SUNRISE, Fla. (AP) – The Dallas Stars missed an opportunity to tighten their grip on their first playoff spot in six years.
Sean Bergenheim scored with 4:31 left to break a third-period tie, and the Florida Panthers snapped a five-game losing streak in a 3-2 win over the Stars on Sunday.
Bergenheim put the Panthers ahead for good when he redirected Colby Robak’s drive from the left circle.
“I just tried to put my stick down on the ice and he (Robak) found it. It was a really nice play by him,” Bergenheim said.
The Stars still hold a one-point lead over the Phoenix Coyotes for the second Western Conference wild-card spot. They missed a chance to extend their points lead against a team that has been struggling.
“We stopped skating. You can’t do that, you have to play a full 60 minutes in these games,” Stars forward Jamie Benn said. “We knew it wasn’t going to be easy, they’re not going to give us these games. We have to put this one behind us; it was obviously a terrible outcome. We don’t want to remember this one.”
Scottie Upshall and Brandon Pirri also scored for Florida, and. Roberto Luongo made 35 saves and beat Dallas for the first time in five starts.
“Myself and also the team got better as the game went on. We had a really strong second half of the game,” Luongo said. “We’re competitors. Anytime we step on the ice, it doesn’t matter what the circumstances are, you want to have that winning mind-set and try to win.”
Tyler Seguin and Benn had goals for the Stars, and Kari Lehtonen stopped 21 shots.
Florida erased a 2-0 deficit on goals by Upshall and Pirri in the second period.
The Panthers made it 2-1 when Erik Gudbranson’s shot was tipped by a Dallas player, hit Upshall and bounced into the net at 8:20 of the second.
“These are good games, the league tunes into these games and they’re big,” Upshall said. “We have an opportunity here to play for something and those are fun games to play in.”
Florida tied when Pirri scored with 57 seconds left in the period. Jimmy Hayes slid a pass to Pirri in the slot for a one-timed shot high into net.
“Obviously, they’re playing for their lives,” Panthers coach Peter Horachek said. “Getting that second one and tying it up was a great momentum boost for us.”
Dallas took the lead 45 seconds into the game when Benn poked the puck past a defender and then wristed a shot past Luongo for his 33rd goal.
Benn, who scored 40 seconds into Saturday night’s 5-2 win at Tampa Bay, has three goals in two games.
Dallas made it 2-0 just 39 seconds into the middle period when Seguin scored his 36th of the season during a power play.
Seguin’s shot from the left circle went off the stick of a Florida defender and into the net, giving Seguin his fourth goal in four games.
The Stars also struggled against Tampa Bay on Saturday, when they nearly blew a three-goal lead before pulling away in the third.
“Tough points to lose, it wasn’t a good game for us,” Seguin said. “No excuses even though it was back to back. We expect better.”
NOTES: Pirri has a four-game point streak and has 12 points in 15 games. … Benn has 21 points in 19 games. … Dallas G Tim Thomas, traded by Florida to the Stars on March 5, didn’t play. Thomas has been in just two of the past 10 games. … Dallas forward Ray Whitney missed his second consecutive game because of a lower-body injury.