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Stars open road trip with 5-3 win over Lightning

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

The Dallas Stars opened their four-game road trip with a strong performance, knocking off the Tampa Bay Lightning, 5-3, at Amalie Arena Thursday night.

Five different Stars scored goals, and Kari Lehtonen turned in another solid performance in net, stopping 30 of 33 shots for his second consecutive win. Tampa Bay grabbed an early 1-0 lead, but the Stars scored four straight goals and then held off a late push by the Lightning.

“Nobody is going to give you easy games. It’s a tough league, and you have to win games when you can,” said Stars center Jason Spezza. “When you have a four-game trip against Eastern teams you don’t know well, it is good to start it off with a win.”

Spezza, Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Cody Eakin all had one goal and one assist. Jason Demers also scored one goal, and Ales Hemsky chipped in two assists. The Stars got goals from three of their forward lines.

“I think it is the way you win. You have to have a deep, reliable team,” said Eakin.

Dallas, which improved to 3-1-0, won the special teams battle, scoring on two of three power-play chances and holding Tampa Bay to no shots on goal during its two power play opportunities.

One of the Stars’ power-play goals came after Tampa Bay’s Nikita Nesterov was given a major penalty for a hit on Stars forward Curtis McKenzie, who was helped off the ice and was then taken to the hospital with a lower-body injury.

“We made them pay for what I think was a brutal hit,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “There is no doubt in my mind the guy should be suspended.”

The Lightning dropped their second straight game and fell to 3-2-0 on the season.

"I think we've got to work on our special teams a little bit," said Tampa Bay’s Steven Stamkos. "Our penalty kill was top ten in the league last year, and we're struggling there. And our power play, we got off to a decent start, but we couldn't get the puck in the zone [tonight]. So we'll work on that, but those are things I think we can improve on. Five-on-five play I thought we took it to them for some stretches."

Tampa Bay had the better of play the first few minutes and jumped out to an early lead. After John Klingberg turned the puck over behind the net, Jonathan Drouin set up Stamkos, and he scored from the slot 2:24 into the game. But the Stars bounced back with two goals to take a 2-1 lead into the first intermission.

Jyrki Jokipakka put a shot on net off the rush, and the rebound bounced off Seguin’s skate and past Lightning goaltender Ben Bishop to tie the game 1-1 at 8:58 of the first. After killing off the Lightning’s first power play, the Stars got their first chance with the man-advantage and cashed in. Spezza sent a spectacular cross-ice pass to Jamie Benn, who pushed the puck past Bishop from close range to make it 2-1 Dallas at 14:14 of the second.

“I took a peek before I got the puck, threw it across and he made a great play,” Spezza said.

The Stars extended the lead to 3-1 midway through the second. Mattias Janmark took a pass from Colton Sceviour, drove the net and backhanded the puck to Eakin, who scored from close range at 9:34.

The Stars went on a five-minute power play late in the period when Nesterov was given a major penalty and a game misconduct for the hit from behind on McKenzie. The Stars scored one goal on the extended power play when Demers tallied off a point shot at the 18:12 mark of the second to make it a 4-1 game.

Tampa Bay made it interesting in the third period, getting goals from Vladislav Namestnikov and Stamkos in a 1:38 span to cut the Stars’ lead to 4-3. But Spezza beat Bishop with a sharp-angle backhand shot to extend the Dallas lead to 5-3.

"Our line was on for the 4-3 goal, so it was nice to get it back and get the two-goal lead again," Spezza said. "We knew they weren't going to sit back when it was 4-1. .. To get a win, we're leaving here happy."

McKenzie injured

Stars left wing Curtis McKenzie, who was called up Wednesday due to an injury to Patrick Eaves, left Thursday’s game with a lower-body injury after being hit from behind by Tampa Bay’s Nikita Nesterov in the neutral zone and slamming into the boards. McKenzie was down on the ice for a while before being helped off the ice. Stars coach Lindy Ruff provided an update after the game.

“He is in the hospital,” Ruff said. “We don’t know [what it is]. He is in excruciating pain. We couldn’t even get him off the table to get him out of here.”

Lightning lose Hedman

The Lightning lost defenseman Victor Hedman late in the second period after he was hit hard along the boards by Stars captain Jamie Benn. Hedman, whose head hit the glass on the play, did not return to the game.

“Anytime someone gets hit the way he did; I don’t know for sure what is wrong with him,” Tampa Bay coach John Cooper said. “I talked to him after and he said he was feeling okay, but I am not a doctor. We’ll see tomorrow. We’ll get a better indication of how he is tomorrow.”


*Jason Spezza has scored four goals over the past two games.

*Spezza and Ales Hemsky co-lead the Stars with six points through two games.

*Mattias Janmark picked up an assist Thursday, extending his points streak to four games.

*Per Elias Sports, Janmark is the first player in Dallas Stars franchise history to record a point in each of his first four NHL games.

*Tampa Bay outshot the Stars 33-22.

*Jason Demers and Alex Goligoski led the Stars with three shots on goal.

*Jamie Benn and Goligoski led the Stars with five hits each.

*The Stars won 19 of 56 faceoffs (34 percent).

*Jamie Benn won 4 of 8 draws (50 percent). Jason Spezza won 5 of 12 (42 percent). Cody Eakin won 4 of 13 (31 percent). Vernon Fiddler won 3 of 9 (33 percent). Tyler Seguin won 3 of 11 (27 percent).

*Goligoski led the Stars with 22:57 of ice time.

What’s next

The Stars continue their four-game road trip when they play at Florida on Saturday.

Stars lineup

Jamie BennTyler SeguinPatrick Sharp

Antoine RousselJason SpezzaAles Hemsky

Mattias JanmarkCody EakinColton Sceviour

Curtis McKenzieVernon FiddlerTravis Moen

Alex Goligoski
John Klingberg

Johnny OduyaJason Demers

Jyrki JokipakkaJordie Benn

Kari Lehtonen

Antti Niemi

Valeri Nichushkin, Patrik Nemeth, Jamie Oleksiak

Injured: Patrick Eaves (lower body)

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 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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