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Stars blank Panthers, lose Seguin with injury

by Steve Hunt /

DALLAS -- The Dallas Stars got two much-needed points by defeating the Florida Panthers 2-0 at American Airlines Center on Friday for their third consecutive victory. Kari Lehtonen made 37 saves for his 31st career shutout, and Jamie Benn and Jason Spezza scored first-period goals.

But the win was costly as the Stars (26-21-9) lost three players, including their top scorer, Tyler Seguin, with injuries.

With 6:55 remaining in regulation, Seguin, the NHL's third-leading scorer, was sent sprawling to the ice when Florida defenseman Dmitry Kulikov caught him low and upended him just inside the Florida blue line. Kulikov was assessed a major penalty for clipping and a game misconduct on the play; Seguin had to be helped to the dressing room and didn't return.

"Tyler is going to be re-evaluated [Saturday]," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "We'll have probably a better idea (then), but it looks like he's going to miss some time too."

Panthers coach Gerard Gallant had no problem with the penalty.

"It was the right call. It was a five-minute game misconduct, so there's no issue," Gallant said.

However, Gallant wouldn't speculate about whether Kulikov will face additional sanctions from the League.

"I don't know what's going to happen, to be honest with you," Gallant said.

Ruff was very unhappy with the hit.

"It's a dirty shot," Ruff said. "We'll let the League deal with it. I used to yell and scream about it, but it doesn't do any good. It's just a shot that didn't need to happen."

Dallas center Vernon Fiddler, who assisted on Benn's shorthanded goal, also took exception to the hit.

"I think it's a gutless play for their [defenseman] to do that. (Seguin)'s released the puck, and (Kulikov) comes across and takes his knee out," Fiddler said. "There's no room in the game [for that], and it's not a good play. It's a gutless play on his part, and we'll have to deal with that at a later time."

The Stars then lost Eaves with 6:04 remaining after he was struck in the right side of the head by a wrist shot from rookie defenseman John Klingberg. Dallas was on the power play after the Kulikov penalty when Klingberg's shot struck Eaves, who also had to be helped off the ice.

"Eaves is on the way to the hospital to get x-rays," Ruff said. "He took a pretty good shot there to the head. He has had a previous injury there, so we're fairly concerned with him."

Dallas had already lost right wing Ales Hemsky to a lower-body injury early in the first period. Hemsky did not return.

"He's going to miss some time," Ruff said. "It's been a tough night on the injury front."

Ruff said the Stars will call up two forwards from their American Hockey League affiliate, the Texas Stars, before their game against the Colorado Avalanche in Denver on Saturday.

Benn's shorthanded goal at 9:27 of the opening period put Dallas ahead to stay. Spezza scored at 17:09 after a dazzling spin-o-rama created space inside the Florida zone.

Benn scored off the rush, knocking in a backhand pass from Fiddler for his 19th goal of the season. After Florida forward Nick Bjugstad sent the puck off the boards, rookie defenseman Aaron Ekblad was unable to control the puck near the Dallas blue line. The puck then struck Fiddler's skates to start his rush up the right side. Fiddler hit Benn in stride and Benn beat goaltender Al Montoya for Dallas' League-leading ninth shorthanded goal of the season.

"I saw [Ekblad] with his head down a little bit and I knew he was rolling a bit so I just tried to pressure him as much as I could," Fiddler said. "I saw Jamie coming a little bit late to the net and I'd rather have Jamie shooting it than me."

The Panthers (24-19-11) were on the power play after a high stick by Eaves at 8:30 that drew blood to the face of Shawn Thornton. Eaves was assessed a double minor.

"We knew that they were really good on the penalty-kill. They cheat," Florida defenseman Erik Gudbranson said. "I think that they have the most shorthanded goals in the League, and we knew that coming in. Obviously that's a tough pill to swallow early in the game like that; that's not how we wanted to start."

Dallas doubled its lead with 2:51 remaining when Spezza scored his 11th of the season with a shot from the slot following a spin move that allowed him to shake Ekblad. Spezza gained possession inside the Panthers' zone and then faked out both Ekblad and Montoya with his spin before scoring with a wrist shot into the left side of the net.

"I got the defense crossed up, and kind of got them crossed up again," Spezza said of his goal. "I just tried to snap a quick one and it was nice to see it go in."

Being able to hold that lead for the final two periods was a big confidence-builder for Dallas, which has struggled holding leads, especially on home ice.

"It was huge," Lehtonen said. "I think it was against Colorado when we were up two goals going to the third, and we were not able to hold it. Now we did, so we have to be happy with it."

Montoya made 26 saves, including a big glove stop on a Cody Eakin wrist shot from the slot 3:04 into the second period to keep it a two-goal game.

Florida lost despite outshooting Dallas 37-28.

"I wouldn't say we didn't generate offense but we didn't generate great scoring chances," Gallant said. "But hey, we worked hard and we competed and we got some good chances. I liked our game."

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