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Smith leads Stars to fifth straight win

by Brian Compton
Dallas goaltender Mike Smith was tremendous in between the pipes, making 39 saves in the Stars' 3-2 victory over the New York Rangers.  
The New York Rangers did everything but win on Sunday.
With the Dallas Stars in the Big Apple for the first time in more than four years, the Blueshirts were unfriendly hosts, taking it to their infrequent guests from the opening faceoff.
But Stars goalie Mike Smith was downright sensational – he finished with 39 saves – and Brenden Morrow broke a 2-2 tie with a power play goal at the 4:04 mark of the third period ( 700K ), as Dallas extended its winning streak to five with a 3-2 victory over the Rangers at Madison Square Garden.
The Blueshirts were certainly left frustrated, considering they out-shot the Stars by a margin of 41-18, and held a 29-9 edge after 40 minutes. Smith sealed the victory with a save on Brendan Shanahan in the game’s final seconds ( 700K ), as the Rangers dropped to 1-2-1 in their last four, scoring just seven goals along the way.
''I don't have an answer for it,'' Shanahan said. ''We seem to get scoring chances, but we're not burying them with any real consistency.''
Meanwhile, the Stars are rolling, although a bulk of the credit goes to the goaltending. Dallas has allowed only five goals during this five-game winning streak.
''It seemed like the ice was tilted for a lot of the game, but we found a way to win and that's what you've got to do on the road,'' said Smith, who had four wisdom teeth pulled a little over a week ago. ''Sometimes it's not pretty.''
Jaromir Jagr gave the Rangers a 1-0 lead at the 6:30 mark of the opening period ( 700K ) for his first point since Nov. 14 at New Jersey – a stretch of five games. He did receive a bit of help from Stars’ defenseman Trevor Daley, who deflected Jagr’s intended pass for Martin Straka from the bottom of the left circle past Smith.
The Stars, however, tied the game with just 52 seconds remaining in the first. With the teams skating four aside, Jussi Jokinen took a pass from Stephane Robidas and beat Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist with a shot just inside the post ( 700K ) to make it 1-1. Robidas gained control of the puck after Scott Gomez fell in the Stars’ zone.
''I thought we played pretty good,'' Jagr said. ''We had a lot of chances, we just didn't score goals. We made some mistakes and they scored on it.''
The Rangers regained the lead just 1:02 into the second period on Shanahan’s seventh goal of the season ( 700K ). Following some solid forechecking behind the Stars’ net, Sean Avery sent the puck out in front for Shanahan, who fired a shot from the slot past Smith to give New York a 2-1 lead.
Once again, though, Dallas would even things up before the end of the middle period. With Rangers’ defenseman Jason Strudwick in the box for holding, Loui Eriksson notched his first goal of the season ( 700K ) as he found his way behind both Daniel Girardi and Marcel Hossa before beating Lundqvist at the 11:54 mark to make it 2-2. It was only the second shot on goal of the period for the Stars.
Despite being badly outplayed for the majority of the first two periods, the Stars somehow went into the second intermission locked in a 2-2 tie.
''It was a pretty good situation we were in considering how bad we were playing, and we only had one guy on board,'' Morrow said. ''We found a way and we kept it up.''
Indeed they did, as Morrow would tally what proved to be the game-winning goal with 15:56 remaining in regulation. After Paul Mara was whistled for holding, Morrow converted on an easy tap-in from Mike Ribeiro after the latter blew right past Girardi.
The Stars finished 2-for-3 with the man advantage and are 10-for-21 over the last seven games. With the victory, Dallas (12-7-4) improved to 5-0-1 since shaking things up in the front office. The Stars continue their six-game road trip – which will have them visit each Atlantic Division club – on Monday night against the New York Islanders at the Nassau Coliseum.
"We had high expectations at the beginning of the year and we weren't living up to it," Morrow said. "I don't know if it's a coincidence or not, but I kind of took it to heart. It came under my watch that that happened."
As for the struggling Rangers (13-9-2), they are idle until Thursday, when they’ll host the Islanders. The Blueshirts are 0-3 against Rick DiPietro and the Isles this season, with just four goals scored.
"We've got to chalk it up to be better, be tighter and understand that games like this will be played now and from the middle of April on," Rangers coach Tom Renney said. "We have to be prepared for these type of games, and win them."

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