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Desperate Stars extend Senators' skid to five

by Brian Hunter
If the slumping Ottawa Senators were hoping to establish some positive momentum as the regular season winds down and the Stanley Cup Playoffs beckon, a visit to the American Airlines Center for a date with the desperate Dallas Stars wasn't the place for it to start.

Brad Richards scored twice and Jamie Benn had the go-ahead goal with 52.9 seconds left in the second period as the fading Stars stayed afloat in the Western Conference race with a 5-4 win on Saturday afternoon.

Trevor Daley's goal early in the third turned out to be the game-winner as Dallas survived a Jason Spezza hat trick. Spezza scored his third of the game and 19th of the season with 1:27 remaining and Brian Elliott pulled for a sixth attacker. But Kari Lehtonen and the Stars survived from there, pulling to within six points of Detroit for the eighth seed. The Red Wings play in Vancouver later Saturday.

"Obviously the win is real important right now, but to contribute by scoring, it's a good feeling," said Daley, whose goal was his fifth of the season.

Mike Ribeiro also scored for Dallas and Lehtonen, who was starting his third straight game, finished with 25 saves.

"We have to try to win every game," said coach Marc Crawford, whose team is home again Sunday versus Phoenix. "We're now six points, as we speak, behind the playoffs spot, so we've still got a chance."

Mike Fisher had the other goal for Ottawa, which lost its fifth in a row and could drop to seventh in the Eastern Conference standings by the end of Saturday depending on what Montreal does in Toronto later Saturday.

Senators goalie Pascal Leclaire stopped just 14 of 19 shots and was pulled after Daley made it a 5-3 game on a wrist shot from the right circle with 4:33 elapsed in the third. Elliott turned aside all six shots he faced in relief.

"You can't give up five goals on the first 18 or 19 shots," coach Cory Clouston said. "You're going to give up chances. But it's very tough to get the momentum back."

Ottawa held a 3-2 lead in the latter stages of the second before Dallas took control. Richards tied the score with 3:23 remaining in the period, going upstairs over a prone Leclaire from the left side of the net off a Loui Eriksson feed. Benn then converted a crisp cross-crease pass from James Neal into a wide-open cage to give the Stars a lead after 40 minutes.

"We played a pretty good game," Richards said. "They played a pretty fast game, they were in our face, hard on our 'D', but once we settled down, we got a couple big goals there at the end of the second and that kind of took us home."
Fisher got the Senators off to a fast start in a back-and-forth first. Stars defenseman Mark Fistric was sent off for holding 51 seconds in, and Fisher needed just 15 seconds of the ensuing power play to open the scoring with his 22nd of the season.

A possible turning point for Dallas occurred later in the period on its own man advantage. Matt Cullen went the other way on a great shorthanded chance for Ottawa, only to be denied from Lehtonen, who has recently wrested the starting job away from Marty Turco.

"That was a huge save," Neal said. "It was a great play by them and Kari came up big. If your goalie's going to come up with big saves, it gives you a chance to win every night."

The Stars would get a 5-on-3 advantage moments later and Richards made good at 13:55 to tie the score. Ribeiro gave them the lead for the first time with 2:29 left in the period, but Spezza evened things up for the Senators before the horn sounded, scoring on another power play with 1.7 seconds remaining.

Spezza's second of the game, a tip-in of a Chris Campoli shot, put Ottawa back on top, 3-2, at 5:11 of the middle period.

"Right now I'm pretty frustrated," Spezza said. "This time of year it's all about wins. I'd be happier with nothing (no goals) and winning the game and moving up in the standings instead of losing a game like we did tonight."

Material from wire services and team broadcast media was used in this report.
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