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Montoya, Panthers end Stars' winning streak

by Steve Hunt

DALLAS -- Backup goaltender Al Montoya did everything Florida Panthers coach Gerard Gallant could have asked.

Montoya made 33 saves, Jaromir Jagr had a goal and an assist and the Panthers ended the Dallas Stars' five-game winning streak with a 6-2 victory at American Airlines Center on Saturday.

"Al was excellent," Gallant said of Montoya, who gave starter Roberto Luongo a night off. "First one got by him off a deflection in front, but after that he was pretty solid, shut the door and probably made seven or eight huge saves for us."

Nick Bjugstad had a goal and an assist for Florida (4-3-1), which won the finale of a three-game road trip. Aaron Ekblad, Dave Bolland, Reilly Smith and Quinton Howden had the other goals. Jonathan Huberdeau and Jussi Jokinen each finished with two assists.

"He played good today, no question about it," Jagr said of Huberdeau. "He was working hard. He was very good."

Jamie Benn scored twice and Tyler Seguin two assists for Dallas (6-2-0), which lost in its first home game after sweeping a four-game road trip.

"We didn't have our 'A' game. Our execution wasn't sharp. It starts with your puck management; it wasn't good. We made some big mistakes, and the small details killed us," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "We had chances to get back in the game. We missed our good chances; we gave them a chance, and they put it away."

Benn put Dallas in front by scoring a power-play goal 1:59 into the game. Eight seconds after Florida's Alex Petrovic was called for delay of game, Seguin's wrist shot from the left point deflected off Benn's right skate and beat Montoya through the five-hole.

The Panthers answered at 11:03 when Jagr scored off the rush, beating goaltender Kari Lehtonen top shelf to his short side with a wrist shot from the edge of the left circle. It was Jagr's sixth goal of the season and the 728th of his career. He needs three more to tie Marcel Dionne for fourth in NHL history.

Florida went ahead to stay at 13:18 when Bjugstad beat Lehtonen with a wrist shot from the high slot after taking a pass from Huberdeau. Bjugstad's goal came seconds after Dallas forward Patrick Sharp was stopped from close range by Montoya and then hit the left post.

"That's great. It felt like [I was] a kid, like I used to, just skating everywhere, getting in front of that puck and doing whatever it takes to stop the puck and having fun," Montoya said of that harried sequence, during which he lost his stick. "That's when I'm at my best."

Ekblad's goal 1:22 into the second period chased Lehtonen from the game. Jagr started the sequence inside his own zone before feeding Bjugstad in the slot. Bjugstad left the puck for Ekblad, who sent a wrist shot under Lehtonen's blocker for his first of the season.

"He is a sharpshooter," Bjugstad said of Ekblad, the Calder Trophy winner last season as the NHL's top rookie. "When he gets the shot, it's more than likely going in. It was a good shot."

Lehtonen made eight saves before being replaced by Antti Niemi.

"Just trying to get some momentum," Ruff said when asked why he pulled Lehtonen. "Probably the second goal is a goal that you'd like to see him get, but the Ekblad [goal], we get beat up ice, we've got no backchecking and I don't know if he was screened, but it's a good shot. It's just above the pad, just below the glove. For me, that wasn't a bad goal. I was just going to see if maybe I could turn the tide a little bit."

The Panthers added to their lead when Bolland redirected a wrist shot by Dmitry Kulikov past Niemi at 14:59 for his first goal of the season. A video review determined that Bolland's stick was below the crossbar.

"I think the key was us playing our game and getting more puck behind our defensemen," Gallant said. "They come off a long road trip and you want to put pressure on their D and I thought we caused some turnovers there tonight."

Benn made it 4-2 at 4:01 of the third period with his second of the night and eighth of the season, a wrist shot that beat Montoya inside the far post.

"It's an excuse for teams that lose their first game at home after a road trip. There was no excuse tonight. They played a better hockey game than us," Benn said. "They deserved to win more than we did."

Florida answered 91 seconds later when Smith beat Niemi over his glove for his third. Jokinen started the play by stealing the puck from Dallas center Jason Spezza near the left circle. He fed Smith, who converted from the slot.

Howden beat Niemi with a backhand shot at 16:55 for his second of the season.

"I think as a whole squad tonight, we played well starting from [Montoya] and all four lines and our D," Bjugstad said. "It was a fun game to be a part of."

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