“It’s good to get the two points,” said Stars defenseman Alex Goligoski. “We know we are not where we should be. We got a little sloppy over this last period here. It will be nice to get a break and the two points tonight was big.”
The Stars came into Monday’s game with five losses in their past six games and eight in the first ten games of January, but they grinded out the victory over the Flames. The Stars took a 2-0 lead on goals from Benn and Jason Spezza early in the second period, and they held off the Flames the rest of the way.
“I guess it wasn’t pretty, but two points are two points,” Benn said. “It was a grind, and we got the job done.”
The win gave the Stars a 31-14-5 (67 points) record heading into the break. They rank second in both the Western Conference and Central Division and third overall in the NHL.
“It’s important to know that we had a bad month, but it’s important to know that we are a good team. We know how we play when we have success,” Spezza said. “We’re in a good position. Things could be a lot worse. Teams go through ups and downs, and the natural thing is to start to split hairs a little bit. We just need to take a deep breath and get back to how we were playing at the start of the year.”
The Dallas special teams – a sore spot in Saturday’s loss to Colorado – were key in Monday’s win. The penalty kill was 5-5 and stopped three straight Calgary power plays in the second period with Dallas holding a 2-0 lead.
“Our penalty kill was good,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “I thought our goaltender made some big saves on the kill but overall the killing was improved, and we kept them off the board, so that was an improvement.”
Antti Niemi stopped 23 of 24 shots for his 18th win of the season.
“They get a couple of power plays and some really good looks, and he has to make some huge saves,” said Goligoski. “He was awesome. He's the reason why we won tonight.”
The Flames (21-23-3) wrapped up a five-game road trip with a 1-3-1 record and fell to 2-5-1 in their past eight games.
“I thought the first period wasn’t good, but we weathered the storm. I thought the second was better, but they got those two goals,” said Flames captain Mark Giordano. “It’s a weird game sometimes, and obviously, I thought we pushed in the third really hard, and we had some great looks tonight. Myself, it starts with me, I’ve got to bury one of those.”
There was no scoring in the first period. The Stars had a 9-3 shots advantage, but the best scoring chance belonged to the Flames. Michael Frolik broke in alone on net but was turned away by Niemi 3:22 into the game.
The Stars scored two goals in 80 seconds early in the second period to take a 2-0 lead. Valeri Nichushkin sent the puck from behind the goal line to Benn, who made a slick move to slip around a sliding Calgary defender and then backhanded the puck past Flames goaltender Karri Ramo at the 2:43 mark.
“I thought Jamie skated well,” Ruff said. “I thought physically he won some battles, and there was a real good play by Val to get him the puck in the middle of the ice and then score a great goal. His legs were moving again, and he seemed like a different player for me tonight."
The Stars extended the lead when John Klingberg sent a cross-ice pass to Spezza, who put the puck into the open side of the net at 4:03 of the period.
The Flames had three power plays later in the second, had some good looks but couldn’t cash in and the Stars took a 2-0 lead into the second intermission.
The Flames struck early in the third to cut the Dallas lead to 2-1. Jiri Hudler set up Joe Colborne, who scored from close range at the 1:49 mark. But that was as close as the Flames would get and the Stars got a big two points to take them into the break.
“To go into the break with the win is good and you can go in with a positive mindset,” said Ruff. “Then when we come out, we know we have some work to do. You get one day of practice, a short day of practice, and you’re right back at it, and we know how tough a grind it’s going to be.”
*The Stars had a 3-6-2 record in January.
*The Stars outshot the Flames 30-24 and had a 69-55 advantage in attempted shots.
*Jamie Benn led the Stars with four shots on goal and Patrick Sharp was tops with seven attempted shots.
*Benn’s goal was his 28th of the season. He is tied for second in the NHL.
*The Stars were 0-2 on the power play and 5-5 on the penalty kill.
*The Stars won 28 of 54 faceoffs (52 percent).
*Vernon Fiddler won 8 of 10 faceoffs (80 percent). Jason Spezza won 6 of 9 (67 percent). Cody Eakin won 4 of 7 (57 percent). Tyler Seguin won 5 of 11 (45 percent). Mattias Janmark won 2 of 9 (18 percent).
*Alex Goligoski led the Stars with 24:38 of ice time.
*Monday’s attendance was 18,532, a sellout. It was the ninth straight sellout for the Stars and their 16th of the season.
The All-Star break is up next for the Stars. They’ll return next week when they begin a two-game road trip Tuesday at Winnipeg. Their next home game is Saturday, Feb. 6 against Chicago. Stars forwards Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin and head coach Lindy Ruff will take part in the All-Star festivities in Nashville.
Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Valeri Nichushkin
Cody Eakin – Jason Spezza – Patrick Sharp
Antoine Roussel – Mattias Janmark – Ales Hemsky
Colton Sceviour – Vernon Fiddler – Patrick Eaves
Alex Goligoski – John Klingberg
Johnny Oduya – Jason Demers
Esa Lindell – Jyrki Jokipakka
Injured: Jordie Benn (lower body)
Scratched: Patrik Nemeth, Travis Moen
Conditioning: 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.