The Dallas Stars breathed a sigh of relief after coming back to edge Washington, 2-1 last Saturday night at American Airlines Center. After surrendering a 2-1 third period lead and three goals on 15 shots in the final period of their season opening 4-2 loss to visiting Florida two nights earlier, Dallas hunkered down and play smart hockey to protect its one-goal lead and even its early season record at 1-1.
“Tonight was a real strong effort — I think we competed a lot harder than we did (opening) night,” said winger Erik Cole, who tied the score at 1-1 midway through the first period on Saturday night when he converted Tyler Seguin’s pass from the corner with a 15-foot wrist shot from the slot. “That’s one thing that was consistent through our games in the preseason. We brought the compete level, the energy and anytime you outwork a team chances are you are going to have success.”
Speaking of success, forward Alex Chiasson continues to find the net, converting a Cody Eakin rebound midway in the slot through the second period for his second goals in as many games to finish the game’s scoring against the Capitals. “The atmosphere in the locker room before the game was good, and we looked like a team (against Washington),” said the 22-year old forward from Boston University who scored six goals in seven games during a late-season call-up last spring. “I hope we can continue to build from this win.”
Chiasson has been reunited with veteran Ray Whitney – with whom he skated late last season – and former Texas Stars teammate Eakin. “I feel great playing with both of those guys,” he said. “Ray helped me last year when I was new to the league, and I feel he just knows where I am (on the ice,” said Chiasson. “I’ve played with Cody (with the Stars’ AHL affiliate Texas Stars), and he’s been awesome to play with.”
Dallas goalie Kari Lehtonen stopped 25 of 26 shots – yielding only a power play one-timer to Alex Ovechkin early in the first period – and had a nice game-ending stop on the Caps’ Mikhail Grabovski.
The victory was new coach Lindy Ruff’s first since in his first season behind the Stars’ bench. “We had guys who just showed up nervous for (Opening Night),” said Ruff, who was fired by Buffalo last season after 17 seasons as the Sabres’ bench boss. “Tonight we were able to battle down low. Guys hunkered down.
“I thought there was a lot to like, except for some really good opportunities that we missed,” Ruff added. “But work ethic wise, it was tremendous.”
The Stars were intent on putting a notch in the win column heading into a rare early-season five- day break, followed by games road games at Winnipeg on Oct. 11, at Minnesota on Oct. 12, and at Colorado on Oct. 15 before the club returns home against San Jose on the 17th.
“You go into a week like the one we have, and it makes for a real good atmosphere,” said Ruff. “I think when you (realize) how much work we’ve put in and are rewarded with a hard-fought victory, that’s really the place to begin.”