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playoffs

Stars shoot themselves to Game 4 win

Dallas rides power-play goals to 3-1 series lead against Wild

by Dan Myers / NHL.com Correspondent

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- All season long, the Dallas Stars had one of the most potent power plays in the NHL, an advantage that escaped them through the first three games of their Western Conference First Round series against the Minnesota Wild.

The Stars were 1-for-13 with the man-advantage but broke out in Game 4 at Xcel Energy Center on Wednesday, scoring two power-play goals in a 3-2 win.

Dallas leads the best-of-7 series 3-1 with Game 5 at American Airlines Center on Friday (9:30 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN360, TVA Sports, FS-N, FS-WI, FS-SW).

Improving on the power play was a point of emphasis during Dallas' off-day practice on Tuesday, and the Stars took a much simpler approach to making it more successful.

"We finally started shooting pucks," Stars captain Jamie Benn said. "There's a lot of power plays, it seems like, in these playoffs. You watch other teams and they're just shooting the puck and good things happen. We figured that's what they were doing, and it turned out to be pretty good."

Video: DAL@MIN, Gm4: Hemsky beats Dubnyk from circle for PPG

Dallas' power-play goals weren't things of beauty; Ales Hemsky's goal that tied the game at 1-1 in the second period came with a screen in front and a simple point shot that got through traffic.

After Minnesota answered with a quick goal to take a 2-1 lead, Dallas converted another power play on a shot from the point by defenseman Kris Russell that was tipped in front by Patrick Eaves.

"It's hard to score the pretty ones," Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. "Both teams defend really well, so it's about trying to get that edge inside and trying to find a way to get the puck to go in the back of the net."

But it wasn't just the power play that needed work. Minnesota won the special-teams battle in a 5-3, Game 3 victory. Ruff called Game 4 "the most important of the series" following the morning skate Wednesday. He also said he thought the Wild were better in Game 2, which the Stars won 2-1. Minnesota carried that effort into their win Monday.

Ruff knew that answering on special teams would be critical if the Stars were going to give themselves a chance to clinch the series on home ice Friday.

Video: DAL@MIN, Gm4: Eaves tips the puck for power-play goal

Dallas scored on its two power-play opportunities Wednesday and blanked Minnesota on its four power-play chances, including a stretch of 1:24 to close the game with Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk on the bench creating a 6-on-4.

"We stayed inside," Ruff said. "We've done a good job this year when we have the lead to make sure we stay away from the high quality (shots against). A lot of times, you'll see teams where the shots will go up against, but you just can't quite get the quality because you don't leave the middle of the ice very often."

Minnesota outshot Dallas 14-2 in the third period, but few, if any, of those chances came from prime scoring areas. With the Wild having no choice but to shoot from anywhere, the Stars did a good job of clearing bodies so goaltender Antti Niemi could see.

"We kept doing the same thing we've done pretty good so far: blocking shots, blocking the lanes so they can't get it through there straight," Niemi said.

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