Stars coach Lindy Ruff joined some elite company Monday night. Ruff became the 12th coach in NHL history to win 600 games as the Stars defeated the Buffalo Sabres, 3-2, at American Airlines Center.
Ruff’s milestone win came against the team he coached for 14-plus seasons and racked up 571 of those wins.
“It means I am on my way to 700, hopefully. I said to someone if I get 30 more losses I’ll have 500 of those too,” Ruff quipped after the game. “It means that I’ve had a lot of good players, coached some real good players. I had some real good teams. Those wins, for the most part, belong to the guys who go out on the ice and get them for you.”
On this night it was the Dallas Stars who went out and got him the win behind goals by Jordie Benn, Alex Goligoski and Alex Chiasson and a 21-save effort from goaltender Kari Lehtonen.
“Everybody knew that if we won tonight it would be his 600th win,” said Chiasson. “When you’ve won 600 in the league it means you’ve been around for a bit and you’ve been successful. We’re happy for him and we hope getting a win against his old team makes it a lot better.”
Chiasson’s power play goal with 9:35 remaining snapped a 2-2 tie and gave the Stars their eighth victory in the last 12 games (8-2-2). Jordie Benn and Alex Goligoski also scored for the Stars, who dominated play at times, but had a hard time putting away the scrappy Sabres.
“We stuck with it,” said Goligoski. “It’s one of those games where nothing really came easy as far as getting results. It felt like we had to just keep sticking with it and keep sticking with it.”
The Sabres got a superb 36-save effort from goaltender Jhonas Enroth and two goals from Tyler Ennis, but had a three-game winning streak come to an end.
“The first couple periods, I didn’t think we were in the game at all and if it wasn’t for Johnas, I don’t think that the score would have been as close as it was,” said Sabres coach Ted Nolan. “I thought in the third period we played a bit better. We took a bad penalty, again. They capitalized and that was the difference.”
The Stars dominated play in the first, but failed to score on their three power play chances and Buffalo’s Tyler Ennis scored on a two-on-one rush to put the Sabres up 1-0 with 2:43 left in the period.
The Stars made it a 1-1 game early in the second when Jordie Benn scored from the left point at the 1:30 mark.
The Stars had some good sustained pressure late in the period and it paid off when Shawn Horcoff made a nice pass to set up Goligoski, who scored from close range with 5.1 seconds left in the second to give the Stars a 2-1 lead.
Both goaltenders came up big early in the third. Enroth stopped Tyler Seguin from the slot and then Lehtonen stopped Marcus Foligno on a three-on-two Buffalo rush.
The Sabres drew even at the 3:23 mark when Ennis scored off the rebound of a Jamie McBain shot that bounced to the front of the net off the end boards.
The Stars took the lead by cashing in on their fifth power play of the night when Jamie Benn’s blast from the high slot deflected off Chiasson and into the net. The goal snapped a 12-game goal scoring drought and was just the second in the last 33 games for the Stars rookie.
“I wish it went off my stick, but just knowing that I am in the right places, and it hit me in the shin guard there,” Chiasson said. “They are going to start going in if I keep playing hard and keep getting to my spots.”
Lehtonen came up with a couple big stops with just under five minutes remaining, making back-to-back stops on Brian Flynn and Zemgus Girgensons to help preserve the Stars’ lead and secure Ruff his 600th victory.
“It’s huge to get that for him,” said Jordie Benn. “He’s obviously a very decorated coach. It’s good to play hard for a guy like that. He’s a great guy and a great coach.”
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.