Winning on the road is always tough in the NHL, even against a last-place team. Of course, it gets easier when you have an early three-goal lead.
The Dallas Stars, desperate for every point as they battle for a playoff spot in the West, jumped to a three-goal lead barely a minute into the second period -- then had to hold on before Jamie Benn hit the empty net in the final second to wrap up a 4-2 victory in Columbus on Thursday night.
Benn finished with two goals and Kari Lehtonen made 26 saves as the Stars moved into a three-way tie for ninth in the West with 58 points, two behind eighth-place Phoenix.
But it wasn't easy -- not even against a team that's last in the overall standings and has been out of the playoff chase for weeks.
"It's going to be tough. Every year is, those last 30 games of the year," said defenseman Alex Goligoski, who had a goal and an assist for the Stars. "Everybody's fighting for position. And you've got other teams fighting for other reasons, for jobs and whatnot."
Robidas' goal 1:09 into the second period put the Stars up 3-0. But instead of rolling over, the Blue Jackets scored two power-play goals in the second period and forced Lehtonen to make a number of sharp stops in the third.
The Stars also got some luck. With six minutes left, Jeff Carter, who had goals in his last two games, hit the post on a hard shot from the right hash. Fedor Tyutin was just wide with another big slap shot with just over a minute remaining and Lehtonen smothered R.J. Umberger's redirect attempt with 29 seconds left.
"I thought he was real good," Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said of Lehtonen. "He cleaned a lot of our stuff up. Most of our stuff was self-inflicted."
The Stars hung on to win their fourth in the last six games. The Blue Jackets failed to win their third in a row -- something they haven't accomplished all season.
Dallas wasted little time in taking control, scoring twice in the opening 4:21.
Benn capitalized on a giveaway by Columbus' Samuel Pahlsson in the high slot by firing a rising forehand shot past Curtis Sanford and into the top right corner for his 16th of the season just 1:35 into the game.
The Jackets then lost a player and allowed a goal on the same play. The Stars were swarming when Tomas Vincour's slapper shot hit Columbus defenseman Marc Methot on the side of his face. The puck dropped almost straight down -- and Goligoski jammed it home.
Bleeding profusely, Methot skated away unaided, pressing a towel to his face to stem the flow. He did not return. A team spokesman said after that game that Methot sustained a broken jaw.
The bad news didn't end there. Forward Jared Boll also broke his foot and will be sidelined for an extensive period.
"It was a great start, getting those two goals was huge," Benn said. "Getting some momentum for our team on the road is big. We definitely want that in the first period."
Still on the power play to start the second period, the Stars pushed the lead to three when Robidas' high-velocity shot from the right point got past goalie Curtis Sanford, who couldn't see the puck due to congestion in front of the net.
Vinny Prospal and Rick Nash scored in a 3:40 span, and Tyutin and Derick Brassard had two assists apiece for Columbus. The Blue Jackets, 24th in the NHL with a man advantage, scored twice in the second period with the extra man.
"I liked the way we battled back," interim coach Todd Richards said. "I liked the way we fought all the way to the end. The problem was, we weren't ready at the start. We dug ourselves a 2-0 hole and we just couldn't overcome that deficit."
Robidas felt the Stars got away from doing the things that had gotten them the big lead.
“We had a 3-0 lead, there’s no reason for us to let them come back in the game,” Robidas said. “We should have just kept the game simple and that was our success in the first -- we kept things simple, put the puck in deep, put some pressure on them and spent some time in their zone. We turned the puck over a few times, took some penalties because guys were getting tired and it’s tough when you play in your own zone, it’s just not the right way to play.”
The Stars know they won't find any pushovers the rest of the way.
"There's going to be no easy games. We know that," Goligoski said. "I think our work ethic was a lot better tonight. That was good to see."
Material from team media and wire services was used in this report
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