Canes still breathing after impressive win over Stars

Posted by Chip Alexander on April 3, 2014 

All the Carolina Hurricanes can do at this point in the season is try to keep winning games and hope it's enough.

Odds are, it won't be enough. But the Canes can only try.

The Hurricanes scored three times in the second period -- the first coming off the heel of Eric Staal's skate -- and goalie Anton Khudobin got the job done in net with 33 saves in a 4-1 victory over the Dallas Stars at PNC Arena.

Defenseman John-Michael Liles had a goal and two assists for the Canes (34-32-11), who went into the game six points out of playoff position in the NHL's Eastern Conference. With five games remaining in the Canes' season, the odds are stacked against them.

The Stars (37-28-11) had won three straight and five of six, and remain in the thick of the Western Conference playoff chase. They also were coming off road wins over St. Louis and Washington.

But the Canes' Eric Staal scored for a 1-0 lead, and Justin Faulk and Liles had power-play goals in the second period as the Canes took a 3-1 lead. Riley Nash had an even-strength goal in the third to push the lead to 4-1.

Tyler Seguin scored for the Stars to make it 3-1 after Dallas coach Lindy Ruff lifted starting goalie Kari Lehtonen.

Liles had the goal and two assists in the second period -- the defenseman's first three-point game for the Canes and his first since Jan. 18, 2011, when he played for the Colorado Avalanche. On the Canes' first goal, he got off a shot from the slot and the puck rode up the back of Staal's skate and high into the air, over Lehtonen's head and into the net at 2:30 of the second.

Staal picked up his 19th goal of the season and Andrei Loktionov earned an assist on the bizarre play.

Faulk scored on a bomb from the point off a Liles pass at 4:08 of the second. It was Faulk's second goal in as many games and his fifth of the season.

Liles then made it 3-0 at 7:06 with a top-shelf shot -- Eric Staal screening Lehtonen -- after the Stars' Patrik Nemeth was called for hooking Riley Nash. Terry and Faulk got the assists.

Thomas relieved Lehtonen about a minute later as the Canes continued to attack on the offensive end, but the move by Ruff appeared to give his team new energy. The Stars were the attacking team the rest of the second and Seguin scored his 34th at 9:44 on a backhand-to-forehand move.

Gerbe was called for tripping late in the second period, and the Stars had 1:48 of power-play time to begin the third. But the Canes' penalty killers got the job done.

Nash then scored at 7:40 of the third after Thomas stopped a Brett Bellemore shot but Nash jumped on the rebound for his 10th of the season and second since Feb. 7.

Both the Canes and Stars had good scoring chances in a scoreless first but Khudobin made the keys stops.

The Canes had to make a quick pre game shift, inserting defenseman Mike Komisarek for Andrej Sekera, who took the pregame warmup but then was scratched for a lower-body injury. Carolina already was without forwards Alex Semin (illness), Drayson Bowman (illness) and Jiri Tlusty (upper-body injury).

The Stars, who have won their last three and five of six, outshot the Canes 13-8 in the opening period and tested Carolina with their transitional speed. Their rushes forced Khudobin into scrambling saves against Seguin, Dustin Jeffrey and Vernon Fiddler in the first seven minutes.

The Canes also had a few quality scoring chances. Early in the game, Jeff Skinner got off a shot from the left circle. Lehtonen coughed up a rebound and Elias Lindholm had good position in front but Lindholm could not get stick on puck.

Later in the first, Jordan Staal carried the puck through the neutral zone and down the right wing before centering a pass to Gerbe in front of the crease. Gerbe's attempt hit the post, Lehtonen then swatting the puck away.

The Stars had the only power play of the first after Canes defenseman Brett Bellemore was called for tripping Cody Eakin as Eakin drove the net with 7:40 left in the period. The Canes killed off the penalty.

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