It wasn’t pretty, but it was another two points for the Dallas Stars, who ran their winning streak to three games by grinding out a 3-1 win over the Buffalo Sabres Tuesday night at First Niagara Center.
“I thought we played the game pretty well the right way. We limited the opportunities,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “I thought [the Sabres] played a great game. They gave themselves a chance to win. It was a hard-fought game.”
And it came to down to a coach’s challenge that helped thwart a Buffalo rally. The Stars scored in the game’s first minute, extended the lead to 2-0 in the third and then had to hold off a late push by the Sabres, who appeared to tie the game at 2-2 on a power-play goal with a little more than six minutes remaining. But the Stars challenged, saying Buffalo’s entry into the zone was offside. The Stars won the challenge, and Buffalo lost the goal.
“That was sharp by our video coach, Kelly Forbes, to spot that,” Stars captain Jamie Benn said. “Then we stepped up as a group and got the job done. We killed the rest of that penalty and got the win.”
The Stars improved to 15-4-0 on the season and tied Montreal and the New York Rangers for most points in the league at 30. Valeri Nichushkin, Jason Spezza and Tyler Seguin scored the goals. Antti Niemi, making just his second start in the past 15 days, stopped 24 of 25 shots.
“It wasn’t easy early because I didn’t get too many shots, so it was kind of harder to get into the game,” Niemi said. “In the second, I started to get a few more shots, and I started feeling pretty good.”
The Sabres dropped their second straight game and fell to 8-9-1 on the season.
“We played a very good team tonight, the Dallas Stars. I thought we played them tooth and nail the whole way,” Buffalo coach Dan Bylsma said. “You feel like you score the power-play goal to tie (but it gets disallowed), it’s disappointing.”
Nichushkin scored just 51 seconds into the game to give the Stars a 1-0 lead. After barreling down the left wing, Nichushkin centered the puck, drove the net and took a pass from Antoine Roussel before backhanding the puck into the open side of the net for his second goal of the season.
The Stars extended the lead to 2-0 at 7:35 of the third period when Goligoski took a pass from Mattias Janmark off the rush, put a shot on net that Spezza deflected past Sabres goaltender Linus Ullmark.
But the Sabres made things interesting after the Stars got into some penalty trouble. With Jamie Benn in the box for cross-checking, Ryan O’Reilly scored from the right circle to make it a 2-1 game at the 13:03 mark.
“It was a stupid penalty at a pretty important time of the game,” Benn said. “I can’t be putting my team in that situation at that time in the game.”
Just 13 seconds later, Goligoski headed to the box for delay of game after shooting the puck over the glass. Sam Reinhart scored at the 13:53 mark to tie the game, but the Stars challenged on Buffalo being offside and the goal was disallowed.
“People were yelling offside right away on the entry,” Ruff said. “The mechanics are that our assistant coaches are in Kelly Forbes’ ear right away. Kelly came right back and said it was offside. Within five seconds, Kelly had it nailed.”
“I knew it was offside before the puck went in,” Bylsma said. “I wasn’t 100 percent, but I had a pretty good idea it was offside before it went in. I didn’t need to wait to hear about the call. It’s certainly disappointing.”
The game stayed at 2-1 until Seguin sealed the win an empty-net goal with 1:27 remaining, giving the Stars their sixth win in the last seven games and pushing them 9-2-0 in their past eleven.
*The Stars are 8-2-0 on the road.
*The Stars are 9-3-0 vs. the Eastern Conference.
*The Stars lead the NHL with 9 empty-net goals.
*The Stars outshot the Sabres 29-25 and had a 60-52 advantage in attempted shots.
*Alex Goligoski led the Stars with four shots on goal.
*Goligoski and Tyler Seguin both had eight attempted shots.
*The Stars were 0-1 on the power play and 2-3 on the penalty kill.
*The Stars won 46 of 75 faceoffs (61 percent).
*Jason Spezza won 13 of 18 faceoffs (72 percent. Cody Eakin won 11 of 17 (65 percent). Vernon Fiddler won 9 of 14 (64 percent). Tyler Seguin won 8 of 14 (57 percent).
*John Klingberg led the Stars with 24:17 of ice time.
The Stars conclude their two-game road trip at Washington on Thursday.
Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Patrick Sharp
Mattias Janmark – Jason Spezza – Patrick Eaves
Colton Sceviour- Vernon Fiddler – Ales Hemsky
Antoine Roussel – Cody Eakin – Valeri Nichushkin
Alex Goligoski – John Klingberg
Johnny Oduya – Jason Demers
Jyrki Jokipakka – Jordie Benn
Scratched: Travis Moen, Jamie Oleksiak
Conditioning: Patrik Nemeth
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.