By Stephen Hunt, The Sports Xchange
DALLAS — Esa Lindell could have had his first and second career goals in the same game. But the rookie defenseman had to settle for a goal and an assist for the Dallas Stars, who also saw Antti Niemi stop 30 of 31 shots, including all 14 he faced in the third period, in a 2-1 win over the Vancouver Canucks on Friday night at American Airlines Center.
When Dallas tied the game at one 9:32 into the second, Lindell, who apparently had scored on a wrist shot from the left point that sailed in under Ryan Miller’s right arm, was credited with his first NHL goal.
However, several minutes later, Radek Faksa was credited with the tally after he got his stick in front of Lindell’s flick to redirect the puck into the visiting net.
But Lindell, who was appearing in his 17th career game, scored the eventual winning goal with 4:02 remaining in the second period when he beat Miller, who stopped 26 of 28 shots, with a wrist shot from the left circle, and this time there was no doubt who scored.
“It feels good if it was my goal,” Lindell said. “That might change, so now it feels good. It’s been a long time since I scored.”
The Stars (9-8-5) won for the first time this season when conceding the game’s first goal. Dallas had been 0-7-3 when allowing the first goal.
“I thought it was a heck of a battle for about 50 minutes,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “When they started to pinch and got all five guys involved, we needed a couple big saves and we got them.”
Jayson Megna had the lone goal for Vancouver (8-11-2), which is now 1-1-0 on its four-game road trip.
The Canucks struck first when Megna scored his first goal of the season 5:01 into the first period on their first shot of the game.
“Megna played well,” Vancouver coach Willie Desjardins said. “He has some speed. Megna’s been able to step in here and he’s helped us.”
Megna started the rush by winning a puck battle along the wall inside the Dallas zone. And after a quick pass to Bo Horvat in the neutral zone, Horvat passed the puck back. Megna then sped toward the Dallas goal and spun Niemi before finishing with a backhand at the far post.
Horvat now has five points (three assists) in his past three games. Megna’s last goal also came against Dallas on Jan. 5 as a member of the New York Rangers.
“Just got a really nice pass from Bo (Horvat) there,” Megna said. “He put it right behind the defenseman. Kind of caught the D in an awkward position there and was able to get around him (Niemi) and drive the net.”
Dallas nearly answered midway through the first period, but Tyler Seguin’s one-timer off the rush at 9:56 found the left post.
Niemi made a strong save on Jack Skille, who was activated from injured reserve on Friday morning, 4:50 into the third period, denying Skille’s close-range attempt to net the equalizer with a pad save inside the crease.
Niemi also turned away a point-blank shot from Alexandre Burrows 6:36 into the third period. Niemi rebuffed Burrows a second time, this time at the near post and off the rush, with 2:08 remaining in regulation.
“We got some really, really big saves from Antti (Niemi) today,” Stars defenseman John Klingberg said. “We’re happy with the win.”
Dallas spent the final 1:57 a man down after Patrick Sharp was called for hooking. However, the Stars killed off the Canucks’ power play, even with the extra attacker after Miller headed to the bench with 1:20 remaining.
Vancouver logged two shots on that final power play.
“Yeah, we had some chances, especially late there,” Desjardins said. “He (Niemi) made a couple good saves.”