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Oilers overwhelm Stars, 5-1

by Steve Hunt

DALLAS -- The Edmonton Oilers won in regulation for the first time in 11 games at American Airlines Center -- and they did it emphatically.

Alex Hemsky had a goal and two assists and Devan Dubnyk stopped 33 of the 34 shots he faced in his first start since Feb. 21 as the Oilers beat the Stars 5-1 on Thursday night for their first regulation win in Dallas since Dec. 8, 2006.

The Oilers also got a goal and an assist from Jeff Petry and a two-assist game from Jordan Eberle.

Overall, Dallas had won six in a row against the Oilers, including a pair of visits to Edmonton earlier in the season.

"The last two games, they beat us in the third period," Hemsky said of 3-2 and 4-1 defeats eight days apart earlier in February. "We played well the first two periods and they just beat us in the third. It was just different tonight. We didn’t spend too much energy chasing the puck the way we did a lot before. If you don’t chase the puck a lot, you have more energy for offense, and I think that helped us. "

There wasn't much energy on the home side. It's one of those game tapes every coach wants to burn.

"I told players not to be at the rink tomorrow," Dallas coach Glen Gulutzan said. "This was a stinker."

For the 17,004 fans who turned out, it was a nightmare from the start.

The Oilers took a quick lead when Sam Gagner beat Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen, making his first start after missing the last five games due to a groin injury, with a wrist shot just 1:13 into the game. Petry slipped the puck from the corner to Gagner, who was on the right edge of the crease; Gagner’s shot deflected off Lehtonen’s midsection before going into the net for his sixth of the season.

The Oilers made it 2-0 at 13:52 when rookie defenseman Justin Schultz fired home a wrister from nearly the same spot that Gagner scored from. Eberle threaded the needle with a pass between Dallas rookies Brenden Dillon and Reilly Smith from the left circle and Schultz’s wrister landed in the right side of the Dallas net for his fifth of the season.

"We’re not the same team we were in the past, so you don’t look at our record and think we’re going to have a tough time," Gagner said. "I think for the guys that have been here, it’s always nice to come into a building you’ve had some trouble in and get a win. It’s a good feeling here tonight."

A boarding call on Dallas’ Eric Nystrom at 18:50 of the first period put the visitors on the power play for the second time in the game. Dillon joined Nystrom in the box at 19:46, giving the Oilers a two-man advantage after he too was guilty of boarding after shoving Eberle into the end boards behind the Dallas net. However, Edmonton was unable to convert on either chance which extended into the second period.

Nystrom boarded Edmonton defenseman Corey Potter on his penalty, and Potter did not return the rest of the night with a head injury. The Oilers also lost Ladislav Smid for part of the game and were down to just four healthy defensemen, but Smid did return for the final half of the third period.

"When you lose one defenseman it’s difficult, especially with all the penalties we were killing, and when we lose Corey Potter to his injury and then Laddy Smid goes down," Oilers coach Ralph Krueger said. "We were happy to get him [Smid] back for the final 10-12 minutes of the third period, but there was a good stretch of over 20 minutes with only four D and they showed so much character and stuck with it. Just a good character win."

Krueger did offer an update on Potter.

"He was walking around pretty well after, but the initial assessment was not to risk anything and let him have a good night’s sleep in St. Louis and we’ll make a decision on him," Krueger said. "We were happy to see Laddy Smid come back. He got a bit of a twang, but there was nothing serious. We were just making sure there were no head issues. He passed all tests and we brought him back out."

Dallas went on the power play three times and Edmonton twice in a penalty-filled second period, including a late 5-on-3 advantage for the Oilers. Included was a fight between Dillon and Gagner at 19:05.

After Dallas' Loui Eriksson hit the right post, Petry made it 3-0 with his second of the season just 14 seconds before the second intermission. The Oilers defenseman fired a backhander that bounced off Lehtonen’s stick, then deflected off defenseman Trevor Daley before going in on Lehtonen’s glove side to make it 3-0.

Stephane Robidas' hooking penalty 12 seconds into the third period cost the Stars when Hemsky beat Lehtonen top shelf with a wrister from the high slot at the 50-second mark to give the visitors a four-goal cushion. Ben Eager scored his first of the season at 11:37, beating Lehtonen with a snap from the right circle.

The Stars avoided the shutout when Jaromir Jagr scored his sixth of the season with 5:55 remaining. Dallas center Jamie Benn earned a major penalty and a game misconduct for a cross-check from behind on the Oilers’ Ryan Jones with 4:00 remaining.

"I’m sure they’re going to look at it. They look at any fives," Gulutzan said of Benn’s penalty. "It’s not a suspendable offense in my mind. Not a high hit or a head hit."

Lehtonen stopped 33 shots in his first start since Feb. 15 at Vancouver. The good news for the Stars was that he came through the game in good health.

"[I felt] all right, just normal but it certainly wasn’t the way I wanted to come back and play," Lehtonen said. "It was good to play, but result was awful. So, good and bad."

Edmonton continues its nine-game road trip on Friday night at St. Louis while Dallas will host the Blues on Sunday afternoon to conclude a two-game homestand.

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