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Stars score four power-play goals to defeat Jets

by Patrick Williams /

WINNIPEG -- The Dallas Stars' power play has struggled this season, but it delivered for them this week.

A hot power play was the last thing that the Winnipeg Jets needed to see, and the Stars made them pay for a lack of discipline in a 5-2 victory Saturday at MTS Centre.

Dallas, which was ranked 25th in the NHL on the power play entering the game, scored four times on eight opportunities. The four power-play goals were the most in a game this season for Dallas. The Stars' power play went 7-for-16 to help Dallas go 2-1-0 on a three-game Canadian road trip.

"[The Stars] have some guys up front that can make you pay, and that was the difference," Jets captain Andrew Ladd said.

The win moved the Stars (23-19-7) within seven points of Winnipeg. Dallas has two games in hand on the Jets, who hold the Western Conference's first wild-card spot for the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Stars begin a two-game homestand against the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday.

"I feel like we're right there," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "We're not that far out. We're knocking on the door of a [Playoff] spot, and we've got to keep knocking."

Patrick Eaves, Shawn Horcoff and Jason Spezza had power-play goals for Dallas. Rookie defenseman John Klingberg added two insurance goals, one with the extra man, in the third period and also had two assists. Center Tyler Seguin had three assists for his League-leading 18th multiple-point game.

"I thought the desperation was good," Ruff said. "Obviously they were trying to play really physically. They took a few penalties. The only way you can stop the physical play is by putting the puck in the back of the net. For us, we had the opportunities. If you don't take [advantage of] those opportunities, then it keeps coming."

Winnipeg has been shorthanded a League-high 210 times, and a parade to the penalty box cost the Jets in their third consecutive loss. Winnipeg has allowed five goals in each of the three losses, and seven of those goals came on the 13 power-play opportunities the Jets surrendered.

"We took some bad penalties," said Jets coach Paul Maurice, who benched defenseman Zach Bogosian for much of the second and third periods after two slashing penalties.

Ladd and Toby Enstrom scored for Winnipeg (26-17-8). The game was the first of seven consecutive games against the Western Conference for the Jets, who visit the Calgary Flames on Monday.

Kari Lehtonen, making his sixth consecutive start, made 38 saves for the win. Lehtonen stopped 17 of 18 shots in the second period. Jets rookie goaltender Michael Hutchinson had 27 saves and has allowed nine goals in his past two games.

In this third game since returning to the lineup after a 21-game absence because of a lower-body injury, Eaves scored his fifth goal of the season on the Stars' first power play of the game. Seguin's left-side shot bounced to Eaves, who put the rebound past Hutchinson at 5:13 of the first period. Eaves has two power-play goals since his return.

Winnipeg outshot Dallas 16-4 in the first half of the second period, and Ladd tied the game at 10:14 after sustained Winnipeg pressure on Lehtonen. Ladd took a pass from defenseman Mark Stuart before snapping a rising shot past Lehtonen. He has 18 goals, tying him with linemate Bryan Little for the team lead.

A second slashing penalty to Bogosian, who had been benched for a stretch of 18:31 after his first penalty, set up the Stars' second goal. Horcoff tipped defenseman Trevor Daley's shot past Hutchinson at 14:21 for his seventh goal.

Dallas made it 3-1 at 18:47 with its third power-play goal after Winnipeg's Dustin Byfuglien took a delay-of-game penalty for shooting the puck over the glass. Spezza grabbed the rebound of Seguin's long point shot on the power play and jammed it into the net for his ninth goal.

Klingberg's eighth goal 4:31 into the third period off a shot through Colton Sceviour's screen made it 4-1. The four-point game for the 22-year-old defenseman, a fifth-round pick in the 2010 NHL Draft, was a career-high.

"He has played well us," Ruff said of Klingberg, who ranked second among all Dallas players in ice time with 22:38. "He is a young [defenseman] that has some skill. For a young [defenseman], he took a beating a few times out there tonight and kept playing."

After a scrum led to a 5-on-3 Dallas power play, Klingberg's ninth goal made it 5-1 at 8:40. Enstrom's second goal of the season with 7:14 left in the game finished the scoring.

"We talked before the game that special-teams was going to be important," Klingberg said. "We need the points, so obviously it was a big game for us."

If the Stars are to barge back into the Western Conference race, they will be relying on Lehtonen, who has played 271 games since the start of the 2010-11 season, his first full season with Dallas. Lehtonen has played in 42 of the Stars' 49 games this season.

"That's fine, especially because I'm feeling good right now," Lehtonen said of his workload. "It's fun to go out there and play. Every game is so important, so that makes it even more fun.

"There were some bounces that went my way," Lehtonen said of his performance against Winnipeg. "You need that to [win] a game like that. I think the [past] two games have been pretty solid games. I just have to keep working. It's still a long way to go."

The Jets' penalty kill has abandoned them at the worst possible time. A top-10 penalty kill for most of the season, the Jets had slipped to 16th in the League by the end of the game after the 4-for-8 performance Saturday.

"I'm not very excited about our penalty kill right now," Maurice said. "That's the big challenge right now. Our penalty kill is struggling. We're not moving at anywhere near the rate of speed and assuredness and the routes that we're running. We're slow on our kill right now, and that's a confidence [issue]."

The penalty kill is showing signs of strain and disrupting Maurice's player usage. Ladd warned that team discipline will need to improve quickly.

"It's something that we need to get better at," Ladd said. "I think that at times you try to wind yourself up as much as possible emotionally, trying to finish every check and get involved in the game, and sometimes we've been taking it too far. It's something where we have to get better at walking that line and being more disciplined."

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