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Stars grind out 3-2 win over Jets

Antti Niemi comes up big in goal with 28 saves

by Mark Stepneski @StarsInsideEdge / Inside Edge

The Dallas Stars shook off a growing number of injuries at forward and found a way to grind out a 3-2 win over the Winnipeg Jets Tuesday night at American Airlines Center.

"The guys played a heck of a game," said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. "Battle was good, our compete was good, we got to the net, we generated the type of opportunities that most nights you'll get three or four [goals]."

With Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky the latest players to go out of the lineup for the Stars, who are missing six regular forwards, Ruff juggled his lines and got contributions throughout the lineup. Seven of the 12 forwards dressed in the game registered points. Brett Ritchie, Patrick Eaves, and Tyler Seguin scored goals. Devin Shore had two assists, and Justin Dowling picked up an assist in his NHL debut. Curtis McKenzie and Lauri Korpikoski had assists as well.

"I thought we had a great night out of [Dowling's] line. We got a good night out of the Shore line," Ruff said. "Obviously, [Seguin] had a heck of a goal off the wing. There were some opportunities there from all four lines."

The Jets had plenty of opportunities as well, but the Stars received a big game from goaltender Antti Niemi, who was making his first start since Oct. 15. He stopped 28 of 30 shots, and several of his saves were big ones.

"The breakaways and two-on-ones that they had. It was huge," said Stars defenseman Jordie Benn. "He made some big saves especially when we needed it."

The Stars, who bounced back from a lackluster 3-0 loss to Columbus on Saturday, finished a three-game homestand 1-1-1 and are now 3-2-1 on the season.

"[The difference tonight] was our ability to do our jobs," Benn said. "Lindy has drilled it into our heads that we just need to go out and do your job and make sure you do that and everyone else will do theirs, and we will be successful."

The Jets lost for the fourth time in their past five games and fell to 2-4-0 on the season.

"I thought we played a pretty good game," Jets goaltender Michael Hutchinson said. "I thought we had a bunch of offensive chances and generated a lot. Their goalie made some good saves."

Niemi came up huge in the first period, making three big saves to keep the Jets off the board. He stopped Shawn Matthias on a point-blank bid, Alexander Burmistrov on a breakaway and then Matthias again. Moments after the second stop on Matthias, the Stars got a two-on-one rush and Ritchie finished off a pass from McKenzie to put the Stars up 1-0 at the 14:37 mark.

In the second period, the Stars killed off two Winnipeg power plays, and as the second one was winding down, Gemel Smith drew a penalty to give the Stars their third power play of the night. Shore pulled the puck out of a pile and set up Eaves, who scored from the slot to put the Stars up 2-0 at the 5:02 mark. It was the 100th goal of Eaves' career.

"It's pretty cool. I've been fortunate to play with a lot of good players, and it's really nice," said Eaves, who was aware he was sitting at 99 goals. "I saw it on the sheet. I needed one, so it's nice to get it out of the way. More importantly, it helped towards a divisional win."

Niemi was sharp again in the second, making 12 saves including a big stop on a Toby Enstrom point-blank backhand shot with 34 seconds left in the period. But a short time later, Niemi misplayed the puck behind the net, and Joel Armia scored into an open net with five seconds in the period to cut the Dallas lead to 2-1.

Seguin made it a 3- 1 game at 7:27 of the third period, picking a corner from the right circle for his third goal of the season.

Jets forward Mark Scheifele scored a power-play goal with 8.8 seconds remaining in the game to cut the Dallas lead to 3-2, but Winnipeg didn't have enough time to get a shot at the equalizer, and the Stars snapped a two-game losing streak.

"I think we were all on the same page tonight," Eaves said. "We had a good video session and corrected some things. We had young guys come and step up and play with great pace and then we had goaltending that was great. It started from the goaltending out tonight, and I just thought we were all on the same page."


*The Jets outshot the Stars 30-26 and had a 65-53 advantage in attempted shots.

*Patrick Eaves led the Stars with six shots on goal. John Klingberg led the Stars with nine shot attempts.

*Jordie Benn led the Stars in ice time (24:35), hits (4) and blocked shots (4).

*Patrick Eaves' goal in the second period was the 100th of his NHL career.

*Justin Dowling assisted on the Eaves goal for his first NHL point.

*The Stars were 1-6 on the power play and 3-4 on the penalty kill.

*The Stars won 38 of 68 faceoffs (56 percent).

*Radek Faksa won 10 of 17 faceoffs (59 percent). Tyler Seguin won 10 of 18 (56 percent). Devin Shore won 7 of 17 (41 percent).

Stars Lineup

Antoine Roussel - Tyler Seguin - Lauri Korpikoski
Jamie Benn - Radek Faksa - Patrick Eaves
Curtis McKenzie - Devin Shore - Brett Ritchie
Gemel Smith - Justin Dowling - Adam Cracknell

Patrik Nemeth - John Klingberg
Dan Hamhuis - Esa Lindell
Johnny Oduya - Jordie Benn

Antti Niemi
Kari Lehtonen

Scratched: Stephen Johns, Jamie Oleksiak
Injured: Jason Spezza (undisclosed), Ales Hemsky (groin), Jiri Hudler (illness), Patrick Sharp (concussion-like symptoms), Cody Eakin (knee), Mattias Janmark (knee)

Watch: Postgame Quotes

Lindy Ruff: "The guys played a heck of a game. Our battle was good, our compete was good, we got to the net."

Tyler Seguin: "We thought we earned our opportunity to win tonight."

Patrick Eaves: "Division points are huge."

This story was not subject to 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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