COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Steve Mason had 22 saves, R.J. Umberger scored an empty-netter while sliding on his gut and the Columbus Blue Jackets beat the Dallas Stars 2-1 on Thursday night in Claude Noel's coaching debut.
Noel was coaching his first NHL game after taking over for Ken Hitchcock, who was fired Wednesday after the Blue Jackets sagged to a 22-27-9 record a season after making their first trip to the playoffs.
With the Blue Jackets leading 1-0 on Anton Stralman's first-period goal, Umberger wedged between two Dallas players and then fell to the ice, sliding on his stomach while corralling the puck and scoring into the empty net.
That goal loomed large when Dallas' Brad Richards scored on slap shot through heavy traffic with 43 seconds left.
After a lengthy review, the goal was allowed. It first appeared that Steve Ott had batted the puck into the net with a chopping motion while it was chest high. But Richards was later given credit for his 17th of the season, his shot from the point first hitting the skate of Columbus' Jake Voracek and then bouncing off Mason's backside.
The Blue Jackets where then able to hang on by icing the puck in the final seconds.
Noel, a former American Hockey League coach who was elevated from Blue Jackets assistant, smiled and calmly shook his fist after the victory.
Marty Turco, who lost all three times as Columbus won the season series 3-1, had 25 saves for the Stars, who are just 1-10-2 on the road since Dec. 11.
The Blue Jackets have alternated wins and losses in their last 10 games.
Stralman gave the Blue Jackets a 1-0 lead at 5:00 of the first. Neither team had a quality scoring chance to that point, but Fredrik Modin slid a pass to Stralman in the right corner of the zone and his rising shot went over Turco's right shoulder.
The Blue Jackets improved to just 8-6-3 when leading after a period and 17-4-3 with a lead through two periods.
Dallas failed to score on three power plays, while Columbus didn't have a man advantage all night — the first time that has happened since April 10, 2009, at St. Louis, a 3-1 loss.
After the Blue Jackets killed the third power play with under 1:30 remaining, the Stars' Matt Niskanen skated into the high slot and fired a wrister that Mason was able to smother in his chest pads.
While Richards' goal was being reviewed, Noel stood alone behind the bench, biting his lip and occasionally glancing up at the scoreboard to catch a glimpse of the replay.
NOTES: Nash has 218 goals, 190 assists and 408 points in his 500 games. ... Tom Hicks, the financially strapped owner of the Stars, announced earlier in the day that he is exploring a possible sale of the team. ... Noel became the third of the six Blue Jackets head coaches to win his debut. ... Nash received a standing ovation midway through the third period for playing keepaway with the puck on a Dallas power play. ... Stralman snapped a string of 30 games without a goal.
(This version CORRECTS Blue Jackets 2, Stars 1. corrects to Nash sted Mason in 14th graf.)