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Montgomery: More production needed from Stars' slumping scorers

The Dallas head coach says top players must 'step up and do more' following an overtime loss to Winnipeg

by Mike Heika @MikeHeika / Senior Staff Writer

WINNIPEG, Manitoba -- Jason Dickinson made an executive decision Sunday afternoon.

The Stars center had a chance to make an early change after a puck was sent deep into the Winnipeg Jets' zone, but he decided to instead go in on the forecheck. Dickinson, who was already relentless on a previous trip into the offensive zone on the same shift, pushed his body to come up with more energy. And when he did, he was able to take a puck from Jets defenseman Neal Pionk and feed Mattias Janmark for a goal that tied the game at 1-1 in the second period.

It was a huge moment for the Stars in what would turn out to be a 3-2 overtime loss.


[WATCH: All highlights from Stars' loss to Jets]


"Honestly, going into that forecheck, I was initially thinking, `I've got to change here,' but an opportunity presented itself and I thought if I took a good angle I would be able to create something," Dickinson said. "It was just a matter of everything falling into place at the right time."

Which is kind of what the Stars need to do to score goals this season. They rank 30th in scoring. They play a game that is aggressive, but also smart. They have to work really hard to create their scoring chances. That's exactly how they scored their two goals Sunday. Dickinson drove the play on the first goal, and Radek Faksa did it on the second (a Faksa tip of an Esa Lindell shot), giving Dallas a 2-1 lead after two periods.

Video: DAL@WPG: Montgomery on Stars' overtime loss to Jets

"Across the entire league, it's being able to take advantage of your opportunities," Dickinson said. "Especially us. There's no lie about it, we don't score a ton of goals -- we need to take advantage of every chance we get."

Which is one reason the overtime loss is so disappointing. The Stars had long stretches where they controlled play and kept the Jets away from goalie Anton Khudobin. The Jets had one shot on goal for the first half of the first period and two for the first half of the second period. A Winnipeg team (10-7-1) that is neck and neck with Dallas (8-8-2) in the race for a playoff spot could have lost on home ice.

But the Jets received a couple of big plays from a couple of big players. Patrik Laine pounded a one-timer on the power play in the final minute of the first period, salvaging what had been a bad start for Winnipeg. Then, Mark Scheifele won the game in overtime, buzzing in on Khudobin in transition and slipping a shot inside the post just 21 seconds in.

It was a bit of a tutorial on how important top players are. Laine has been struggling this year, but he scored his fourth goal of the season by doing something few people in the league can do. He unleashed a blazing shot on the power play, and there was no way Khudobin could stop it, let alone see it.

Scheifele now has seven goals on the season, and he made a smart move in the overtime, racing up the right wing and ending the contest with a calm and veteran shot that gave the Jets a big win in a game where they didn't play their best.

Video: DAL@WPG: Dickinson, Janmark connect to knot the score

For whatever problems the Jets are having, they are trying to get the most from their best players.

Dallas, on the other hand, continues to struggle with its big guns. While Tyler Seguin had five shots on goal and has one goal and four assists in the past five games, he still is behind his normal scoring pace with 11 points in 18 games. Jamie Benn, meanwhile, has been AWOL from the scoring list. He has one point in the past seven games and one goal on the year.

The man who was a top-five NHL scorer for a span of five seasons and had 79 points as recently as 2017-18, is in a year-and-a-half slump. Benn had 53 points in 78 games last season, and has six points in 18 games this year. He has scored one goal on the year.

Asked how he feels about his traditional scoring leaders this season, Stars coach Jim Montgomery said: "Very disappointed."

Benn played a season-low 13:03 Sunday and had one shot on goal.

Video: DAL@WPG: Dickinson picks up assist, but Stars fall

Asked what the coaching staff has done to help spark scoring, Montgomery said: "Reduce ice time … we're trying video one-on-one sessions, all of those things. They've got to decide that they want to be a difference-maker. I mean, look who scored for the Jets (Laine and Scheifele). We got really big goals by Janmark and Faksa, and that's our third and fourth line."

Faksa has five goals on the season. Roope Hintz, who currently is out two weeks with a lower body injury, has nine. Alexander Radulov has five and Seguin three. Joe Pavelski has three, Corey Perry two and Benn one.

Asked if he's frustrated in the one goal so far, Benn said: "No, not really, actually."

"You get pretty much at least one Grade-A scoring chance per game, and you either put it in the back of the net or you don't," Benn said. "There's chances there, so you have to find a way to put it in the back of the net."

Benn said the players can't get too goal-driven, because team play and attention to detail is how they have gone 7-1-1 in their past nine games.

Video: DAL@WPG: Faksa redirects Lindell's shot into the net

"We believe that with our system, we're going to get chances," he said. "We haven't been successful just because we've been lucky as of late, it's because we believe in what we're doing. We're just going to stick with that."

If they continue to win, they might be able to do that. If they start to fritter away standings points -- as they might have done Sunday -- the pressure will start to boil again.

That reality is something the players have to measure when they are out there every shift trying to make something positive happen, all the while trying to be as cautious as they can be.

With Hintz out for two weeks because of a lower-body injury and John Klingberg out two to four weeks with a lower-body injury, the Stars' depth will be severely tested. If the top players could get back to scoring paces that were achieved as recently as last season, things would be a little bit easier for the Stars.

"It's really important," Montgomery said when asked if having the lead players step up in the absence of Hintz and Klingberg was important. "You need your No. 1 center and No. 1 left winger to step up and do more."

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 and has covered the Stars since 1994. Follow him on Twitter @MikeHeika, and listen to his podcast.

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