SAN JOSE, Calif. – Trailing by one goal on the road against a surging team only a night after losing in overtime is just the kind of recipe that often makes teams wilt in the third period.
Dallas somehow managed to dig deep enough to snap the San Jose Sharks’ eight-game winning streak when Jason Williams scored his first goal of the season on a fluky deflection that gave the Stars a 3-2 victory Saturday night.
“Any time you’re down by a goal in an opponent’s building and find a way to win, it’s something special,” Dallas coach Marc Crawford said. “We were tired tonight, the back end of a back-to-back. It was a real gutsy, gritty effort.”
Loui Eriksson tied the game earlier in the third, Kari Lehtonen made 12 of his 29 saves in the final period and the Stars withstood four defensive zone faceoffs and a pair of icings in the final 74 seconds to hold on for the victory.
Dallas had blown two-goal leads in the third period in its previous two games, including the 4-3 loss at Anaheim on Friday. But Lehtonen and the Stars hung on against the Sharks, who were unable to tie it despite having an extra skater on for the final stretch.
“The tank was definitely on empty,” forward Steve Ott said. “They have a pretty deadly six guys out there that can hurt you any time. For us, all the icings worked. I guess we were trying to tire them out to make them keep skating back for the puck. All in all, it was great that we finally closed out that game rather than the last two getting pretty scary with them coming back.”
Williams signed as a free agent with Dallas last month after sitting out the first four months of the season. His goal with 7:12 remaining was by far his biggest contribution in 10 games with the Stars.
He got possession of the puck behind the San Jose net and his centring attempt hit off the stick of Sharks forward Dany Heatley and slipped past Antti Niemi for the goal that ended San Jose’s longest winning streak of the season.
The loss was San Jose’s first at home since Jan. 13 and only its fourth overall in the past 21 games. The Sharks had surged from last place in the Pacific Division in January to third in the Western Conference standings over the past seven weeks but still are only seven points ahead of ninth-place Anaheim.
“I don’t think it was our best effort compared to the way we’ve been winning lately,” said Patrick Marleau, who scored San Jose’s second goal. “They did get a couple of good bounces that went their way but we had our opportunities to go ahead even more.”
The win was the fourth in Dallas’ last five trips to San Jose and the Stars trailed in each of those victories. Dallas tied the game midway through the third when Mark Fistric’s shot from the point deflected off a cluster of players in front of the net and Eriksson knocked in the loose puck for his 23rd goal of the season to make it 2-2.
After Williams gave Dallas the lead, the Stars managed to kill off a late power play and hold on.
The Sharks took a 2-1 lead into the third period after Marleau broke a tie early in the second. Marleau started and finished a give-and-go with Heatley, beating Lehtonen on a 2-on-1 just 1:22 into the second period to give San Jose the lead.
For the second straight game the Sharks were the beneficiary of a favourable schedule as their opponent was coming off an overtime game in Anaheim the previous night. San Jose took advantage of that by beating Detroit 3-1 on Thursday, but didn’t start as fast against the Stars.
The Sharks went on the power play just a minute into the game when Karlis Skrastins shot the puck over the boards for a delay-of-game call. But just 19 seconds into the man advantage, Stephane Robidas sprung Jamie Benn with a long pass from behind his own goal line and Benn skated in alone on Niemi and beat him with a backhand.
San Jose finished 0 for 3 on the power play.
“It took us too long to get in and we wasted some valuable minutes when we thought we could maybe establish some momentum,” coach Todd McLellan said. “I wasn’t particularly pleased with the power play. Obviously a short-handed goal one minute in doesn’t help. You get back on your heels a little bit, they get a much stronger belief in their game and it took us basically a full period to get going again.”
Notes: San Jose rookie D Justin Braun was robbed by the post in each of the first two periods…. Sharks G Antero Niittymaki (groin), who has not played since Jan. 13, was activated from IR before the game and Carter Hutton was sent back to the minors. … Dallas F Jamie Langenbrunner missed the game after taking a hard hit the previous night. … Sharks D Dan Boyle (upper body) missed his fourth straight game.