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Stars start homestand by dominating Wild

by Steve Hunt

DALLAS -- Energy and emotion were the underlying themes of the 20-minute closed-door meeting Dallas Stars coach Lindy Ruff called Tuesday morning. He got exactly what he was looking for a few hours later in a resounding 4-0 win against the Minnesota Wild at American Airlines Center.

"We wanted to come out with a lot of energy and leave it on the ice," captain Jamie Benn said. "We really had nothing to lose. I thought we played a great team game tonight."

Dallas, which won the opener of a three-game homestand, got goals from Vernon Fiddler and Erik Cole in the first period, Ray Whitney in the second and Jordie Benn on a penalty shot in the third. Alex Goligoski contributed two assists and Kari Lehtonen made 18 saves to earn his second shutout of the season and 24th of his career.

"He made key saves tonight," Ruff said of Lehtonen. "The second period was a key save, I thought. Halfway through, they had only seven or eight shots. Sometimes that's tough on a goaltender."

It was a measure of revenge for a 3-2 overtime win at home by the Wild (27-20-5) on Saturday.

"When you're losing, the dressing room's not great," Jordie Benn said. "We came in today and had good spirits, and we did pretty good tonight."

The Stars entered Tuesday with a 1-8-1 record in January.

"We didn't make the big individual mistakes, which was a big deal. Tonight I can point to maybe one or two plays that weren't good," Ruff said. "We turned it over once in the first period, but we got it back. The individual mistakes were missing tonight."

Fiddler's wrister from the high slot at 13:18 of the first period gave the Stars an early lead. It was Fiddler's first goal in 28 games, since a penalty-shot goal Nov. 5, 2013, against the Boston Bruins, and came on a shot that sailed over the glove of Wild goaltender Darcy Kuemper.

"It's been a little bit of a tough year offensively. At the end of the day I am not paid to score goals, I am paid to play defense and anytime you can score goals it is obviously nice," Fiddler said. "It helps out your team and takes relief off your top guys. I think as we go on here down the stretch, our roles have to help out with scoring some goals."

Dallas (22-20-8) doubled its lead at 16:45 when Cole beat Kuemper on the glove side with a blistering shot from almost dead-center in the left circle for a power-play goal.

Goligoski was credited with his second assist of the night on the goal. Dallas went on the power play after Minnesota's Justin Fontaine was called for delay of game at 15:53.

The Stars outshot the Wild 12-3 in the first period.

"We won the opening faceoff and we spent 40 seconds in our own zone. That's a bad sign right there that we weren't ready to execute and to get going the right way," Wild coach Mike Yeo said. "It just trickled on from there."

Whitney scored his sixth of the season and the Stars' second of the game on the power play at 13:18 of the second. After some impressive stickhandling that drew Kuemper away from the net, Whitney slipped the puck over the goal line from the left side of the net despite Wild defenseman Nate Prosser's attempt to clear the puck.

Dallas was on the power play after Fontaine was whistled for high sticking at 11:20.

Through two periods, the Stars outshot the Wild 28-9. For the game, Dallas outshot Minnesota 36-18.

"We can't keep getting doubled up on shots and expect to have good results," Wild center Kyle Brodziak said. "We need to better every single area of the game-coming out of the zone, getting pucks in their zone, keeping pucks in their zone. PK's got to be better. PP's got to be better. We've got to be better in every single area."

Benn's goal, his second of the season, came at 11:22 of the third when he beat Kuemper on a penalty shot after Kuemper slid his stick at Benn to impede him on a breakaway.

"Probably my second or third year in the minors. I did that exact move, and it worked," Benn said when asked about his last penalty-shot goal. "That's the only move I have, the only one I've ever tried, and it worked again."

The Wild's best chance to break the shutout came midway through the third period when a wrister from Jason Zucker rang off the left post.

"They were better than we were all around," Minnesota forward Jason Pominville said. "We were undisciplined. Their power play was good. Ours wasn't that good. They brought more energy, kind of frustrated us a little bit in not giving us time and space. We weren't able to generate enough quality scoring chances to win a game."

Kuemper stopped 32 shots for Minnesota.

Each team returns to the ice on Thursday, when the Wild host the Chicago Blackhawks and Dallas hosts the Toronto Maple Leafs.

"We're going to put this one in the garbage," Yeo said, "and we're going to get refocused for the next one."

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