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Stars open second half with big win over Ducks

by Curtis Zupke /
ANAHEIM, Calif. – The Dallas Stars don't need to be told about starting the second half strong.

Last season, Dallas came out of the All-Star break and lost nine of 10 games and eventually missed the playoffs with 95 points.

After more than a week off to get rested and healthy, Dallas began the second half with a 6-2 victory Wednesday night against the surging Anaheim Ducks at the Honda Center.
Dallas, which scored seven goals in its previous six games, got all-around workmanlike contributions in a six-goal breakout en route to its largest margin of victory this season.

Jamie Benn scored in his first game back from emergency appendectomy and third-line center Vernon Fiddler tallied an unassisted go-ahead goal. Stephane Robidas connected for a power play goal in the second and Sheldon Souray delivered the knockout blow with a shot through traffic just 36 seconds into the third.

"We didn't expect that kind of game tonight," Robidas said. "We just wanted to play hard and keep things simple. We've had trouble scoring goals lately. We got our guys back in the lineup. We're more healthy. A lot of our goals … were just rebounds. It wasn’t like all tic-tac-toes."

Dallas is built for a defensive game set around making the opponent make mistakes. The Stars have set aside a locker stall with a nameplate for "Pesky Stars."

But lately, Dallas coach Glen Gulutzan is seeing a change toward a more offensive mindset.

"You can see, even prior to the break, the way we were scoring and now you can see some guys realizing that, 'Hey, maybe I can a couple like that, too,'" Gulutzan said. "It gets contagious, and I thought it did a little bit tonight."

Anaheim had its season-high six game home winning streak snapped and suffered only its third regulation loss of 2012. Defense has played a big part of the Ducks' streak, but miscues led to two goals in the first period. Jonas Hiller allowed five goals for the first time since Dec.19.

"I thought we played 12 really good games in a row," Ducks coach Bruce Boudreau said. "Tonight, we didn't. We stunk."

The Ducks players are wearing t-shirts that read "I Believe," but each regulation loss makes it that much harder. Boudreau has stressed winning a week at a time.

"We're not going to win every single game for the rest of the year and we've got to take it that way," captain Ryan Getzlaf said. "We were on such a high, you can't get too low now. We've got to play the game. We have little goals along the way that we want to accomplish, and we got to work for Friday (against Columbus) now."

With a mostly healthy roster for the first time in three months, Dallas was looking for an uptick in offense and it came through with a three-goal opening period.

The latter two came quickly in a 69-second span in the second, both at the expense of Anaheim's defensive pair of Lubomir Visnovsky and Luca Sbisa.

Fiddler got the puck from Sbisa on the left side, toe dragged around a sprawled Visnovsky and wristed it past Hiller at 16:41 in what was Hiller's first bad goal allowed in a long time.

Michael Ryder won the puck from Visnovsky near the benches and got it to Steve Ott, who hit Benn for a top-shelf breakaway goal at 17:50 for a 3-1 lead.

"Three bad plays," Boudreau said of Dallas' first three goals. "The first one we got outmuscled in front of our net. The third one was just a terrible giveaway. The second one … again, outmuscled and outworked at the blue line. I don't want to say those things happen because I don't want them to happen, but that's what happened. We got outmuscled and we lost the battles."

Added Sbisa: "The only guy to blame is me."

The teams' third lines set the pace early with Eric Nystrom and Matt Beleskey making it 1-1. Nystrom outworked Andrew Cogliano for a bang-in rebound goal in front , his 15th of the season,  and Beleskey had his shot deflect off the right skate of Robidas.

Robidas was a plus-2 with eight hits and a blocked shot in addition to his one-timer for a 4-1 lead.

"I thought it was Roby's strongest game," Gulutzan said. "I don't know if he lost a one-on-one battle. He was a workhorse for us tonight. I thought that was the best game that maybe I've seen him play."

Dallas defenseman Nicklas Grossman was scratched with flu.
"He took warmup and said 'No go,'" Gulutzan said. "When a guy tells you he's 65-70 percent and hasn't eaten for a couple of days (he can't play)."

Kari Lehtonen made 33 saves for the Stars. Gulutzan said he will probably start Richard Bachman in goal Thursday against San Jose.

Teemu Selanne moved into a tie with Bernie Nicholls for 43rd on the all-time assists list with 734.
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