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Stars blank Blues, 3-0

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

The Dallas Stars refuse to lose two games in a row. For the tenth time this season, the Stars shook off a loss and bounced back with a win. After falling 3-2 in a shootout at St. Louis Saturday night, the Stars turned around and beat St. Louis, 3-0, at American Airlines Center Sunday evening.

“Tough to give up the point in the shootout loss [Saturday], but I thought our team bounced back with a great effort at home,” said Stars forward Patrick Sharp. “Three of four points coming out of the break is good.”

The Stars snapped a four-game losing streak against their Central Division rivals, including losses in the first two meetings this season. The Stars improved to 27-7-3 on the season and have a 6-2-1 record within the division, which they now lead by nine points over the Blues.

“It was important because when a team does have your number, it's tough to get out of that funk,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said of defeating St. Louis. “We've had that before with other teams, and the Central Division was a challenge for us last year and we've been up for that challenge so far this year.”

The back-to-back games between the Stars and Blues fueled some animosity. Sunday’s game was physical and featured two fights in the first seven seconds of the second period.

"I think that's just the rivalry that's building between these two teams,” said Stars captain Jamie Benn. “It's actually pretty fun out there, and I like what went on tonight."

There were some scrums, including one where Stars center Tyler Seguin jumped to the defense of Benn after the Dallas captain took a stick from St. Louis defenseman Robert Bortuzzo.

“There was some great emotion,” Ruff said. “I thought the job that [Antoine] Roussel and [Travis] Moen did [fighting] was as key as anything after the butt end to Benn, and I thought the fact that Seguin jumped in right away for his winger was impressive. This team's just getting closer and closer, and they care about each other, they play for each other and they all stepped in for each other, and that's pretty powerful.”

Benn and Sharp both had one goal and one assist for the Stars. Kari Lehtonen stopped 22 shots for his first shutout of the season and the 33rd of his career.

“You look at the game [Saturday] night and comparing it to today, it was night and day,” Lehtonen said. “We played a strong game both ends of the ice, and it was fairly easy for me to come back and get going.”

Special teams were huge for the Stars, who scored twice on the power play and thwarted two St. Louis power plays late in the third period to keep the Blues from getting back in the game.

“The [Blues} have really good special teams,” Ruff said. ”If you can win that battle you're going to win the game against them.”

St. Louis (22-12-4) got a 35-save effort from goaltender Brian Elliott, but were unable to give him any goal support.

“I thought the difference, their top players came to play, they set the tone for them, and that got us back on our heels,” said Blues coach Ken Hitchcock. “Our goalie was great.”

The Stars outshot the Blues 16-5 in the first period and cashed in on their second power play of the game to take a 1-0 lead late in the period. After Bortuzzo was penalized for slashing Jamie Benn after the whistle, Benn made a slick move to carry the puck into the St. Louis zone, and the end result was a sliding Sharp knocking home the rebound of his own shot with 1:57 left in the first.

“I heard the horn go, and I knew the puck was still sitting right there,” Sharp said. “Luckily, I didn’t slide too far by the net after being hit and was able to put it in.”

There were two fights in the first seven seconds of the second period. Roussel and Blues forward Troy Brouwer dropped the gloves three seconds into the period. Four seconds later Moen took on Bortuzzo.

“I wasn’t surprised by it,” Benn said of the fights. “We have such a good group in here that everyone is going to stick up for everyone, and we are a tight knit group. It was a pretty exciting way to start the second period.”

Elliott came up with a couple of big stops late in the second to keep it a 1-0 game, making a nifty glove save on Ales Hemsky with 6:18 left in the period and then stopping Colton Sceviour less than 30 seconds later.

But the Stars extended the lead early in the third period with their second power-play goal of the game. A Sharp shot deflected off Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester and to Benn, who scored from close range to make it a 2-0 game at the 40 second mark.

The Stars killed off two St. Louis power plays late in the third, and then Cody Eakin banked in a long empty-net goal with 1:32 remaining to push the Dallas lead to 3-0.

*The Stars and Washington Capitals are the only two NHL teams that have not lost consecutive games this season.

*Sunday’s shutout was the Stars’ second straight shutout at home. They defeated Chicago, 4-0, on Dec. 22. The Stars haven’t allowed a goal on home ice in 135:48 minutes.

*The Stars have allowed 15 goals in their past nine games for an average of 1.67 per game.

*The Stars are 6-2-1 vs. the Central Division.

*The Stars are 4-1-1 in the second game of back-to-backs this season.

*The Stars outshot the Blues 38-22 and had a 79-48 advantage in attempted shots.

*Ales Hemsky led the Stars with six shots on goal. Hemsky and Sharp led the Stars with nine attempted shots.

*The Stars were 2-3 on the power play and 2-2 on the penalty kill.

*Dallas won 37 of 69 faceoffs (54 percent).

*Tyler Seguin won 9 of 15 faceoffs (60 percent). Cody Eakin won 8 of 15 (53 percent). Jason Spezza won 11 of 21 (52 percent). Vernon Fiddler won 4 of 11 (36 percent).

*Alex Goligoski led the Stars with 23:23 of ice time. Johnny Oduya was next with 23:15.

The Stars hit the road for a game in Columbus on Tuesday and then return home to take on the Nashville Predators on New Year’s Eve.

Jamie BennTyler SeguinPatrick Sharp

Mattias JanmarkJason SpezzaAles Hemsky

Antoine RousselCody EakinColton Sceviour

Travis MoenVernon FiddlerValeri Nichushkin

Alex Goligoski
John Klingberg

Johnny OduyaJason Demers

Jyrki JokipakkaJordie Benn

Kari Lehtonen

Antti Niemi

Patrick Eaves, Jamie Oleksiak, Patrik Nemeth

Injured: None

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 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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