Stars-Hurricanes Preview

Associated Press  |  Last updated November 05, 2011
It's safe to say things are going the Dallas Stars' way. Coming off a wild victory, the first-place Stars look to extend their best start in five years as they begin a four-game road trip against the Carolina Hurricanes on Sunday. After Dallas missed the playoffs the last three years, most wouldn't have expected to find the team atop the Pacific Division a month into the season. The Stars (9-3-0), though, have gotten timely goals and mostly solid goaltending to post their best start since opening 11-2-0 in 2006-07. Trailing 2-0 after the first period Friday, Dallas scored four times in the second and erased two one-goal leads in the third to force overtime against Colorado. Loui Eriksson's pass deflected off an Avalanche defenseman and into the net to give the Stars a 7-6 win. "This is not how we drew up how we'd play today," Eriksson told the team's official website. "There were a lot of goals out there today. We stuck with it and won the game. We got the two points. That's what it's all about there." It was the latest in a run of good breaks for the Stars. In their previous game - last Saturday's 3-1 win over New Jersey - Vernon Fiddler scored the go-ahead goal in the third on a shot that banked off the skate of a Devils defenseman. Four days earlier, Dallas scored with 61 seconds left in regulation and won an eight-round shootout to beat Phoenix. "It's always nice to win and have that confidence," said Eriksson, who leads the team with eight goals. "We have a tough challenge in this four-game road trip here. I think everyone is looking forward to that. It will be hard to go in and win those games, too." Dallas, which won three of four on its road trip last month, will visit Washington, Pittsburgh and Detroit after facing Carolina. Kari Lehtonen has won all three of his road starts, allowing five goals. He improved to 9-1-0 overall despite stopping just 34 of 40 shots Friday. After surrendering 11 goals during his first seven games, Lehtonen has allowed 11 over his most recent three. "You look at the great goalies, they all have an off night, but it's like once every eight games," coach Glen Gulutzan said. "I'll take that any day of the week, and I think Kari is trending towards being one of those elite goalies." Lehtonen hasn't fared very well in Carolina, where he went 1-5-1 with a 3.56 goals-against average before making 27 saves in a 4-1 win Nov. 29 last season. Dallas has taken four of five overall from the Hurricanes (5-5-3), limiting them to a combined four goals in the four wins. Carolina has lost five of seven following a 5-1 defeat to Southeast Division-leading Washington on Friday. The Hurricanes led after Anthony Stewart's early goal but gave up five over the final two periods. "I don't have an explanation for it, but we did not have the fire in order to win that game," coach Paul Maurice said. "And that's the bottom line. Whether it's your passing, your hitting, whatever it is." Cam Ward made 27 saves, surrendering a season worst-tying five goals. He had gone 3-0-1 with a 1.47 GAA and a shutout over his previous four home games. Ward is 2-1-0 at home against Dallas despite a 3.67 GAA. Stars left wing Jamie Benn has 12 points over his last eight games after notching a career-high four Friday.
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