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Stars top Capitals for third straight win

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

Saturday’s game against the league-leading Washington Capitals was seen as a measuring stick game for the Dallas Stars, and they stacked up well, defeating the Capitals, 4-3, at American Airlines Center.

The Stars, coming off a 4-2 win in Chicago Thursday in which they built a 4-0 lead in the first period, scored four times in the second period Saturday night to take a 4-0 lead over the Capitals.

“From an all-around standpoint, these last two games have been good teams, and we won them both,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “I’m pleased with that.”

The Capitals scored three times in the third to make a game of it, but the Stars were able to hold on for their third straight win and sixth in the past seven games (6-1-0).

“I thought tonight we played as close to sixty minutes as you can play. Take the three goals away, which obviously we don’t want,” said Ruff. “But structurally we didn’t do anything crazy, not even in the third period.”

“I thought we came out skating, and we didn’t give them too much off the start, and we had some timely goals,” said Stars center Vernon Fiddler. “Obviously, we didn’t like the last bit of [the game], but we’ve done that the last couple of games, so that’s something we are going to have to iron out in the next couple of days.”

Tyler Seguin scored two goals for Dallas, and Benn and Mattias Janmark also scored. Patrik Nemeth had two assists. Kari Lehtonen stopped 20 of 23 shots.

The Stars improved to 36-15-5 on the season and moved into first place in the Central Division and Western Conference after Chicago lost to Anaheim in overtime. The Stars and Blackhawks are tied at 77 points, but the Stars have played three fewer games and are in first based on points percentage.

“Obviously, [Washington and Chicago] are two pretty good teams that we beat so we’re a confident group in here, and we’ve still got a long way to go,” said Stars captain Jamie Benn. “We’re right back on the road here against three more good teams. We’ve just got to find a way to keep this going.”

Washington (40-10-4) had a five-game winning streak snapped.

“We knew they’d be ramped up, a lot of buildup for this game,” said Washington coach Barry Trotz. “I thought, for the most part, I don’t mind that first period. I knew they’d be coming. Second period, we self-destructed, too many turnovers, light on the puck, lost battles.”

There was no scoring in the first period. Both teams had excellent chances in the first five minutes, but the goaltenders came up big. Lehtonen stopped Jason Chimera breaking in alone on goal and Washington’s Braden Holtby stopped a close-range shot by Fiddler. Cody Eakin came up big on the backcheck midway through the first, denying Mike Richards a scoring bid from the slot after a Dallas turnover.

The Stars took a 1-0 lead 1:55 into the second period. Ales Hemsky picked off a pass at the Dallas blue line and set up Janmark, who scored from close range off the rush.

The Stars extended the lead to 2-0 at 6:48 of the second when Patrick Eaves backhanded the puck from the corner to Benn, who scored from the right circle.

“[Eaves has] been playing great lately, and I think he’s doing a great job on the right side there,” Benn said. “He made a great pass, and I kind of got lucky. I tried to shoot once and missed it, and it just went off a guy’s stick.”

Tyler Seguin scored from the right circle off the rush at 14:01 of the second to give the Stars a 3-0 lead. John Klingberg drew two penalties late in the second, putting the Stars on a five-on-three power play for 1:29. The Stars cashed in when Seguin banged home the rebound of a Klingberg shot to make a 4-0 and cap off an impressive period for the Stars.

Washington made things interesting in the third, getting a power-play goal from Alex Ovechkin, who scored off a one-timer from the left circle at the 4:03 mark to make it 4-1. Justin Williams netted a goal a little more than three minutes later to cut the Dallas lead to 4-2. Andre Burakovsky scored from close range with 6:06 left to make it a 4-3 game. And that’s the way it stayed.

“We played pretty well. I think we outskated them,” said Benn. “They got a couple of good breaks there in the third and a couple of good shots, but we found a way to win.”


The Stars lost two centers in the third period. Cody Eakin left with about six minutes remaining after taking a hit from Capitals defenseman Dmitry Orlov. Tyler Seguin was cut on the arm by Capitals center Nicklas Backstrom’s skate late in the period and didn’t play the final three minutes.

Stars coach Lindy Ruff didn’t have much information on the status of Seguin and Eakin after the game.

“We don’t know yet. We’ll find out,” Ruff said. “Seguin got a cut, a skate blade. He’s getting sewn up.”

The Stars placed forward Travis Moen (lower body) on injured reserve Saturday. With Moen on IR, the Stars are expected to call up at least one forward on Sunday for the upcoming road trip.


*The Stars improved to 16-7-1 vs. the Eastern Conference, including 9-3-1 against the Metropolitan Division.

*Washington has not won against the Stars since Oct. 25, 2008.

*Stars captain Jamie Benn extended his point streak to four games (one goal, four assists)

*Stars center Tyler Seguin tallied his 29th and 30th goals of the season, extending his point streak to four games (three goals, four assists).

*Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen has stopped 101 of 109 shots over the past three games for a .927 save percentage.

*Washington goaltender Braden Holtby lost in regulation for only the second time since Nov. 12 (27-2-3).

*The Stars outshot Washington 35-23 and had a 65-53 advantage in attempted shots.

*Patrick Sharp led the Stars with 11 shot attempts.

*The Stars were 0-3 on the power play and 2-3 on the penalty kill.

*The Stars won 27 of 58 faceoffs (47 percent).

*Radek Faksa won 8 of 9 faceoffs (89 percent). Jamie Benn won 6 of 9 (67 percent). Cody Eakin won 5 of 11 (45 percent). Tyler Seguin won 5 of 19 (26 percent).

*Alex Goligoski led the Stars with 26:01 of ice time.

*Saturday’s attendance was 18,532, a selltout. It was the 11th straight sellout for the Stars and their 18th of the season.


The Stars head back out on the road for three games, taking on Nashville (Monday), St. Louis (Tuesday) and Arizona (Thursday).


Jamie BennTyler SeguinPatrick Eaves

Antoine RousselCody EakinPatrick Sharp

Valeri NichushkinMattias JanmarkAles Hemsky

Vernon FiddlerRadek FaksaColton Sceviour


Alex Goligoski
John Klingberg

Johnny OduyaJason Demers

Patrik NemethJordie Benn


Kari Lehtonen

Antti Niemi


Injured:
Travis Moen (lower body), Jason Spezza (upper body)

Scratched: Jamie Oleksiak, Jyrki Jokipakka

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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