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Stars Keep Rolling With 7-1 Rout of Wild

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

The Dallas Stars continue to roll. And Saturday night they rolled over the Minnesota Wild, 7-1, at American Airlines Center. It was the fourth straight win for the Stars and their eighth victory in the past nine games (8-1-0).

Six different players scored goals and 13 registered points for the Stars. Over the past four games, 14 different Dallas players have put the puck in the net.

“That's a winning recipe. Every line is playing so well. One through four, they're all playing the same way,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “And I think that's the one thing when you're coaching – when all of your lines are doing the right things and all the lines are producing, it's a winning recipe. Tonight was just another indication that every line went out there, created opportunities, defended well and got rewarded for it.”

Vernon Fiddler scored two goals Saturday. Colton Sceviour, Tyler Seguin, Erik Cole, Antoine Roussel and Brett Ritchie also scored. Jamie Oleksiak had three assists. Kari Lehtonen stopped 21 of 22 shots for his 17th victory of the season.

“I think that we’re just getting back to what we did last year. We are working as a five-man group in our own end, and we’re starting there,” said Fiddler. “We are a tough team to play against when we play in the offensive zone. I think we’re getting contributions from four lines, and Kari has made some big saves and you get a little bit of confidence. It goes a long way, and it can work both ways with you, and right now it’s working in our favor.”

The Stars rolled out a strong first period, scoring on the power play to take a 1-0 lead. They exploded for five goals in the second period and then added one more late in the third. They gave the Wild few opportunities in the game.

“I think we are defending a lot better, and our special teams have been good,” Cole said. “I think with all that we’ve helped out the goaltending and we haven’t hung them out to dry quite as much as we were earlier in December and parts of November. I just think we’ve tightened it up a bit, and we are just playing a much better team game. Our strong team defense can sometimes be our best asset and leads to a lot of good things on the offensive side.”

The Wild, playing on the second night of a back-to-back, lost for the seventh time in their past nine games (2-4-3).

“I think the first period you could see that we had no pace to our game. We weren’t able to execute against a team that was pressuring us hard,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said. “They played well and we played poorly. That’s how you explain it.”

The Stars outshot the Wild 12-5 in the first period and scored on the game’s first power play to take a 1-0 lead. Cole set up Fiddler, who scored from the left circle off the rush 5:34 into the game.

“We wanted to have a good start, we wanted to get that first goal,” said Fiddler. “[Cole] made a great play to me on the power play there and I tried to get the shot off quick and beat the goalie lucky there.”

The Stars blew the game open with four unanswered goals in a 6:12 span of the second period to build a 5-0 lead. Seguin set up Sceviour who scored off the rush, beating Wild goaltender Darcy Kuemper with a blast from the right circle at the 5:03 mark. Fiddler scored his second of the night at the 7:44 mark, taking a slick pass from Ritchie and scoring from the slot. John Klingberg set up Seguin, who scored from close range to make it 4-0 at the 8:56 mark, ending the night for Kuemper who was replaced by Niklas Backstrom. Less than three minutes later, the Stars made it 5-0 with a shorthanded goal. After Minnesota turned the puck over in its own end, Jamie Benn backhanded the puck from the corner to Cole, who scored from the top of the crease at 11:15 of the second.

A little more than a minute later officials handed out 68 minutes in penalty minutes after Wild forward Ryan Carter knocked Stars defenseman Trevor Daley into Lehtonen. That triggered fights between Fiddler and Carter and Stars defenseman Jason Demers and Wild defenseman Stu Bickel, who picked up an instigator and a game misconduct among his penalties.

“The response was great. Those situations always bring a team even tighter,” Ruff said. “I thought it was a little bit reckless on their part, but I think they were trying to find some spark somewhere. Bickel tried to come out and spark his team a little bit too, just trying to get something going.”

The Stars got a five-on-three power play out of all the penalties that were handed out, but couldn’t cash in. Minnesota then went on a power play and final scored when Thomas Vanek tallied at the 15:16 mark.

