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Stars jump to 4th in West by beating Wild 4-0

by Steve Hunt
DALLAS --  The Stars continue to have the Minnesota Wild's number in Dallas. On Friday, that number was 14.

Kari Lehtonen had to stop just 14 shots for his first shutout with the Stars and Dallas extended its home winning streak against the Wild to 14 games with a 4-0 victory at the American AirlinesCenter on Friday night.

Jamie Benn extended his goal-scoring streak to six games by beating Jose Theodore 12:02 into the game, and the Stars blew it open with three goals in 91 seconds late in the second period as they improved to 6-0-2 in their last eight games.

"We had a great end to the second period," Dallas coach Marc Crawford said. "I give our guys a lot of credit because they smelled the blood in the water and they really did have a killer instinct at the end of the second period. We had put together four or five really good shifts in a row and when we got our chances, they ended up burying them."

The win gives the Stars 82 points and jumped them to fourth place in the Western Conference, one point in front of Chicago, Los Angeles, Phoenix and Calgary. Minnesota, which lost 4-0 at Nashville on Thursday, is four points out of a playoff berth with 77. The Wild hasn't won in Dallas since a 4-3 overtime victory on March 21, 2003.

"No sugar-coating; it's tough," Minnesota center Matt Cullen said. "This is going to be a good test for our team. We have to respond. We can't sit here and complain and whine. It's two tough games."

The only negative for the Stars was that forward Adam Burish left the game after two periods with a lower body injury.

"He's been playing with a lot of soreness here lately. I think the doctors and trainers all thought with a 4-0 lead, it was a good opportunity for us to do that," Crawford said. "We'll see how he is tomorrow."

Benn opened the scoring when he controlled the puck in the neutral zone, skated up the right side and beat Jose Theodore with a backhander. The goal came after each team misfired on a pair of early power plays. Dallas got its advantages when the Wild was twice called for having too many men on the ice.

After the Wild controlled the play for a large portion of the second period, Dallas made it 2-0 when Trevor Daley scored at 15:52. His shot deflected off the stick of Minnesota's Kyle Brodziak and ended up in the back of the net.

The Stars wasted no time landing a knockout blow.

Just 1:13 after Daley's goal, Tom Wandell slipped one inside the near post for his career-high sixth goal of the season. All-Star center Brad Richards got the secondary assist, his first since returning from a 10-game absence because of concussion-like symptoms on Tuesday.

Only 18 seconds later, Mike Ribeiro made it 4-0 by converting a poor clearance by Cullen from behind the net for his 15th goal of the season to make it a four-goal game.

"We were in the game up to that point," Minnesota coach Todd Richards said. "I felt we were starting to outplay them somewhat in the second period but the game got away from us. We gave them goals."

Lehtonen's shutout was his first in 67 games with the Stars, who acquired him from Atlanta last February. His last previous shutout came March 10, 2009, at Colorado, when he was a member of the Atlanta Thrashers.

"It was nice. I wasn't really thinking about it that much any more, because it didn't seem like it was ever coming," Lehtonen said. "There was not much going on there the whole game, so I need to give a ton of credit to our guys and how well they played. That helped me out there."

In his second game back from injury, Richards logged 18:47 of ice time and finished with two shots, one assist and was plus-1. The Stars also welcomed back defenseman Niklas Grossman, who missed 11 games with a hip injury.

"Brad Richards is getting better. You're starting to see a few flashes of his speed," Crawford said. "It's going to bode well for us as we keep moving forward."

a hip injury.

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