Liles, Khudobin help Canes rout Stars, 4-1

calexander@newsobserver.comApril 3, 2014 

— John-Michael Liles refuses to do the math, to compute all the various point possibilities.

All the Carolina Hurricanes can do at this point in the season is win games and see if it’s enough to somehow squeeze into the playoffs. Odds are, it won’t happen, but they can try.

Liles had a goal and two assists and goalie Anton Khudobin had 33 saves Thursday as the Canes topped the Dallas Stars 4-1 at PNC Arena, keeping their hopes alive a little longer.

With five games remaining in the season, the Canes (34-32-11) have 79 points and remain six points out of the final playoff position in the NHL’s Eastern Conference. The Columbus Blue Jackets hold the second and last wild-card spot with 85 points.

“When you’re on the outside looking in, I think you always would like a little extra time,” Liles said. “But ultimately we can only control what we can control right now.

“We only have five games left and we’re going to do everything we can to make a game of it and see where it puts us. We would have liked to be in a better position at this point in the season, but ultimately it’s five games left and we have to try and win all five.”

The Canes won Thursday without defenseman Andrej Sekera, who was a last-second scratch with a lower-body injury after taking the pregame warmup. Alexander Semin and Drayson Bowman were out with illnesses and Jiri Tlusty is still recovering from an upper-body injury.

Liles and defenseman Justin Faulk scored power-play goals and Riley Nash added a third-period score for the Canes.

The Stars (37-28-11) had a three-game win streak end, and it wasn’t a good return to PNC Arena for former Carolina forwards Erik Cole and Ray Whitney. Cole missed the game with an upper-body injury and Whitney played just two shifts before leaving with a lower-body injury.

After a scoreless first, the Canes surged to a 3-0 lead in the second. Eric Staal was credited with his 19th goal after a Liles shot hit the heel of Staal’s left skate, the puck bounding up in the air, over the head of goalie Kari Lehtonen and into the net.

“You see strange ones go in and that might have been one of the stranger ones,” Dallas coach Lindy Ruff said.

Faulk, who had a goal and an assist, and Liles then scored on power plays on shots from the point. Ruff soon pulled Lehtonen from the game, inserting Tim Thomas, but the damage had been done.

Tyler Seguin pulled the Stars to 3-1 in the second with his 34th of the season, and Dallas entered the third period with one minute, 48 seconds of power-play time.

But Seguin’s goal would be all that Khudobin would allow. He was sharp early in the game as the Stars used their speed to put together rushes, and he made his biggest save early in the third.

Khudobin denied the Stars’ Alex Chiasson on a two-on-one scoring chance on the third-period power play, moving quickly to his left.

“I stopped it under my arm or something,” Khudobin said.

Nash scored his 10th of the season for a 4-1 lead, following up the rebound of a Brett Bellemore shot. Forward Chris Terry, recalled this week from the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL, had his first two NHL assists.

It was Liles’ first multi-point game since being traded to the Canes on New Year’s Day by Toronto. The point total tied his career high and was his first since Jan. 18, 2011, when he played for the Colorado Avalanche.

Faulk scored on a bomb of a shot 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 –Staal screening Lehtonen – after the Stars’ Patrik Nemeth was called for hooking Nash.

“Tonight was his best game,” Canes coach Kirk Muller said of Liles. “With guys out of the lineup we needed veteran guys to step up and he played really well.”

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