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Stars Hold off Capitals, 5-4

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

Saturday night’s game against the Washington Capitals mirrored the Dallas Stars season. It was a bit of a roller coaster ride. There were some ups and some downs. And on this night, they were able to hang on for a 5-4 victory over the Capitals at American Airlines Center.

The Stars blew a 3-0 lead in the game but answered with two quick goals after Washington tied it early in the third period. After the Capitals cut the lead to one, the Stars were able to close it out and pick up two points.

"That was up and down,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “We controlled the game, we didn't control the game, we fought back, scored a couple and then hung on for dear life.”

After Alex Ovechkin scored 21 seconds into the third period to tie the game 3-3, the Stars responded quickly. Antoine Roussel scored off a rebound of a John Klingberg shot at the 3:14 mark to put the Stars ahead 4-3. Tyler Seguin set up Jamie Benn on the rush, and the Stars captain scored from the left circle to make it 5-3 at the 14:30 mark.

“I thought it was a great response by [Cody] Eakin’s line and then the big goal by Jamie [Benn]” said Stars center Jason Spezza. “Other than that, I thought we did a good job defending. They got the one, but I thought we showed a lot of desperation and defending there at the end and made up for the mistakes we made.”

Nicklas Backstrom scored with 3:26 left to make it 5-4, but the Stars allowed just one shot on goal after that.

Seguin, Spezza and Erik Cole each had one goal and one assist in the game. Defenseman Jyrki Jokipakka, called up from the AHL Saturday morning, chipped in two assists. Kari Lehtonen stopped 28 of 32 shots for his 18th win of the season.

“I thought he made some big saves at crucial times for us,” Ruff said of Lehtonen. “Maybe there was one he could have had, but he made some good saves at critical times. At the same time, it was good to see the team score some goals and help him out.”

The Stars, who won for just the second time in the past seven games (2-3-2) improved to 20-17-7 on the season.

Washington, which lost in Nashville Friday night, has dropped consecutive games for the first time since early December. The loss was just the third in regulation over the past 21 games (14-3-4) for Washington, which is 24-13-8 on the season.

“I liked the fact that we stayed with it,” said Washington coach Barry Trotz. “We gave ourselves a chance to get a point at the end, so a lot of resiliency in the room. It was a back-to-back, a real hard game yesterday (in Nashville) I think it took a little bit out of us, but we got to be a little tighter than we were.”

The Stars opened the scoring 2:26 into the game by cashing in on their first power play chance of the night. Spezza backhanded the puck from the right boards to a wide-open Seguin, who scored from close range to give Dallas a 1-0 lead. The Stars extended the lead to 2-0 with 1:42 left in the first period when Cole tipped in a Jokipakka shot from the point.

“It’s not too often you catch a team from the East coming in here on a back-to-back, and they get to experience life in the West a little bit,” said Cole. “It was a good start, and we got the crowd into it right away and that gave us some life and momentum. I think we rode that for the first period.”

The Stars made it 3-0 when Washington’s Tom Wilson coughed up the puck and Cole set up Spezza, who blasted the puck from the slot past Capitals goaltender Justin Peters at the 4:13 mark of the second period. The Capitals answered a little more than a minute later when Eric Fehr scored off the rush from the left circle, and it was a 3-1 game at 5:30 of the second. The Capitals cut the lead to 3-2 just seconds after their third power play of the night expired. Andre Burakovsky picked a corner with a shot from the slot at the 16:06 mark.

The Capitals tied the game 21 seconds into the third. After Backstrom blocked an Alex Goligoski shot, Ovechkin got a breakaway and scored to make it a 3-3 game. But the Stars answered with those two quick goals from Roussel and Benn and then were able to hang on for the victory.

“I thought the game was a lot of momentum swings both ways,” Spezza said. “When momentum swung their way we got stuck in our end a little bit. The guys had a great push back and got in the lane and had some big blocks. Those are the type of games you have to win. It’s not always going to be perfect, it’s not always how you want it. Tonight we ended up getting the results.”

Daley misses game, expected to miss next two; Ritchie to IR

Stars defenseman Trevor Daley missed Saturday’s game with an undisclosed injury. Stars coach Lindy Ruff said Daley is not expected to play the final two games before the All-Star break.

"He won't be available tomorrow (at Chicago),” Ruff said. “For me, he's done through the break."

Forward Brett Ritchie also missed Saturday’s game with an undisclosed injury. He was placed on injured reserve and will not play the two games before the break.

Jokipakka strong in return

Defenseman Jyrki Jokipakka was back in the lineup after a six-game stint in the AHL. The Stars recalled Jokipakka from the Texas Stars due to the injury to Trevor Daley. Jokipakka registered two assists, two hits and a plus-two rating in 13:35 of playing time.

"I thought he played great,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “Started just a little slow, but I thought he played great. That's the reason again that you get them down there and keep them playing. It was a decision whether I was going to play him, but I'm glad I played him because he's got good size. They've got some big bodies. We couldn't knock them off the puck, but I thought Joki was the one guy that showed some real good strength."

Notes

*The Stars are 10-4-1 in their past 15 home games.

*Washington outshot the Stars 32-26.

*Ryan Garbutt led the Stars with five shots on goal.

*The Stars blocked 26 shots in the game. Jamie Oleksiak led the Stars with six blocked shots. John Klingberg was next with four.

*The Stars were 1-5 on the power play and 3-3 on the penalty kill.

*The Stars won 23 of 70 faceoffs (33 percent).

*Jason Spezza won 5 of 11 (45 percent). Cody Eakin won 7 of 18 (39 percent). Vernon Fiddler won 4 of 12 (33 percent). Jamie Benn won 3 of 10 (30 percent). Tyler Seguin won 1 of 9 (11 percent).

*Washington’s Eric Fehr won 15 of 16 faceoffs (94 percent).

*Stars center Cody Eakin played in his 200th NHL game.

*Saturday’s attendance was 18,532, a sellout.

Stars lineup

Jamie BennTyler SeguinColton Sceviour
Erik ColeJason SpezzaAles Hemsky
Antoine RousselCody EakinRyan Garbutt
Shawn HorcoffVernon FiddlerTravis Moen

Alex GoligoskiJohn Klingberg
Jordie BennJason Demers
Jyrki JokipakkaJamie Oleksiak

Kari Lehtonen
Anders Lindback

Scratched: David Schlemko, Curtis McKenzie

Injured: Trevor Daley (undisclosed), Brett Ritchie (undisclosed), Patrick Eaves (ankle), Valeri Nichushkin (hip), Patrik Nemeth (arm)

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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