Columbus Blue Jackets\' Tom Sestito, bottom, and Dallas Stars\' Krystofer Barch fight in the first period of an NHL hockey game in Columbus, Ohio, Saturday, Dec. 18, 2010. (AP Photo/Paul Vernon)
COLUMBUS, Ohio - The Dallas Stars are the best in the NHL at winning one-goal games.
This time they had a little help.
Brad Richards scored twice and the Stars benefited from a controversial call to beat the Columbus Blue Jackets 2-1 on Saturday night.
With the score tied 1-1 with five minutes left in the second period, Columbus' Derek Dorsett beat Loui Eriksson to a loose puck and drilled a shot into an almost empty net. But the goal was immediately disallowed by referee Chris Rooney, who waved it off because of goaltender interference involving the Blue Jackets' Ethan Moreau.
NHL Rule 69.3 permits a goal to be erased even if a penalty is not called—and Moreau wasn't sent to the box.
"They said it was goaltender contact—they said—in the crease," Columbus coach Scott Arniel said. "We looked at it and we feel Ethan was outside the blue paint. The goalie came out to challenge and ran into him and proceeded to throw his arms in the air. Ethan's feet were planted. There's not much you can do; you're not going to change a referee's mind."
Subsequent replays appeared to show minor, incidental contact between Moreau and goalie Kari Lehtonen.
Needless to say, Stars coach Marc Crawford agreed with the call that helped his team improve to 13-2-3 in one-goal games.
"I thought it was probably a penalty, more than just a guy in the crease," he said. "They have to make that call in a split-second. And that's the way it went."
Dorsett, of course, saw it differently.
"It was obviously a goal after seeing the replay," he said. "That is a key point in the game. (Moreau) and (captain Rick) Nash talked to the referee and they said Moreau touched or bumped into the goalie. You can clearly see on the replay that he didn't."
A crowd of 13,973 booed the officials the rest of the night.
Richards netted the winner at 6:17 of the third period on a hard, low wrist shot from the top of the left circle that eluded goalie Mathieu Garon while the teams were each a man down.
He was flying down the left wing on a 2-on-1 break with Eriksson at the time.
"I had some good speed," Richards said. "I think he (Garon) was cheating a little bit to Loui. I think he thought I was going to pass. I saw that and just because I had speed I shot it."
Fedor Tyutin scored for the Blue Jackets, who have lost four in a row and 10 of 12.
The Stars have earned points in 11-of-13 games (9-2-2).
Richards hadn't played well on the road, totalling just 12 of his team-leading 35 points away from home. But he made up for it by burying two low, hard shots.
The game was marked by a lot of chippy play.
After the Blue Jackets registered the first nine shots, the Stars, 15-2 when scoring first, broke through just after the first penalty ended in a 5-on-3 power play. Richards stepped into a wrister from the high slot, scoring his 13th goal at 13:13.
Later in the period, Moreau's low drive from the left point was blocked by Lehtonen. The puck wafted high over his head and landed behind him in the crease. Tyutin, crashing the net, jammed it in for his first of the season.
Lehtonen, who stopped 35 shots, made several big stops. He denied Mike Commodore with a toe save early in the second period. With just under two minutes left, Jake Voracek batted at a high puck that Lehtonen deflected.
The Stars' goalie credited special teams for stopping the Blue Jackets on five power plays.
"I was really comfortable with our penalty kill," he said. "It's been working well lately. When the other team gets the power play, you're not worried. You feel like your guys can help you."
NOTES: Stephane Robidas had an assist on Richards' first goal to extend his assist streak to three games. ... Columbus outshot Dallas 36-23. ... Dallas has killed off 42 of the last 47 power plays. ... Espen Knutsen, the Blue Jackets' first all-star game participant in 2002, dropped the ceremonial first puck as part of the club's 10-year anniversary celebration.