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Stars close out 2015 with 5-1 win over Predators

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

The Dallas Stars closed out the calendar year 2015 in impressive fashion, defeating the Nashville Predators, 5-1, before a sellout crowd at American Airlines Center.

It was a strong response to Tuesday’s 6-3 loss in Columbus for the Stars, who have not lost consecutive games this season. In the 11 games the Stars have played after a loss, they are 11-0-0 and have outscored their opponents 50-24.

“We’re a good team at bouncing back,” said Stars center Tyler Seguin. “Obviously, we knew we didn’t really play good at all in Columbus. We really had to get back to it. We know our goals are going to come, and we’re good enough up front at creating things. I’m happy with how we played in our own end tonight.”

The Stars and Predators played a pretty tight game through the first two periods, but the Stars scored late in the second to take a 2-1 lead and then put the game away with three goals in the third.

“We got back to our game and took care of our own net first. I think it all starts there,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “If you don’t spend a lot of time in your own end, it’s a pretty tight game. I think the schedule for both teams, you could see there was probably not the most energy the first two periods, but we played the game the right way and ended up with the win we needed.”

The win pushed the Stars’ record within the Central Division to 7-2-1. The Stars are 4-0-1 against division foes over the past 11 days.

“Our talk in training camp was how we were going to start the year, how we were going to be at home and how we were going to be against our own division,” said Seguin. “We have a long way to go, but in those statement games or playoff-type games, we’ve played really well, so we’re going to keep that consistent and keep building.”

Seguin scored two goals, Jamie Benn had one goal and one assist and Mattias Janmark and Patrick Eaves also scored. Jason Spezza had two key primary assists. Antti Niemi stopped 33 of 34 shots for his 16th win of the season.

The Stars improved to 28-8-3 (59 points) on the season and moved one point ahead of Washington for the most points in the NHL.

Nashville (18-13-7) lost for the ninth time in their past 11 road games (2-6-3).

“We didn’t play well enough to win tonight,” said Predators coach Peter Laviolette. “We started OK but didn’t finish the game the way we needed to.”

After more than 30 minutes of scoreless hockey and even play between the two sides, the Predators and Stars scored two goals in 91 seconds in the second period. Mike Ribeiro set up Craig Smith, who scored on a backhand shot off the rush to give Nashville a 1-0 lead at 11:22 of the second.

The Stars answered when Benn shook off a check by Mattias Ekholm, got to a loose puck, skated in on net and beat Predators goaltender Pekka Rinne with a shot from the left circle at the 12:53 mark.

“That’s a big league goal by a great player,” said Spezza. “Not many guys score that goal. That’s what he does, makes something out of nothing sometimes. He can turn the game completely over.”

The Stars took a 2-1 lead late in the second when Spezza stole the puck just inside the Nashville blue line, drove the net and set up Janmark, who scored into the open side of the net from close range at the 17:28 mark of the period.

The Stars broke the game open with two goals in the first half of the third period. Spezza picked off an Ekholm pass behind the Nashville net and centered the puck to Eaves, who scored from close range to make it 3-1 at 3:56 of the third.

Seguin made it 4-1 at the 8:03 mark, driving the Nashville goal and putting the rebound of his own shot on net that Rinne grabbed with his glove. It was not called a goal immediately, but after a lengthy review officials determined the puck was over the goal line.

“I told Pekka right away that I was pretty sure it was in,” Seguin said. “I was talking to him a little bit out there tonight while he was in the net and he said there was no chance. Once I saw the replay, or I actually heard the crowd, I kind of figured it was in.”

Seguin scored again at the 15:56 mark, beating Rinne with a shot off the rush from the right circle to make it a 5-1 game as the Stars closed out 2015 with a win.

“We played the game the right way,” Ruff said. “To come back with a win tonight and have a full building with our fans, it’s a great way to finish the year off.”


Nichushkin leaves game with lower-body injury

Stars forward Valeri Nichushkin left Thursday’s game late in the second period with a lower-body injury and did not return. Stars coach Lindy Ruff said that Nichushkin is day to day.

Ruff also said that Ales Hemsky’s lower body injury is a “week-to-week thing.” Hemsky, who was injured in Tuesday’s game at Columbus, was placed on injured reserve Wednesday.


*Jamie Benn scored his 24th goal of the season, which is tops in the league.

*Tyler Seguin’s two goals give him 23 for the season, which is tied for second in the NHL.

*Benn ranks second in the NHL with 52 points and Seguin ranks third with 50.

*Benn has points in seven straight games (4 goals, 7 assists).

*Patrick Sharp has points in seven straight games (4 goals, 6 assists).

*The Predators outshot the Stars 34-32. The Stars had a 61-56 advantage in attempted shots.

*Sharp led the Stars with six shots on goal. Benn and Seguin led the Stars with seven attempted shots each.

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

*The Stars won 39 of 65 faceoffs (60 percent).

*Jason Spezza won 9 of 12 faceoffs (75 percent). Tyler Seguin won 10 of 15 faceoffs (67 percent). Cody Eakin won 10 of 19 (53 percent).

*Alex Goligoski led the Stars with 21:55 of ice time.


The Stars head off on a three-game road trip, taking on New Jersey, New York Islanders and New York Rangers.


Jamie BennTyler SeguinPatrick Sharp

Mattias JanmarkJason SpezzaValeri Nichushkin

Antoine RousselCody EakinColton Sceviour

Travis MoenVernon FiddlerPatrick Eaves


Alex Goligoski
John Klingberg

Johnny OduyaJason Demers

Jyrki JokipakkaJordie Benn


Antti Niemi

Kari Lehtonen


Injured:
Ales Hemsky (lower body)

Scratched: Jamie Oleksiak, Patrik Nemeth, Radek Faksa

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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