By Jim Cerny, The Sports Xchange
NEWARK, N.J. — On Saturday night, the New Jersey Devils were mathematically eliminated from playoff contention with a 3-1 home-ice loss to the Carolina Hurricanes.
Less than 24 hours later, the Dallas Stars avoided the same fate, rallying for a 2-1 overtime victory over the Devils at the Prudential Center on Sunday.
Ales Hemsky scored a power-play goal with 6 minutes, 36 seconds left in regulation to pull the Stars (31-33-11) even and Tyler Seguin scored 20 seconds into overtime, also on the power play, to keep their season afloat at least for another day.
“It’s always tough being down a goal in the third period on the road, but our guys showed a lot of character,” said Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen, who stopped 20 of 21 shots Sunday. “We didn’t quit, and got the good result in the end.”
The loss by the Devils (27-35-13) took some of the luster off a stellar performance by goaltender Keith Kinkaid, who excelled in making 30 saves.
“I thought Keith made some big saves today and did his job tonight,” Devils coach John Hynes said. “We did not give him enough run support. He’s keeping us in a one-goal game and we did not make a hard-enough push to get two. We have to do a way better job offensively.”
Thwarted all game by Kinkaid’s acrobatics in net, the Stars finally broke through at 13:24 of the third when Hemsky collected his own rebound following a block by Devils defensemen Andy Greene, and snapped a quick shot into the cage for his fourth goal of the season.
“He’s a threat every time he’s out there, especially on power play entries,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said of Hemsky, who played in only his 13th game of the season Sunday because of injuries.
“He’s missed so much time, but he’s getting better. His determination on the puck is really good; and that’s what I really like.”
Granted another power play in the final minute of regulation, the Stars cashed in again when Seguin blistered a right-wing shot past Kinkaid early in overtime after pretty pass work from Jamie Benn and John Klingberg.
The Stars entered play Sunday with just one power play goal in their last seven games, and had not had a multiple power-play goal game since Feb. 12.
“They were really pressuring Jamie and Klinger, and I just tried to find a soft spot,” said Seguin. “I didn’t want to give up a passable shot in overtime. So, I’m happy it went in.”
Lehtonen put the Stars in position to rally with a game-saving left-pad stop on Blake Pietila’s shorthanded breakaway at 12:36 of the third, less than a minute before Hemsky tied the score.
“I was excited to make that save,” Lehtonen said. “I got lucky it didn’t go through the five-hole, though.”
The Devils skated to a 1-0 lead 11:02 into the first period on Blake Coleman’s first National Hockey League goal.
Coleman’s goal was unassisted after he stole the puck inside the Stars blue line from Klingberg, drove hard to the net, and roofed the puck under the cross bar from in close.
To make his first NHL goal the more memorable, Coleman is a native of Texas.
However, the Devils did not build on that early lead, and it eventually slipped away in painful fashion.
“It (stinks),” Kinkaid said. “We’re doing everything, but win. We’ve just got to find ways to win.”