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Stars snap six-game slide by beating Oilers

by Steve Hunt

DALLAS - It took seven tries, but the Dallas Stars finally found the win column in 2014.

Dallas snapped a six-game slide Tuesday night by beating the Edmonton Oilers 5-2 at American Airlines Center. Erik Cole scored 14 seconds into the game, Ryan Garbutt finished with three points and captain Jamie Benn contributed a goal and an assist.

Trevor Daley contributed an empty-netter and an assist and Kari Lehtonen made 31 saves for Dallas, which hadn't won since beating the Los Angeles Kings 3-2 on New Year's Eve.

"Obviously it's been a grind. It was good to get it," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "I thought we came out great. A little lull in the second period, the last half of the second I thought we played well. And then the third we played it pretty smart through the period."

The sense of relief wasn't confined just to Ruff. Benn spoke for the entire room in admitting how glad they were to get into the win column in 2014.

"You have no idea," he said.

Cole's 12th goal of the season got the Stars off to a fast start. He flicked a wrister into an open net while Oilers goaltender Ilya Bryzgalov had his attention diverted by Daley, who fed Cole in the low slot.

"That first one, that's not a mistake. It's a broken play," Oilers coach Dallas Eakins said. "It hits the linesman. We start to turn back to support it and suddenly it's bang in behind us and we recovered. But then [Ryan] Nugent-Hopkins falls down. Whether that's a mistake or not, that's not a good way to start the game, down like that."

The Oilers tied it at 3:40 when Justin Schultz beat Lehtonen with a backhander following a pass from Taylor Hall, who assisted on both Edmonton goals. Schultz received the pass inside the right circle and worked his way in front before beating Lehtonen with a backhand at the far post for his fifth of the season.

Garbutt put Dallas ahead to stay at 8:35 when he tipped in a loose puck home the crease. Ray Whitney, who was skating in his 1,300th game, started the sequence by attempting a wraparound from the right side of the Edmonton net. Bryzgalov stopped Whitney's initial effort, but the puck deflected off the goaltender's glove and elbow and landed in the middle of the crease, where Garbutt tapped it in.

"I was just going to the net and I think Whitney pushed it out front," Garbutt said. "I was battling with the D and put it in."

Ruff singled out Garbutt's continued strong play.

"I thought Ryan's play was excellent, he made some great plays. He hit a crossbar in the second period and he's really skating well," Ruff said. "Obviously he's a difference maker, he's an energy guy for us and it was nice to see him get rewarded because that line has worked hard, he's worked real hard. I'm pushing him for a better level of discipline inside his game and he's getting rewarded for it. Tonight I thought might have been one of his best games."

It became 3-1 at 10:22 when Benn beat Bryzgalov to the short side from the left circle for a power-play goal. WithSam Gagner in the box for interference, Tyler Seguin delivered a pass from near the Edmonton blue line to Benn, who scored his 16th goal of the season.

Eakin made it 4-1 by converting a pinpoint passout from the corner by Antoine Roussel 1:10 into the second period, a goal that left Eakins unhappy with his team's effort.

"I thought we got moved off the puck real easy. I didn't like the battle at all that we put up getting into the corner," he said. "I thought Andrew Ference was a little overzealous maybe trying to close on the second guy where we'd just like him to just come and hold in front of the net."

Edmonton came close to narrowing the margin at 4:09 of the second, but Ryan Nugent-Hopkins' wrister from the right circle found the crossbar.

The Oilers did get one back at 10:28 when Gagner knocked in a rebound for a power-play goal. With Benn off for tripping, Hall's pass deflected first off Daley and then Lehtonen, allowing Gagner an easy backhand at the near post.

Late in the second period, Oilers right winger Ales Hemsky left the ice and did not return for the final 20 minutes.

"He took a heater in the ankle. It's swelling up on him quite quickly," Eakins said. "The early X-ray doesn't show anything, but I think we're going to have to delve a little deeper and get another look at it."

Bryzgalov stopped 25 shots for Edmonton, which has dropped seven of its past nine games. Eakins lifted him with 3:00 remaining in regulation but the Oilers were unable to score with the extra attacker before Daley hit the empty net with 39 seconds to play.

"When you're trying to dig yourselves back out of a hole, despite playing very well, it's tough to do no matter who you're playing against," Oilers captain Andrew Ference said.

The Oilers continue their four-game road trip against the Minnesota Wild on Thursday, the same night the Stars host the Boston Bruins.

"We're pretty happy with this one," Garbutt said. "First win of 2014, we just have to keep it going. We played hard as a team. We've had some tough breaks in this little slide here but we got some breaks and some bounces tonight. We worked hard for the bounces."

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