”
Eriksson beat Hedberg on a wrister from the low slot for his team-best sixth goal of the season at 10:51 of the opening period. Eriksson capitalized on Dallas’ third shot on goal off Steve Ott’s setup.
Sykora’s first goal of the season tied it at 1 at 12:00 of the second period. Patrik Elias won a faceoff and Sykora’s quick shot from the left circle seemed to fool Lehtonen.
Otherwise, Lehtonen had a strong second period as the Devils built a 12-4 shots advantage in the middle 20 minutes.
“It was a couple of periods of patient hockey, just wait and see, and we were able to get a bounce and then Sheldon got that empty netter,” Stars captain Brenden Morrow said. “It was a big two points.”
NOTES: Stars GM Joe Nieuwendyk was honoured before the game in recognition of his induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame on Nov. 14 in Toronto. Nieuwendyk won three Stanley Cups with three different teams, including the Devils (2003) and Stars (1999). … Attendance continues to dwindle, with the gate announced at 11,740. Season-ticket sales have plummeted as the Stars have missed the playoffs the last three seasons and are in the midst of an ownership change that has landed the team in bankruptcy court. … The Devils are 2-1-1 in their last four meetings with the Stars. The teams play in New Jersey on Dec. 16. … A day after falling to the St. Louis Cardinals in Game 7 of the World Series, Texas Rangers players Mike Napoli and Derek Holland were in attendence and received an ovation when they were announced as participants in a puck shooting contest between the first and second periods.