The Dallas Stars came out with a spark in their 2013-2014 home opener, but the spark was quickly snuffed out by the play of Florida Panthers goalie Tim Thomas, who helped spoil the debut of Stars coach Lindy Ruff.
Thomas, 39, making his first start for the Panthers since taking an 18-month hiatus from the NHL, made 27 saves in the 4-2 Panthers victory in the season opener Thursday at American Airlines Center in front of a crowd of 16,110.
Both Stars captain Jamie Benn and goalie Kari Lehtonen said Thomas’ quick reflexes in net were not a surprise after the former Boston Bruin joined the Panthers late in the preseason.
“He could have let in a couple more goals, but he made great saves like it was two or three years ago,” Lehtonen said.
In front of Thomas, Panther defenders gave up their bodies for the cause, blocking 24 Stars shots on the night.
Dallas took a 2-1 lead with 14 minutes left in the third period on a shorthanded goal by defenseman Brenden Dillonthat was set up by a steal in the defensive zone by Vernon Fiddler. After taking the puck, Fiddler charged up the right side and passed to Antoine Roussel, who missed wide right. But Fiddler collected the puck and passed to Dillon, who was on target.
However, the Stars couldn’t maintain the lead in the third period.
Panthers first-round draft pick Aleksander Barkov scored his first NHL goal on a rebound at the top of the crease and fired it past Lehtonen to tie the game at 2.
With five minutes left, Florida took the lead on a goal by Marcel Goc in transition, with an assist from Tomas Fleischmann. Goc added an empty-net goal with just over minute left.
The Stars were outshot in every period with Florida finishing with a 39-27 advantage.
Rookie Alex Chiasson scored the Stars’ first goal of the season on a wrap around shot off a missed attempt by Ray Whitney.
Thursday marked the first time in 14 years that the Stars failed to pick up a point in the home opener, and it breaks a three-game winning streak in home openers. The Stars are 14-3-3 in home openers since moving to Dallas.