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Heika's Take: If Stars play like they did Tuesday, many wins will follow

Dallas executed its game plan to perfection and took down the soaring Oilers by a 4-1 score

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

DALLAS -- In a lot of ways, the Edmonton Oilers made things simple for the Stars Tuesday night.

Coming in with the two leading scorers in the NHL and the top-ranked power play, the Oilers were a fairly easy game plan for Dallas: Stay out of the penalty box and defend as a team.

Take advantage of your opportunities.

The Stars did all three and walked away with their most complete win of the season - a 4-1 muscle flex against the now 13-5-0 Oilers in front of a sellout crowd of 18,532 at American Airlines Center - creating a big boost of confidence heading into Thanksgiving and pushing the record above .500 (8-7-2) for the first time since Game 5.

"We had a really good game plan, and we stuck to it for 60 minutes," said defenseman John Klingberg, who finished with three assists. "We know who they have on the other side there, the two best players in the league, so it was a lot of focus on them, obviously, and the rest kind of took care of itself. So, it showed a lot of good things for us. That's the way we need to play."

Video: 'We had a really good game plan and stuck to it'

The game was scintillating in its simplicity. Dallas controlled play, earned two power plays early and cashed in on both in the first period. That created an environment of confidence that allowed the Stars to play with poise against one of the most dangerous teams in the NHL. Edmonton has the two leading scorers in the league in Leon Draisaitl and Connor McDavid, as well as a power play that's clicking at almost 40 percent. But the Stars allowed the top duo just five shots on goal and the greatly feared man advantage just 55 seconds of ice time.

It was a patient performance in which Dallas maintained control throughout.

The two power-play goals were huge. Edmonton entered not only with the best power play, but a penalty kill that ranked second overall and first on the road. The Oilers had allowed just six power-play goals against in 17 games.

So when Jacob Peterson drew a tripping penalty, Stars players knew the importance of the opportunity. Klingberg patiently waited at the top of the slot and looked for the perfect crossing of his players. The veteran defenseman whistled a shot into a crowd and both Alexander Radulov and Roope Hintz tipped the puck. It nestled into the net behind Stuart Skinner and Dallas had the all-important first goal.

Five minutes later, Denis Gurianov's speed helped cause a too-many men penalty, and Klingberg was right there again. This time, the slippery ghost of Gothenburg found Hintz in the left circle, and Hintz fed across the ice to Jason Robertson, who snapped home his fourth goal of the year for a 2-0 lead.

"They were moving it great on both units," said Stars head coach Rick Bowness. "It was good to see Klinger get on the board on the power play, he was outstanding tonight on both sides of the puck. We've got two really good units."

Video: 'That was just a solid team effort'

Klingberg tied a career-high for assists in a game and doubled his total on helpers for the season. Just as important, he and the entire group of defensemen did a fantastic job holding McDavid and Draisaitl in check. Klingberg logged 26:03 and blocked three shots. Miro Heiskanen was on the ice for 22:43, much of it against McDavid.

Bowness said the entire team did a great job of concentrating on defense first.

"It takes a group of five working together with everyone on the same page," he said. "We tried to take away the middle of the ice and push them to the outside. If they come through the middle of the ice, they're going to do a lot of damage. Our forwards have to come back hard through the middle and protect the middle of the ice while pushing them to the outside and then they're a little easier to contain."

The Stars were able to stretch the lead to 3-0 in the second period on a fantastic rush by Gurianov, and that was huge when Edmonton cut the deficit to 3-1 heading into the third period.

Video: Pavelski on team's recent success

Then, once Luke Glendening tipped in a Ryan Suter shot in the third to make it 4-1, the focus was on keeping McDavid off the scoresheet. It was the first time this season where last season's leading scorer didn't get a point in a game.

"I think we took time and space away from him and played him pretty hard, so he didn't have that much time to make plays," Heiskanen said. "But, of course, he's great and will always have some chances, but I think we played really well against him tonight."

Video: Heiskanen on the win against Edmonton

And in concentrating on that small task, it allowed the team to play the right way: the Dallas Stars way. Focus on team defense and the offense will follow.

"Get your offense from good defense, frustrate them, get your power play working, stay out of the box so we can get guys rolling," Bowness said. "We did what we had to do. Everyone bought in and it was just a solid team effort."

The kind that could win a lot of games if they just could find a way to repeat it on a consistent basis.

Don't miss your chance to see the Stars close out their homestand this Friday against the Colorado Avalanche at 6:30 p.m. Get your tickets now!

This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club.

Mike Heika is a Senior Staff Writer for DallasStars.com and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika.

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