Just when it looked the like the Phoenix Coyotes were about to get at least one point thanks to a late rally Tuesday night, the Dallas Stars left them with nothing. Jamie Benn’s power play goal with 4.8 seconds remaining gave the Stars 3-2 victory to open a key four-game road trip.
“It was a pretty crazy finish,” said Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen.
“Crazy last few minutes, going through all the emotions there,” said Stars forward Jamie Langenbrunner. “It was a great play by Benner to bury the winner with no time left.”
“It's an awful way to lose a game,” said Phoenix captain Shane Doan.
After Phoenix had scored goals with 3:39 and 37.7 seconds remaining to tie the game at 2-2, the Stars got a power play chance when Mike Ribeiro drew a hooking call on Radim Vrbata with just 13 seconds remaining. And the Stars seized the opportunity.
The Stars went with four forwards, adding Benn to the usual set of top forwards on the top power play unit.
"We put Jamie Benn out there, a good scorer for us," said Stars coach Marc Crawford. "We were trying to find a way to end it."
Off the offensive zone faceoff, Brenden Morrow won a puck battle along the boards, Mike Ribeiro got the puck to Loui Eriksson and Eriksson set up Benn, who scored from off a wrist shot from about 25 feet.
“I was thinking we better score here. It was a big goal,” said Benn. “It was a great play by Brenden to win that battle in the corner and for Loui to make a great pass I've got give them all the credit for setting me up.”
A big goal and a big two points as well for the Stars, who pulled to within two points of the fourth place Coyotes and within one point of fifth place Calgary, and the Stars have played two fewer games than both teams.
“It’s huge to win. It’s huge to win in regulation,” said Crawford. “What it does is it takes away that valuable point they could have had. For us, our goal was to get two points and the second goal was to get it without giving them anything.”
The Stars didn’t give the Coyotes much of anything for most of the game thanks to solid defensive play and stellar goaltending from Lehtonen, who ended the night with 25 saves.
The Stars capitalized on a Phoenix turnover late in the first period to take a 1-0 lead. After Phoenix defenseman Michal Rozsival lost the puck in his own end, Toby Petersen set up Tom Wandell, who roofed a shot from the left boards with 1:34 left in the period.
The Stars extended the lead with 7:13 left in the game when Steve Ott put a shot on net from the right boards and it deflected into the net off the skate of Jamie Langenbrunner.
But the Coyotes bounced with late goals from Rostislav Klesla and Ray Whitney and the game appeared to be heading to overtime before the late heroics by the Stars’ power play, which had been effective in its previous chances and finally found the net on its final and most important opportunity.
“Our power play was effective most of the night and it finally cashed in at the end,” said Crawford. “You talk about that all the time, making your next power play or penalty kill the important one and that was huge.”
The Coyotes saw their winless streak hit four games (0-3-1). Phoenix coach Dave Tippett was not happy with his team taking a late penalty to put Dallas on the power play.
“I think we've got to look at it right in the teeth and say, 'What the hell is going on?' That's two games we've lost this week because of penalties,” Tippett said. “At some point we've got to get it. We'll look at it straight in the face and take the challenge. We better or it's not a good thing."
“You find ways to win and taking penalties is finding ways to lose.”
The Stars have found a way to win three straight games, and appear to be getting back on track as the NHL stretch drive shifts into high gear.