Sharp scores tiebreaking goal in 3rd as Stars top Canucks
VANCOUVER, British Columbia (AP) Valeri Nichushkin made the most of his chance on the Dallas Stars' top line.
The Russian winger scored once and set up another while playing alongside Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn as Dallas beat the Vancouver Canucks 4-2 on Thursday night.
''Those guys are the best guys in the league,'' Nichushkin said of the pair who sit second and third in NHL scoring. ''It makes me happy to play with them.''
Patrick Sharp buried the go-ahead goal in the third for Dallas, while Seguin added another as the Stars became the first team to 20 wins this season while also matching Montreal atop the overall standings with 41 points.
Nichushkin has spent most of his time on Dallas' third line, but coach Lindy Ruff saw a player who could provide a spark following a 4-3 shootout loss to Calgary on Tuesday.
''He was really playing really well and the top line had struggled generating good opportunities,'' said Ruff. ''He has been holding on to the puck really well down low and I thought it would give that line some possession time. I thought he did a great job.''
Jason Spezza scored into an empty net, Alex Goligoski chipped in with two assists and Kari Lehtonen stopped 14 shots as the Stars picked up their 10th straight victory over Vancouver and fifth in a row at Rogers Arena.
Sharp's tiebreaking goal at 5:59 of the third put Dallas ahead 3-2 after he took a pass from Goligoski and wove into the Canucks' zone before beating Ryan Miller with a quick shot through the pads for his ninth of the season.
''We had a controlled breakout and I kind of swung to the wrong side,'' said Sharp, who has spent most of the year alongside Seguin and Benn. ''(Goligoski) saw me cut to the middle and put it right on my tape.''
Vancouver coach Willie Desjardins used his challenge to see if the play was offside, but the call stood after review.
Alexander Edler and Jannik Hansen had the goals for the Canucks, who have lost four straight and 12 of their last 15. Miller made 30 stops, while Henrik Sedin added two assists.
Trailing 2-1 through 40 minutes, Vancouver tied the game at 5:31 of the third when Sedin jumped on Goligoski's giveaway and fed a wide-open Hansen, who coolly beat Lehtonen for his eighth goal of the season.
The Canucks, coming off a 1-1-2 road trip that included a 3-2 shootout loss to the Stars, almost grabbed the lead when Hansen ripped a one-timer wide midway through the third.
Dallas had a great opportunity at the other end when Miller shot out a pad to deny Vernon Fiddler with about seven minutes remaining before Sharp's winner and Spezza's 11th into an empty net sealed it.
''Even though we hadn't played our best game we were right there the whole game,'' said Sedin. ''We told each other we were one shot away. We scored in the third, but it got away from us again and it's the same old story.
''The only way out of it is work. You can't feel sorry for yourself.''
After the teams traded goals in the first, Dallas took the lead 33 seconds into the second when Nichushkin grabbed the puck behind the Vancouver net and fed a slick between-the-legs pass back to Seguin, who beat Miller on the short-side for his 14th goal of the season.
''The coach tells us every game, puck on the net,'' said Nichushkin. ''Seguin was behind me. I just tried a play like that.''
NOTES: The Canucks announced Wednesday that C Brandon Sutter will miss four to six weeks after undergoing surgery for a sports hernia. He hasn't suited up since Nov. 10. ... The Canucks continue a four-game homestand against on Saturday against Boston. ... The Stars visit Edmonton on Friday.