But the Stars struck again at the 17:41 mark when Roussel scored off the rebound of a Ryan Garbutt shot to make it a 6-1 game.

Ritchie rounded out the scoring with 1:28 left in the third, grabbing the rebound of a Travis Moen shot and scoring from in tight to make it a 7-1 final score.

The Stars now head to Chicago, where they will take on the Blackhawks Sunday night in a nationally televised game.

“We have confidence and we have all the lines going. But we don’t win the game tomorrow by scoring all these goals tonight,” Fiddler said. “They are a tough team to play at home. We are going to have to find as much energy as we can and go in there and give another good effort.”

Schlemko hoping to make the most of opportunity with Stars

Defenseman David Schlemko, claimed off waivers from Arizona Saturday morning, arrived just in time to watch Saturday night’s game against Minnesota. The 27-year-old defenseman said he is looking forward to the opportunity with the Stars.

“Things haven’t gone so well for me personally the first half of the year in Arizona,” Schlemko said. “We’ve had a tough go, so I am very excited to get things going here. It’s a fresh start here, and I want to take advantage of the opportunity here.”

It’s been an up and down season for the 27-year-old defenseman. He was waived twice by Arizona and has spent some time in the AHL. There have been quite a few healthy scratches at the NHL level.

“It’s been tough. I’ve dealt with some injuries in the past, but I haven’t dealt with being a healthy scratch much,” he said. “I had some talks with the coaches there and I understand where they are from a team standpoint. They want to get the young guys in and play them. For me personally, it’s been tough.”

Stars coach Lindy Ruff likes what he has seen of Schlemko, a left-shot who has played in 207 NHL games and has registered 50 points (nine goals, 41 assists).

“He's a good puck mover. He's dependable in his own end,” Ruff said. “On the offensive side, I think he's more of a cautious type of defenseman, but defends well and makes a real good first pass. I've watched a lot of games. I like the way he plays; he's a heady player and he's a good defender.”

And Schlemko likes the way the Stars play and thinks he can fit in.

“I really liked what I saw watching the game tonight,” Schlemko said. “In Arizona it’s a lot more structure and defense based. I like the style of play these guys have and I think I can complement it pretty well.”

Notes

*The Stars scored at least six goals in back-to-back games for the first time since March of 1997 (March 16, 6-2 vs. Pittsburgh and March 19, 7-2 vs. Arizona).

*Brett Ritchie is the first Stars player to score a goal in each of his first two games since Mike Modano in 1989-90.

*The Stars are on their second four-game winning streak of the season.

*The Stars have outscored their opposition 20-6 during their current four-game streak.

*The Stars have won three straight games at home and are 8-2-1 in their past 11 games at American Airlines Center.

*The Stars were 1-5 on the power play and are now 6-23 (26.1%) over the past six games.

*The Stars were 3-4 on the penalty kill.

*The Stars won 38 of 69 faceoffs (55 percent).

*Tyler Seguin won 9 of 11 draws (82 percent). Jason Spezza won 9 of 13 (69 percent). Vernon Fiddler won 7 of 14 (50 percent). Cody Eakin won 7 of 19 (37 percent).

*Jamie Oleksiak was a game-high plus-four and had a game-high five blocked shots.

*The Stars assigned D Jyrki Jokipakka to Texas (AHL) Saturday.

*The Stars placed F Shaw Horcoff on injured reserve Saturday.

*Attendance Saturday night was 18,532, a sellout.

Stars lineup

Jamie BennTyler SeguinColton Sceviour
Erik ColeJason SpezzaAles Hemsky
Antoine RousselCody EakinRyan Garbutt
Travis MoenVernon FiddlerBrett Ritchie

Alex GoligoskiJohn Klingberg
Jamie OleksiakTrevor Daley
Jordie BennJason Demers

Kari Lehtonen
Anders Lindback

Scratched: Travis Morin, David Schlemko

Injured: Shawn Horcoff (illness), 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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