Kari Lehtonen appeared to be headed for an easy win in his 500th NHL game. He got it, but it was anything but smooth for him and his Dallas Stars teammates.
Patrick Eaves finally clinched the victory with an empty-net goal, foiling a rally in which the Carolina Hurricanes had scored twice late in the third period.
Eaves, Alex Goligoski and Cody Eakin each had a goal and an assist for Dallas, which escaped with a 5-3 win on Thursday night.
Curtis McKenzie and Jason Demers added the other goals for Dallas, which led 3-1 after the first period.
Victor Rask had a goal and two assists to lead Carolina, which got a goal apiece from Chris Terry and Andrej Nestrasil. Brett Bellemore had two assists.
“Their second and third goals made it interesting,” Dallas coach Lindy Ruff said. “Kari has a heck of an accomplishment with 500 games. I thought we made a couple of mistakes that he covered up. We were playing a hell of a third period until the last few minutes, but that seems to be our year.
“When it gets to that point you have to battle. You have to block some shots and win some big one-on-one plays down in your end. We had guys in the right place and didn’t give them a Grade A opportunity at the end.”
Lehtonen needed to make only 16 saves to earn the victory. He became just the sixth active goalie to reach 500 games.
The Hurricanes’ Cam Ward hit the mark in the same building on Feb. 24 against Philadelphia.
“We played a pretty solid defensive game,” Lehtonen said. “They were in our zone, and I was moving around and getting tired there, but shots were just not getting all the way to me.
“Our guys made some really good blocks, and (Carolina) missed the net some. It was great to get two points, but it got pretty hairy there at the end.”
Carolina’s Anton Khudobin stopped 27 shots.
The Stars have won three of their last four visits to Carolina. The Hurricanes won the other meeting between the teams this season, Nov. 18 at Dallas.
That marked Carolina’s first road win over the Stars since 1996.
Dallas took control in a dominant first period when the Stars outshot the Hurricanes 14-4.
“We never executed,” Hurricanes coach Bill Peters said. “It’s hard to come through the neutral zone with any tempo, any speed when it’s in your feet, on the wall or you don’t even get it to the red line.
“We didn’t execute with the puck.”
Rask gave Carolina a 1-0 lead 4:06 in, taking Bellemore’s pass in the low slot and backhanding a shot past Lehtonen.
Dallas tied it at 7:37 when McKenzie received Shawn Horcoff’s feed across the crease on the left doorstep and slid the puck past Khudobin.
Goligoski put the Stars ahead at 10:38 from the right circle, with Eakin earning the primary assist. Jason Demers made it 3-1 at 16:25, rocketing a shot over Khudobin’s shoulder through traffic from the right point.
Eakin pushed Dallas’ lead to three goals with a tip-in of Goligoski’s shot at 11:37 of the third.
Carolina then mounted its rally.
“We let our guard down and got a little too cute, but I thought we played smart after that in the third period,” Eakin said. “There were a couple of (Carolina) goals at the end on a double-bounce that snuck in, and a rebound that had a weird hop. But it was a good effort by us.”
Eaves sealed the Stars’ win with an empty-net goal with 1:10 remaining.
NOTES: Rask’s goal was his 10th of the season, the first time a Carolina rookie reached the milestone since Jeff Skinner scored 31 en route to the Calder Trophy in 2011. … The Hurricanes played the fourth game of a five-game homestand that concludes Saturday against Florida. … Dallas played the fourth game of a five-game trip that wraps up Friday at Washington. … Carolina D Jack Hillen (concussion) missed his third straight game. D John-Michael Liles and C Brad Malone were healthy scratches. … Dallas was without D John Klingberg (upper body), D Trevor Daley (fourth game, lower body) and C Ryan Garbutt (fourth game, upper body).
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