The Stars still haven’t lost consecutive games this season, and they improved their NHL leading record to 23-6-2.
"That was good that we were able to keep that going,” said Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen. “I think we started the game a little loose but hung in there. Last two periods were just amazing. We did a great job in those."
Despite the positives, Stars coach Lindy Ruff was a little miffed after the game. To the Dallas coach, Tuesday’s game – despite the score – looked more like a finger painting than a masterpiece. The Stars played a dismal first period against a struggling team that was playing on the second night of a back-to-back, committing ten giveaways and getting outshot 16-8. Ruff said the Stars, who are now the league’s top team, have a target on their backs.
“I'm frustrated because we had a total lack of mental focus. I know we won 5-1, but we'll lose games if we play like that,” Ruff said. “We're kind of the team that's being hunted, and there're teams that are going to be ready to knock us off. There's a little extra juice when teams come in here and say, 'Well, we've got a crack at them.' I want our team ready for that. We won't win playing like that. The mental part of the game, I've got to help these guys out."
But the Stars did find a way to win on this night. Lehtonen, who was coming off a rough outing in his last start, turned in a sparkling performance in net, stopping 34 of 35 shots, including all 16 shots he faced in the first period as the Stars escaped with a 1-0 lead.
"He was fabulous,” Ruff said. “It was a great bounce-back game for him. He looked so comfortable. He made the saves; he handled the puck very well. He was dominant tonight for us.”
“It was nice,” said Lehtonen. “It went well, and I was able to make the saves [early in the game] after not playing for a while. It was nice to get going like that.”
Tyler Seguin scored two goals in a 30-second span late in the second period to blow the game open. Johnny Oduya, Alex Goligoski and Mattias Janmark also scored for the Stars, who won for the seventh time in their past eight home games and improved to 12-3-0 this season at American Airlines Center.
The Stars snapped a four-game losing streak to the Blue Jackets in Dallas, winning at home against Columbus for the first time since Oct. 15, 2011. The Blue Jackets lost their fifth straight game (0-3-2) and fell to 1-5-3 in their past nine games.
“I thought our first period was probably the best period we’ve played all year,” said Columbus coach John Tortorella. “Even parts where they had a little push in the second, I thought we had some good chances in the second, but they surged, and they scored the goals and our chances, we just didn’t finish. You wonder what happens if you finish on some of our chances, but yeah, so we end up getting caught there.”
The Blue Jackets, who played Monday night, dominated play in the first period, outshooting the Stars 16-8. They had 11 straight shots at one point and held the Stars without a shot for a 10:36 stretch. But Lehtonen kept the Blue Jackets off the board.
“I think he played a heck of a game,” Seguin said of Lehtonen. “Obviously, with everyone else sleeping to start, he had to be sharp and he was beyond sharp. He might have been the only player in here that played a full 60-minute effort."
Dallas scored late in the first to grab the lead. After Columbus turned over the puck in its own end, Oduya scored on a shot from just beyond the left circle to put the Stars up 1-0 with 2:07 left in the period.
Columbus tied the game with a power play goal at 4:32 of the second period. Scott Hartnell redirected an Alexander Wennberg shot past Lehtonen, and it was a 1-1 game.
Lehtonen came up big to keep it a tie game, making sharp saves on Brandon Saad and David Clarkson. And the Stars took a 2-1 lead at 13:02 of the second. Goligoski pinched in from the point and put home the rebound of an Ales Hemsky shot that rebounded off the endboards.
“I think we had three good shifts before that, and I think that [Columbus'] group was out there a little long,” Goligoski said. “Someone made a good change, and Hemsky came right off the bench and was able to put it towards the net. I just kind of followed it up and got a good bounce off the back wall."
Three minutes later, the Stars broke the game open with two quick goals from Seguin. Klingberg set up Seguin on a breakaway with a long stretch pass, and the Dallas center faked a slap shot and then beat Blue Jackets goalie Joonas Korpisalo with a wrist shot to make it 3-1 Dallas.
“I kind of stole a little bit of a (Jason) Spezza move. He likes to do that,” Seguin said. “I came down and didn’t have much speed. I looked to take a shot. My glove side was all taken so I just tried to make a quick move, and I’m happy it went in.”
Seguin scored from the slot 30 seconds later to give the Stars a 4-1 lead.
"Tyler decided that he was going to dominate the game,” Ruff said. “He decided he was going to go out and get the legs going and put the puck in the back of the net. And those couple shifts were the difference. But let's start the game like that."
Curtis McElhinney took over in net for Columbus to start the third and the Stars scored 1:47 into the period. Janmark stole the puck along the left boards, drove the net and scored off the rebound of his own backhand shot to make it a 5-1 game.
Stars coach Lindy Ruff changed his forward lines after the first period, moving Cody Eakin to the top line to center Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin. Jason Spezza had Valeri Nichushkin and Patrick Sharp on his wings. Mattias Janmark moved to center with Antoine Roussel and Ales Hemsky as his linemates. And Vernon Fiddler centered Travis Moen and Patrick Eaves.
Asked about the moves, Ruff had this to say.
“There wasn’t any line juggling,” Ruff said. “Those are the exact lines from game one, the night we beat Pittsburgh 3-0. It had nothing to do with the lines. You guys make too big of a deal out of the lines. It has to do with the compete and the mental focus, it has nothing to do with the lines. Once you get past your blue line, it has nothing to do with who plays where. That’s just an excuse.”
*The Stars are 14-4-0 vs. the Eastern Conference, including 8-0-0 vs. the Metropolitan Division.
*Tyler Seguin’s two goals give him 17 for the season. He is tied for fourth in the NHL.
*Seguin is now second in the NHL in scoring with 42 points.
*Jamie Benn registered his 400th career point when he picked up an assist on Seguin’s second goal of the game.
*Mattias Janmark has scored four goals over the past seven games.
*Columbus outshot the Stars 35-34. Dallas had a 60-58 advantage in attempted shots.
*Patrick Sharp led the Stars with four shots on goal. Valeri Nichushkin led the Stars with seven attempted shots.
*Dallas won 37 of 66 faceoffs (56 percent).
*Tyler Seguin won 7 of 9 faceoffs (77 percent). Cody Eakin won 8 of 13 (62 percent). Vernon Fiddler won 6 of 12 (50 percent). Jason Spezza won 10 of 13 (43 percent).
*John Klingberg led the Stars with 21:42 of ice time.
The Stars continue their homestand, hosting the Calgary Flames on Thursday.
Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Valeri Nichushkin
Mattias Janmark – Jason Spezza – Patrick Eaves
Antoine Roussel – Cody Eakin – Patrick Sharp
Travis Moen – Vernon Fiddler – Ales Hemsky
Alex Goligoski – John Klingberg
Johnny Oduya – Jason Demers
Patrik Nemeth – Jordie Benn
Scratched: Jyrki Jokipakka, Jamie Oleksiak, Colton Sceviour
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.