By Stephen Hunt, The Sports Xchange
DALLAS — Hard luck epitomized the Florida Panthers in their previous four games, which they were 0-1-3. However, on Saturday night against the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center, their luck changed.
Jaromir Jagr and Vincent Trocheck each had a goal and an assist and James Reimer stopped 35 of 36 shots as Florida snapped a four-game losing streak with a 3-1 win.
“Yeah, the guys were great,” Panthers interim coach Tom Rowe said. “We talked about playing a real simple game, and the guys couldn’t have done it any better. I’m happy for them.”
Jussi Jokinen also scored for Florida (16-14-8), which had lost 10 of its previous 13 games.
Dallas (16-15-7) got its lone goal from Patrick Eaves, but the Stars saw their season-long three-game winning streak snapped.
“Slow start killed us,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “We created our own problems that first 20 minutes. Was too tough to recover from.”
Florida led 3-0 after one period. Trocheck scored his 11th goal 3:06 into the game off his own rebound. Jagr sent the initial pass in and Antti Niemi denied Trocheck’s attempt, but Trocheck stuck with the play and slipped in the rebound.
The Panthers doubled their lead when Jokinen scored a power-play goal 4:28 before the first intermission. Florida was six seconds into a power play after Dallas captain Jamie Benn was called for high sticking.
Off the faceoff after the Benn penalty, ex-Star Reilly Smith fed Jokinen with a pass from the red line and Jokinen beat Niemi far post with a wrist shot that landed in the upper left corner before popping out, leaving a capacity crowd wondering if Jokinen had scored.
Following a short review, the goal stood.
“Jokinen and (Derek) McKenzie, they wanted to redeem themselves from the game the other night against Montreal,” Rowe said. “Those two guys did a great job (tonight). McKenzie’s a great captain. Jokinen’s a real good vet, he leads us by example.”
Florida took a 3-0 lead with 3:20 remaining in the opening period when Jagr sent a wrist shot through Niemi’s five-hole from the top of the right circle. That goal ended the night for Niemi, who stopped 17 of 20 shots before being relieved by Lehtonen, who stopped all 18 shots he faced.
“Obviously, I didn’t like a couple of the goals, but I didn’t like our team,” Ruff said. “I don’t think you can just lump this on the goaltender. We hung him (Niemi) out to dry on a couple of the plays. I threw Lehtonen in to see if he could give us a spark.”
It was Jagr’s 756th career goal, third-most in NHL history. Jagr’s assist earlier in the game gives him 1,135 for his career, tying him for fifth-most.
“It’s tough to play (with the lead),” Jagr said. “When you have the lead, you don’t want to make any risky plays, otherwise you don’t make any plays, and you’re giving (them) an opportunity to come over and over again.”
Florida outshot Dallas 22-6 in the opening period, tying the Stars season high for shots allowed in a period. Dallas also allowed 22 shots in the first period of an 8-2 loss at Winnipeg on Oct. 27.
Dallas answered with 3:28 remaining in the second when Eaves scored his 13th goal of the season off a rebound. Reimer denied Benn’s attempt at close range, but Eaves was at the far post to tap in the rebound to make it a 3-1 contest.
That goal might prove costly as Benn was dinged up on the play, but still finished the game.
“He got a little dinged up,” Ruff said of Benn. “We’ll have to see where he’s at tomorrow (Sunday) and the next couple of days. (He) wanted to finish the game. I don’t know if that was the smartest decision or not (to let him), but he did. Hopefully we didn’t create a bigger problem.”
Florida led 3-1 after two periods.
Reimer, who made 20 saves in the third period, made a huge glove save on Tyler Seguin with 1:10 remaining, denying Seguin’s slap shot from the left point. Reimer did bobble the puck, but quickly smothered it to stop play.
“They worked hard, but I thought our teammates battled hard,” Reimer said. “You try and stop the first one and your teammates take care of the rest. They did a heck of a job tonight.”
Lehtonen left the ice with 2:58 remaining, giving Dallas the extra attacker. However, the Stars couldn’t find another goal.
Both teams return to action Wednesday at home, when Florida hosts Winnipeg and Dallas faces Montreal to end a three-game homestand.