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Sunday, March 6, 2011
Stars get it done in San Jose

By Mark Stepneski


After giving up late game-tying goals the last two games, the Dallas Stars made sure it didn’t happen a third straight time Saturday night.

The Stars rallied to take lead in the final period and then protected that lead over the final seven minutes to defeat the San Jose Sharks 3-2.

“I thought the way we played at the end to protect the lead was much better,” said Stars coach Marc Crawford. “We did a lot of good things tonight.”

The Stars improved to 2-0-1 on their current road trip, which wraps up Monday in Los Angeles. They also ran their points streak to five games (4-0-1). The two points they picked up in San Jose pushed them into sixth place in the Western Conference and ended the Sharks' winning streak at eight games.

The Stars, playing the second game of a back-to-back, trailed 2-1 going into the third period, but Loui Eriksson scored a goal off a rebound to tie the game with 12:23 remaining and then Jason Williams scored his first goal as a Star, coming out from behind the goal line and firing a shot on net that bounced off traffic and through the legs of Sharks goalie Antti Niemi.

“It was a big win for the team,” Williams said. “I feel that when I can use my shot it makes it difficult for the goaltender. It’s just going out there and making the most of your opportunity.”

After that the Stars found themselves in a situation that hasn't been kind to them lately -- protecting a lead late in the game. In each of the last two games they've given up a late game-tying goal.

But the Stars didn’t buckle on this night. Goaltender Kari Lehtonen came up with some big saves and the Stars’ penalty kill, which was 3-for-3 in the game, thwarted a late San Jose power play and then with Niemi pulled for the extra attacker kept the Sharks from getting the equalizer.

“It starts and ends with your goaltender making the saves that he has to make, and he had to make a few tonight,” Crawford said of Lehtonen, who made 29 saves in the game.

“We lost leads the last couple of games, so it was nice to show that we could do it,” Lehtonen said. “It was a good team effort and a nice win.”

The Stars took an early lead in the game when Jamie Benn scored a shorthanded goal, his third of the season and the team’s eighth. Benn knocked down a long Stephane Robidas pass out of midair, broke in all alone on net and scored off a backhand shot at the 1:19 mark of the game.

The Sharks tied the game on Kyle Wellwood goal midway through the first and then took the lead on a Patrick Marleau goal early in the second period.

“Anytime you’re behind a goal in an opposition building and you find a way to win, you are doing something special,” said Crawford. “We were tired tonight. It was the back end of a back-to-back and the back end of three in four nights. Again, it was a real gutsy, gritty effort by our group.”

Langenbrunner misses game

Stars forward Jamie Langenbrunner missed the game with an upper body injury he sustained in Friday night’s game against Anaheim.

Center Brad Richards (concussion-like symptoms) and defenseman Nicklas Grossman (hip) both missed Saturday’s game as well. Richards and Grossman have missed the last nine games.

Brian Sutherby was back in the lineup Saturday after sitting out the last four games.