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Power play, Lehtonen lead Stars past Jets

by Steve Hunt

DALLAS -- Ray Whitney and Tyler Seguin scored power-play goals, Jamie Benn had two assists and Kari Lehtonen made 32 saves to lead the Dallas Stars to a 2-1 win against the Winnipeg Jets at American Airlines Center on Monday night.

Since the Phoenix Coyotes lost 4-3 in overtime at the New York Rangers, Dallas moved within one point of Phoenix for the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference race to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Stars, who have a game in hand, return to the ice Tuesday night at the Chicago Blackhawks.

"The power play in general is going to be the difference," Whitney said. "Power plays for us won it and the power play for them got them back into it."

Winnipeg's Bryan Little ended Lehtonen's shutout bid with 2:44 remaining in regulation when he scored off a rebound. The Jets had an extra attacker after goalie Al Montoya headed to the bench with 3:05 left.

"Yeah, I thought we battled hard to try and get back in the game for the most part, especially the third," Little said. "We never really gave up and we made a push kind of like we did last game (a 3-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday) and just like last game, we came up one short again."

The Stars capitalized on their first opportunity when Whitney beat Montoya (25 saves) with a slapper for a power-play goal 5:32 into the game. Seven seconds earlier, Whitney sent a wrister from the right circle off the right post.

However, the veteran wouldn't be denied on his second attempt, getting the better of Montoya from the left circle for his eighth of the season and first goal in 13 games on a shot that deflected off Montoya's left shoulder before going in.

Dallas was on the power play after Winnipeg was assessed a bench minor at 4:17 for too many men on the ice. It was the Jets' third bench minor since Paul Maurice took over as coach on Jan. 12.

"I won't do the details and just say that's on me. Everything that happens on that bench is my responsibility, so just leave it at that," Maurice said. "It doesn't matter [who was responsible]. It's on me."

Seguin's goal, his 32nd of the season, came at 16:09 of the second when he tapped in a rebound. Four seconds earlier, Seguin found the left post with a one-time from the right circle and after Alex Chiasson's backhand was turned away by Montoya at close range, Seguin roofed in the rebound to give Dallas a 2-0 lead.

Prior to the win Monday against Winnipeg, the Stars' power play was 1-for-15 over the previous five games. Dallas went 2-for-4 against the Jets. Winnipeg entered with the top-rated road penalty kill in the NHL, killing off 88.2 percent of opposing power plays.

"Over the last 25 games, we're 19 percent," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said of the power play. "We're generating quality opportunities."

The Jets played without captain Andrew Ladd, whose wife gave birth to a daughter on Sunday night in Winnipeg. Ladd is expected to rejoin the Jets in time for their game Thursday at the San Jose Sharks.

"Well of course you miss them, but other guys can step in and play," Jets defenseman Mark Stuart said. "We're a team and we put together a good effort tonight. We gave up a couple of power-play goals that seemed to be the difference, but the guys that came in played well."

With 4:29 remaining in regulation, Winnipeg's Blake Wheeler went hard into the boards in front of the Dallas bench and was holding his left shoulder after falling to the ice. Wheeler struck the gate at the end of the Stars bench, which was open. Wheeler headed to the dressing room, but returned before the game ended and was on the ice for the final shift of the game.

"Those are the things that you can hang your hat on and improve going forward," Maurice said of the heart Wheeler showed in returning to the bench after the hit. "You get a guy that takes a hit like that, that's hurting the way he is and comes back out on the bench and gives you a jump."

Ruff was naturally quite happy at the play of Lehtonen, who stopped all but one to earn his 27th victory of the season.

"Kari was excellent. His saves were great and his puckhandling really helped us," Ruff said. "He made some good passes. That part of his game was excellent."

The Stars exacted a bit of revenge on the same Jets team that handed them a 7-2 defeat last Sunday at MTS Centre.

"I thought we played better defense [tonight]," Whitney said. "We were a little loose with the puck there [in Winnipeg]."

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