The Dallas Stars wrapped up a five-game road trip through the Eastern Conference in convincing style Friday night, defeating the Washington Capitals, 4-2, at Verizon Center. The Stars went 4-1-0 on the road trip, including wins in their last three games.
“We had a real good trip,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “Every game was a little bit different story. Tonight, even in a back-to-back, we set the tone in the first six or seven minutes and took the crowd out of the building.”
The Stars got that important first goal, tallying on the power play early in the game. It was Dallas’ first of three power-play goals on the night. The penalty kill came up big as well, stopping the league’s second-ranked power play on all three of its chances.
“I think our special teams did a pretty good job out there tonight,” said Stars captain Jamie Benn. “We had three power play goals and it’s just taking advantage of those opportunities. They can make such a big difference in a game. They definitely did tonight.”
The Stars (32-27-10) are 5-1-0 in their past six games overall and are within five points of Los Angeles for the final wild-card spot in the Western Conference. The Kings have played two fewer games. The Stars still have to climb past San Jose (two points ahead) and Winnipeg (four points ahead) as well.
“You obviously take a peek at the standings and the scores after each game to see where you are getting help and where you are not getting help. We just have to stay focused on what we can control,” said Stars center Vernon Fiddler. “If we can just keep winning games we can control a little bit of our destiny. Obviously, we need a little bit of luck on our side. We’re just focusing on 20 minutes at a time and right now that seems to be working for us.”
Fiddler had one goal and one assist for the Stars. Shawn Horcoff, Colton Sceviour and Tyler Seguin also scored. Ales Hemsky chipped in two assists. Kari Lehtonen stopped 18 of 20 shots for his eighth win in his past 11 decisions (8-1-2).
The Capitals lost for the third time in their past four games and fell to 3-6-0 in their past nine.
“We all have to solve it, but it really comes from the guys in the room. Let’s get going here. I need some urgency in our room,” Washington coach Barry Trotz said. “Dallas is playing playoff hockey, there’s no question about it. We need to play playoff hockey and we’re not, not to the level that we need to.”
The Stars jumped on the Capitals early, getting the first six shots on goal and scoring on one of them. That goal came on the power play. Hemsky set up Horcoff, whose shot from the slot went in the net off a Capitals defender to give the Stars a 1-0 lead 3:25 into the game.
“It’s something we talked about. We wanted to get the first one tonight,” said Benn.
The Capitals tied it at 11:24 of the first when Curtis Glencross put a backhand shot on net off the rush and then scored off the rebound.
The Stars got the lead back a little more than four minutes later. Sceviour circled out from the left boards and scored off a shot from the right circle to put the Stars up 2-1 at 16:55 of the first.
The Dallas penalty kill came up big in the first period, stopping two opportunities for the Washington’s potent power play.
“The penalty killing tonight was good,” Ruff said. “We didn’t give a very good power play much on the entries and once they were in there. I think [Alex Ovechkin] had maybe one or two shots. We really tried to focus on making sure we took that part of his game away.”
The Stars got three power plays in the second period and cashed in on two of them to extend their lead to 4-1. Washington forward Joel Ward took a double-minor for high sticking Stars defenseman Patrik Nemeth, and Seguin scored off a blast from the top of the left circle to make it a 3-1 game at the 7:21 mark.
With Washington’s Tom Wilson in the box for goaltender interference, Hemsky set up Fiddler, who scored from close range to make it 4-1 at 14:05 of the second. That goal ended the night for Capitals goaltender Braden Holtby, who was replaced by Justin Peters.
The Stars shut down the Capitals for most of the third period. Evgeny Kuznetsov scored from the right boards with 1:26 remaining to make it a 4-2 game. But that’s as close as the Capitals would get, and the Stars headed home with eight of a possible ten points on the road trip.
“We did a great job on this road trip,” said Benn. “Now we have to translate it to home games.”
*The Stars are 8-1-1 in their past ten games vs. the Eastern Conference.
*Vernon Fiddler’s goal was his 12th of the season, a new career-high.
*Fiddler has five goals in his past six games.
*Stars forward Colton Sceviour has four points (one goal, three assists) in his past four games.
*Stars center Shawn Horcoff has four points (two goals, two assists) in the past five games.
*Stars defenseman Patrik Nemeth picked up an assist in Friday’s game, his first NHL point.
*The Stars outshot the Capitals 31-20.
*The Stars have allowed 28 or fewer shots in eight of their past nine games.
*The Stars were 3-6 on the power play and 3-3 on the penalty kill.
*The Stars are 20-21 on the penalty kill over their past eight games.
*The Stars won 28 of 63 faceoffs (44 percent).
*Shawn Horcoff won 9 of 15 draws (60 percent). Jason Spezza won 6 of 11 (55 percent). Cody Eakin won 8 of 17 (47 percent). Fiddler won 4 of 12 (33 percent).
*Alex Goligoski led the Stars with 24:28 of ice time.
*Stars defenseman John Klingberg missed his second straight game with an upper-body injury.
*Stars forward Ryan Garbutt was a healthy scratch for a second straight game.
Jamie Benn – Cody Eakin – Tyler Seguin
Antoine Roussel – Jason Spezza – Ales Hemsky
Curtis McKenzie – Shawn Horcoff – Brett Ritchie
Patrick Eaves – Vernon Fiddler – Colton Sceviour
Jyrki Jokipakka – Alex Goligoski
Jamie Oleksiak – Jason Demers
Patrik Nemeth – Jordie Benn
Scratched: Ryan Garbutt
Injured: John Klingberg (upper body), Trevor Daley (lower body), Travis Moen (upper body), Valeri Nichushkin (hip)
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.