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Niemi, Stars shut out Sabres for fifth straight win

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

The Dallas Stars made it five straight wins, topping the Buffalo Sabres, 3-0, at American Airlines Center Saturday night. Antti Niemi stopped 22 shots for his second shutout of the season and 34th of his career.

“It's always nice [to get the shutout], but I just worry about the win,” Niemi said. “3-0, 3-1, I just want the win.”

The win was the eighth in the past nine games for the Stars and pushed their league-best record to 17-4-0 on the season.

"You just can't afford to [think about 17-4-0],” said Stars captain Jamie Benn. “St. Louis is right behind us. We have a pretty good record, but there's no slowing down."

The Stars, off to the best start in franchise history, got the only goal they would need from Antoine Roussel early in the first period. Benn sealed the win by scoring twice in the third period, which was dominated by Dallas.

“Maybe it's the speed that we bring that wears the teams down, and in the third period it just opens up,” Roussel said. “Everybody's working hard, and our captain took the game away. That's awesome.”

The Star won the special teams battle. The penalty kill was 3-3 and shut down a Buffalo 5-on-3 opportunity early in the second period. The power play struggled on its early chances but came up with a big goal in the third period to extend the lead to 2-0.

“Our special teams were big because they had that early opportunity on the five-on-three. I thought we had a great kill,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “That power play goal was big.”

The Sabres dropped their fourth straight game (0-2-2) and fell to 8-10-2 on the season.

“Early first we definitely had some good quality chances. We got to capitalize on those for sure, but we got to stick with the game,” said Sabres captain Brian Gionta. “We lost the momentum there. Again, deflating 5-on-3 doesn’t help. It could get us right back in the game; there’s some disappointing things for sure.”

The Stars scored the only goal of the first period. John Klingberg sent a long pass to Roussel, whose shot from just beyond the top of the left circle off the rush hit a Buffalo defender’s stick and got past goaltender Chad Johnson at the 6:22 mark.

“It’s great. I don’t think I’ve ever scored on my birthday,” said Roussel, who turned 26 on Saturday. “Maybe once in Junior, but it’s great. It gave me a lot of confidence going into the game, and it was nice.”

Niemi stopped eight shots in the first including two slick saves on Matt Moulson, one 15 seconds into the game and then another with just over four minutes left in the period.

There was no scoring in the second period, but both teams had their chances. Buffalo had 51 seconds of 5-on-3 power play time to start the second but couldn’t take advantage. The Stars had a four-minute power play nine minutes into the period, but couldn’t generate much.

The highlight of the period came at the 2:11 mark when Stars defenseman Jamie Oleksiak pounded Buffalo’s Nicolas Deslauriers in a fight, landing numerous blows to the head.

“It was good to see,” Benn said. “He’s a good player for our team, and I think his game elevated after that too. To see him throw his hands up in the air after the fight, he was pumped up, and he definitely got the crowd going.”

“I just try to come in and do my job,” said Oleksiak, who was playing in just his fifth game of the season. “I didn't want to try too much. We've been playing so well as a team, and didn't want to come in and try to do too much and create some mistakes. I think it brought a lot of energy to the game.”

The Stars dominated the third period, outshooting the Sabres 17-9 and scoring twice to put the game away. After Oleksiak drew a penalty to take Buffalo off a power play, the Stars cashed in when they got their chance with the man-advantage. Benn scored off the rebound of a Jason Spezza shot at the 7:11 mark.

“I thought Jamie [Oleksiak] did a great job drawing that penalty, and we got refocused on our power play,” Ruff said. “I thought we did a hell of a job on that last power play. Great net front and we got back inside.”

Less than two minutes later Benn struck again, taking a slick pass from Tyler Seguin off the rush and burying a shot from close range to make it 3-0 at 9:04 of the third. And that’s the way it stayed as the Stars continued to rack up the wins and the points.


Stars defensemen Jason Demers left the game in the second period with a lower-body injury, and he did not return.

“We'll see how he is tomorrow, but I think he'll miss a little bit of time,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said.

The Stars were also without defenseman Jordie Benn, who did not play Saturday due to illness.

“[Sunday] is a day off, so we'll see where he is,” Ruff said of Benn. “Hopefully he'll be able to skate on Monday.”

With Benn out, Jamie Oleksiak played in just his fifth game of the season. And he had a big impact. He gave the Stars a shot of energy when he pounded Nicolas Deslauriers in a fight, and he drew the penalty that led to the Dallas power play goal that extended the lead to 2-0.

“He had a big impact on the game for us tonight,” Ruff said. “Arguably one of our best, physical down low, set the tone with the fight he was in, drew the penalty that got us the goal we needed to get. I thought he moved his feet and had some good breakout. And even, the penalty kill, which he was really good at. It's important for these guys to stay ready and help us win games."


*The Stars are 11-3-0 vs. the Eastern Conference.

*The Stars are 8-2-0 at home.

*The Stars outshot the Sabres 32-22 and had a 72-49 advantage in attempted shots.

*Jamie Benn led the Stars with six shots on goal.

*Tyler Seguin led the Stars with eight attempted shots.

*The Stars won 26 of 54 faceoffs (48 percent).

*Jason Spezza won 12 of 16 (75 percent). Tyler Seguin won 5 of 8 (63 percent). Cody Eakin won 6 of 15 (40 percent). Jamie Benn won 2 of 8 (25 percent). Vernon Fiddler won 1 of 7 (14 percent).

*John Klingberg led the Stars with 23:39 of ice time.


The Stars continue their homestand when they take on the Ottawa Senators Tuesday at American Airlines Center.


Jamie BennTyler SeguinPatrick Sharp

Mattias JanmarkJason SpezzaPatrick Eaves

Antoine RousselCody EakinValeri Nichushkin

Colton SceviourVernon FiddlerAles Hemsky


Alex Goligoski
John Klingberg

Johnny OduyaJason Demers

Jyrki JokipakkaJamie Oleksiak


Antti Niemi

Kari Lehtonen


Injured:
Jordie Benn (illness)

Scratched: Travis Moen

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.

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