The Dallas Stars continue to rack up the wins and points as they approach the playoffs. The Stars won for the fifth time in the past six games, defeating the Nashville Predators, 5-2, at American Airlines Center Tuesday night.
The game was closer than the score indicated, and it wasn’t a work of art at times, but it was another two points against a quality team for the Stars, who are 4-1-1 in their past six games against Western Conference playoff contenders. They improved to 17-7-3 vs. the Central Division, which will send five teams to the playoffs.
“I think it’s great that all year we’ve been playing against tough teams. Our division is tough. You aren’t making the playoffs unless you know how to play these teams,” said Stars center Jason Spezza. “I've always thought it makes it difficult to get into the playoffs, but if you do, everybody who's going to make it from our division knows how to play the game, knows how to play right."
The Stars improved to 46-22-9 (101 points) and hit the 100-point mark for the first time since the 2006-07 season.
“It’s a good accomplishment, not a lot of teams hit that,” said Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski. “We should feel good about that. The team has worked hard all year. We still have some time to add more points.”
The Stars also remained in first place in the Central Division due to their regulation/overtime wins (ROW) tiebreaker edge on St. Louis, which has an identical 46-22-9 record. There are five games left in the regular season, and the playoffs are a little more than two weeks away.
“I think we're doing a lot of good things, and we're getting good results because of it,” Spezza said. “We're trending in the right direction. The games are only going to get tougher and tougher here as we get going."
Jamie Benn scored two goals and Radek Faksa, Spezza and Patrick Sharp also scored goals. Goligoski had two assists and a plus-five rating. Kari Lehtonen stopped 28 of 30 shots.
"I thought Kari was excellent,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “He made some real good saves for us.”
The Predators (39-25-13), who lost at home to Colorado Monday, have dropped consecutive games in regulation for the first time since Feb 2-4.
“Our guys played really hard tonight,” Nashville coach Peter Laviolette said. “We made a couple mistakes, but our effort for the circumstances of traveling back-to-back; I thought our guys played real hard.”
The Stars went on the game’s first power play at 5:21 of the first period, but the Predators scored shorthanded to take a 1-0 lead. Ryan Ellis picked off a John Klingberg pass and scored off a blast from the right circle at the 6:21 mark.
The Stars tied it at the 10:55 mark when Jamie Benn got behind the Nashville defense, took a pass from Goligoski and scored on a breakaway to make it a 1-1 game.
The Stars took a 3-1 lead in the second period on two goals in a 46-second span. Faksa scored off the rebound of an Antoine Roussel shot off the rush at the 11:03 mark.
"It's my first home-game goal,” Faksa said. “I was very patient, and finally I get one."
Then, 12 seconds after Lehtonen stopped Mike Fisher after a Goligoski turnover, Spezza scored off the rush, making a nice move to get an open shot and snapping the puck past Nashville goaltender Pekka Rinne at the 11:46 mark.
“Val [Nichushkin] did a good job of driving the back post and if a guy drives the back post, some of the times you can catch the goalie leaning, and I made a good shot,” Spezza said.
Nashville pulled to within 3-2 at 14:41 of the second when Ryan Johansen set up Viktor Arvidsson, who scored off a one-timer from the left circle with the Predators on the power play. Nashville went on another power play less than a minute later, but Lehtonen came up with a big save on James Neal, who split the Dallas defense and got off a quality chance from 15 feet out.
Lehtonen made 12 saves in the third period, including a big stop on Calle Jarnkrok with 2:05 remaining and the Stars still clinging to a 3-2 lead. Nashville pulled Rinne for an extra attacker with 2:05 remaining and Benn scored ten seconds later to make it 4-2 Dallas. Sharp scored into the empty net 39 seconds after that to round out the scoring at 5-2.
*The Stars are 8-2-2 in their past 12 games overall.
*The Stars have won three straight at home and are 5-1-1 in their past seven games at American Airlines Center.
*Jason Spezza’s goal was his 30th of the season. It’s the fifth time the Spezza has hit the 30-goal mark in his career.
*The Stars now have three 30-goal scorers this season in Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Spezza. It’s the first time that’s happened in franchise history since 1992-93 when the Minnesota North Stars had four 30-goal scorers in Mike Modano, Russ Courtnall, Dave Gagner and Ulf Dahlen.
*Ales Hemsky registered an assist Tuesday, extending his points streak to five games (two goals, three assists). Hemksy has 11 points (four goals, seven assists) in the past eleven games.
*The Stars were 0-4 on the power play and 2-3 on the penalty kill.
*The Stars won 32 of 65 faceoffs (49 percent).
*Jason Spezza won 10 of 16 faceoffs (63 percent). Radek Faksa won 10 of 19 (53 percent). Cody Eakin won 6 of 14 (43 percent). Vernon Fiddler won 5 of 15 (33 percent).
*Alex Goligoski led the Stars with 24:39 of ice time.
The Stars conclude the homestand Thursday, taking on the Arizona Coyotes at American Airlines Center. The Coyotes have won the first two meetings, both in Arizona.
Jamie Benn – Cody Eakin – Patrick Sharp
Mattias Janmark – Jason Spezza – Valeri Nichushkin
Antoine Roussel – Radek Faksa – Ales Hemsky
Colton Sceviour – Vernon Fiddler – Patrick Eaves
Alex Goligoski – John Klingberg
Johnny Oduya – Stephen Johns
Patrik Nemeth – Jordie Benn
Injured: Kris Russell (lower body), Brett Ritchie (lower body), Tyler Seguin (Achilles), Jason Demers (shoulder)
Scratched: Travis Moen, Jamie Oleksiak
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.