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Practice Pays Off as Stars Top Devils, 4-3

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

Three days of practice that included some hard work and addressed issues in their game paid dividends for the Dallas Stars Saturday night. The Stars ended a three-game homestand with a 4-3 win over the New Jersey Devils at American Airlines Center.

Those practice days followed Tuesday’s 5-2 disappointing loss to the Winnipeg Jets. The Stars focused on defensive play, getting pucks to the net and – maybe most important – work. Practice didn’t make perfect, but the Stars played better and got two points.

“We got reminded of how hard we have to work out there each and every game,” said Stars captain Jamie Benn. “I think we did a pretty good job tonight.”

“The coach wanted us to respond, and I thought we responded for the most part tonight,” said Stars defenseman Trevor Daley.

The Stars started strong, building a 2-0 lead in the first period. New Jersey bounced back to tie the game in the second period, but the Stars, who have cracked at times this season, answered with two goals late in the second to take control of the game.

“We put a lot of work in these past three days and were like, ‘Listen, we deserve this. Let’s make these last three days worth it.’ I thought the guys responded really well,” said Stars forward Shawn Horcoff. “And we did a really good job of narrowing it down in the third.”

Tyler Seguin and Jason Spezza both registered one goal and one assist for the Stars, who improved to 11-13-5 on the season. Daley and Horcoff also scored. Antoine Roussel chipped in with two assists. Kari Lehtonen stopped 28 of 31 shots.

The Devils (11-15-5) dropped their second straight game and fell to 2-6-3 over their last 11 contests.

“We still got a lot of games left. It was a tough game, no question about it,” said Devils forward Jaromir Jagr. “We have to regroup.”

The Stars struck for two goals late in the first period to take a 2-0 lead. Just 13 seconds after their first power play expired, Erik Cole set up Seguin, who scored from the slot off the rush at the 14:29 mark to put Dallas up 1-0.

A little more than a minute after New Jersey’s Michael Ryder rang a shot off the post, Seguin set up Spezza at the side of the net and Spezza scored off the rebound of his own wrap-around attempt to make it a 2-0 game at 17:00 of the first.

“Obviously early in the game they had a lot of jump in the first period and we shot ourselves a few times, gave them some rush stuff,” said Devils coach Peter DeBoer. “That’s one of the highest-scoring teams in the league and you’re not going to totally shut them down.”

New Jersey went on its first power play of the night early in the second and cashed in quickly. Jon Merrill scored from the left circle at the 4:26 mark to cut the Stars’ lead to 2-1.

The Devils drew even 3:20 later when Eric Gelinas fired the puck through a maze of bodies and past Lehtonen to make it a 2-2 game at 7:46 of the period.

The Stars scored two goals in 1:57 late in the second to build their lead back to two goals. Roussel sent a cross-ice pass to Daley, who scored off a one-timer from the right circle at the 14:55 mark to give the Stars a 3-2 lead.

“Roussel made an unbelievable play. He kept the puck down as we cycled it,” Daley said. “We did a great job in the offensive zone today of cycling the pucks, taking pucks to the net and throwing pucks at the net. We did a great job. That was a theme in our practices this week was getting pucks to the net and I thought we responded.”

Vernon Fiddler then set up Horcoff, who scored from close range off the rush at the 16:52 mark to make it a 4-2 game.

Cory Schneider, who started in goal for New Jersey, was replaced by Keith Kincaid to start the third period. The Stars held the Devils off the board until late in the third. With Kincaid pulled for an extra attacker, the Devils cut the Dallas lead to 4-3 when Scott Gomez scored from close range with 1:07 left. But that was as close as the Devils would get and now the Stars set their sights on a three-game road trip to Western Canada.

“It really is one game at a time. Let’s move on to the next one,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “I thought the guys put in a lot of work and were very receptive to what we tried to do for a couple of days. We’ve got a good practice day before we leave and we’ve got to have a good road trip. We’ve got to get back to playing good hockey on the road again.”

Notes

*The Stars went 2-1-0 on their homestand and are 6-6-5 at American Airlines Center.

*The Stars outshot the Devils 36-31.

*Tyler Seguin led the Stars with seven shots on goal.

*Seguin scored his league-leading 23rd goal of the season.

*Seguin leads the NHL with 38 points.

*The Stars were 0-2 on the power play and 1-2 on the penalty kill.

*The Stars won 40 of 67 faceoffs (60 percent).

*Jason Spezza won 13 of 18 (72 percent). Cody Eakin won 12 of 22 (55 percent). Vernon Fiddler won 9 of 16 (56 percent).

*Trevor Daley led the Stars with 22:03 of ice time.

*Stars forward Curtis McKenzie fought Devils forward Jordin Tootoo in the first period.

*The Stars recalled defenseman Jamie Oleksiak from the Texas Stars prior to Saturday’s game. He was a healthy scratch.

*The Stars ran a video tribute during the first TV timeout recognizing Devils forward Jaromir Jagr for moving into fifth place on the NHL’s all-time scoring list.

Stars lineup

Jamie BennJason SpezzaTyler Seguin
Antoine RousselCody EakinAles Hemsky
Curtis McKenzieTravis MorinErik Cole
Shawn HorcoffVernon FiddlerColton Sceviour

Alex GoligoskiJohn Klingberg
Jyrki JokipakkaTrevor Daley
Jordie BennJason Demers

Kari Lehtonen
Jussi Rynnas

Suspended: Ryan Garbutt

Scratched: Jamie Oleksiak

Injured: Travis Moen (upper body), Patrick Eaves (ankle), Valeri Nichushkin (hip), Patrik Nemeth (arm)

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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