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Stars snap skid with 4-2 win over Devils

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

The Dallas Stars snapped a four-game losing streak Friday, rolling out a solid 60-minute effort to defeat the New Jersey Devils, 4-2, at American Airlines Center.

The Stars, who have struggled in the goals against department recently, tightened things up against the Devils, limiting them to just 20 shots on goal.

“They played last night, so we knew the situation, and we wanted to be hard on them and take their time and space away,” said Stars center Vernon Fiddler. “That is something that we have to focus on. But you can’t just do it one game, you have to do it every game and that’s what is going to make us successful come playoff time.”

“I thought it was solid from start to finish,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “I thought we defended really well and played strong in our own end. We got a good effort from all four lines, just a good effort from start to finish.”

The Stars played almost the entire game with five defensemen. John Klingberg left the game three minutes into the first period with a lower-body injury. Ruff said Klingberg could be out a “just little bit of time.”

Valeri Nichushkin, celebrating his 21st birthday Friday, registered one goal and one assist the game.

"I think the best present is we won tonight, so a good win for us,” Nichushkin said. “I think it helps us for next game."

Colton Sceviour had one goal and one assist, Jason Spezza scored one goal, and Mattias Janmark had two assists. Fiddler sealed the win with an empty-net goal, the 100th goal of his NHL career.

“Obviously, it’s nice,” Fiddler said. “Milestones just mean you’re getting old, but I’m feeling good, I have been feeling good the last week and a half. It’s nice to contribute.”

Kari Lehtonen stopped 18 of 20 shots for the Stars, who snapped a five-game home losing streak (0-4-1). The Stars (39-20-7) tied Chicago at 85 points but are in second place in the Central Division and Western Conference because the Blackhawks own the regulation/overtime wins (ROW) tiebreaker, 39-37.

“We haven’t won too much lately, so you don’t want to lose that feeling of winning,” said Janmark. “I think we have to put up a few more wins and good games going ahead here. It’s good to break that losing streak, but we have to work on a winning streak now.”

The Devils (31-28-7) lost for the fourth time in the past five games (1-4-0) and lost goaltender Cory Schneider as well. Schneider was injured in the third period while making a save on Spezza. He left the game and was replaced by Keith Kincaid.

“We’ll see,” Devils coach John Hynes said when asked about an update on Schneider. “We’ll see what happens when we get back to Jersey. We don’t have any updates right now.”

The Stars scored the only goal of the first period when Janmark picked off a pass in the Dallas zone and set up Nichushkin, who drove the New Jersey net off the rush and slipped the puck past Schneider at the 8:01 mark.

“[Janmark] gave me a good assist, so it wasn’t super hard to skate in and score,” Nichushkin said.

The Devils tied the game 1-1 at 5:14 of the second when Adam Henrique backhanded home the rebound of an Adam Larsson shot. But the Stars tied it 71 seconds later when Janmark centered a puck off the rush, and Spezza redirected it into the net to put the Stars up 2-1 at the 6:25 mark. The Stars made it 3-1 at the 11:24 mark on a goal by Sceviour, who deflected in an Alex Goligoski shot from the high slot.

The Stars held New Jersey to just one shot on goal for most of the third period, but Devante Smith-Pelly scored with 4:19 left to make it a 3-2 game. Fiddler then sealed the win with an empty-net shorthanded goal with 20 seconds remaining.

Stars defenseman John Klingberg left the game early in the first period and did not return due to a lower body injury.

“Short-term, it looks like just a little bit of time,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “It’s sort of a muscular thing it looks like. We don’t know exactly, but it’s lower body if that helps you.”

Brett Ritchie didn’t register any points in his first game of the season with the Stars, but he made a big impact. Ritchie had a game-high eight hits – including several big ones – and pummeled Devils defenseman Adam Larsson in a fight in his 11:17 of playing time.

“Great spark,” said Lindy Ruff. “I think his energy and excitement about playing, and I think he got them a little bit off their game. Just the fact that every time he was out there they knew that he was coming. I thought he was a big asset on the right side with those guys. He was first in and separating the other guy from the puck. I thought he did a great job on the walls. It’s one thing to get here and do it but now you’ve got to do it on a consistent basis, but I thought he gave us a really good night.”

*The Stars won at home for the first time since defeating Washington, 4-3, on Feb. 13.

*The Stars outshot New Jersey 25-20 and had a 60-53 advantage in shot attempts.

*Tyler Seguin led the Stars with 4 shots on goal and 10 shot attempts.

*The Stars were 0-3 on the power play and 3-3 on the penalty kill.

*Vernon Fiddler has scored a goal in three straight games.

*Fiddler’s goal in Friday’s game was the 100th of his NHL career.

*Valeri Nichushkin has 5 points (2 goals, 3 assists) in the past 6 games.

*Colton Sceviour has scored 4 goals in the past 6 games.

*Brett Ritchie had a game-high eight hits.

*The Stars won 36 of 59 faceoffs (61 percent).

*Vernon Fiddler won 10 of 13 faceoffs (77 percent). Tyler Seguin won of 8 of 10 (80 percent). Cody Eakin won 7 of 12 (58 percent). Jason Spezza won 8 of 15 (53 percent).

*Jason Demers led the Stars with 26:13 of ice time. Alex Goligoski was next with 25:25.

The Stars hit the road for two games, playing at Ottawa (Sunday) and Montreal (Tuesday).

Jamie BennTyler SeguinBrett Ritchie

Mattias JanmarkJason SpezzaValeri Nichushkin

Antoine RousselCody EakinAles Hemsky

Radek FaksaVernon FiddlerColton Sceviour

Kris Russell
John Klingberg

Johnny OduyaJason Demers

Patrik NemethAlex Goligoski

Kari Lehtonen

Antti Niemi

Patrick Sharp (lower body), Patrick Eaves (illness), Jordie Benn (lower body)

Scratched: Jamie Oleksiak, Travis Moen

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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