The Dallas Stars opened their shortened season at home in front of a sold-out arena with a 4-3 victory over division rival Phoenix Coyotes Saturday night. Forty-year-old Jaromir Jagr led the way as he scored two goals and added two assists in his Dallas debut.
Jagr’s line mate Loui Eriksson and Ray Whitney, the Stars’other newly-signed 40-year-old, produced a goal and assist each, and goaltender Kari Lehtonen stopped 37 of 40 shots en route to the win. Last season the Stars and Coyotes had the worst Power Play percentage in the NHL, but four of the seven goals scored were on the Power Play.
The Stars opened the scoring when Martin Hanzal attempted behind-the-back pass that was intercepted by Eriksson. He passed the puck forward to Jagr, who had jumped behind the Coyotes defense. Jagr fought off the defenders’ pressure and tucked the puck into the net to the right of Mike Smith with 1:24 left in the first period.
The Coyotes tied the game 9:04 into the second period when Alex Goligoski misplayed a loose puck in front of his net, leaving Lehtonen helpless as Lauri Korpikoski puck the puck in the net. Radim Vrbata gave the Coyotes the lead when he scored a Power Play goal in which Martin Hanzal screened Lehtonen.
Vrbata was called for a holding penalty late in the second period and the Stars Power Play took advantage of the opportunity. Zbynek Michalek kneeled down to block a shot from Stephane Robidas near the blue line. Jagr was standing alone next to Michalek, corralled the puck and shot into top corner over Smith’s blocker.
Thirty-one second into the 3rd period, Jagr entered the zone and left the puck for Whitney skating behind him. Whitney took a few strides toward the net and rocketed a shot past Smith to take the lead. The Coyotes tied the game back up when Jordie Benn turned the puck over with an errant pass intercepted by Vrbata. On his breakaway, Vrbata entered the zone skating directly at Lehtonen and shot the puck between the goalie’s pads :30 into the 3rd period.
Jagr would showcase his talent with a no-look, behind-the-back pass that slid by two Coyotes defensemen directly to a wide open Eriksson in front of the net. The Stars would hold on for the remaining 6:55 and pull out the narrow victory. They were 2-for-4 on the Power Play while the Coyotes were 2-for-5 with the man advantage. Mike Smith stopped 22 of the 26 shots he faced. Both teams have a quick turnaround as they both play again Sunday night.