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Top Line, Power Play Fuel Stars in 6-4 Win Over Jets

by Mark Stepneski / Dallas Stars

The Dallas Stars’ top line had a big afternoon and the power play came up big at the right time as the Dallas Stars ended a two-game losing streak with a 6-4 victory over the Winnipeg Jets at MTS Centre Saturday afternoon.

The Stars’ power play, which game into Saturday 2-30 over the previous nine games and ranked last in the league, scored twice on a five-minute power play late in the second period after Anthony Peluso took a major penalty for boarding Alex Goligoski, to turn a 3-3 game into a 5-3 lead.

“We said it before the game that [special-teams play] was going to make the difference,” Stars captain Benn said. “Our power play got a couple, and it made a difference.”

The Stars’ top line of Tyler Seguin (two goals, two assists), Benn (two goals) and Valeri Nichushkin (one goal) accounted for five of the Stars goals, with Benn and Seguin scoring the two power play goals.

The Stars improved to 15-11-5 on the season and to 8-2-1 in their last eleven road games. The Stars pulled two points ahead of the Jets in the standings and have three games in hand.

“It’s still early, but every game you are focused as getting as many points as you can,” Seguin said. “This road trip we’ve really been trying to bear down. We had a tough one in Nashville, we got two tonight and we’ve got two huge games back-to-back with Colorado.”

The Jets, who lost their sixth straight game at home (0-3-3), fell to 14-15-5 on the season.

“The result was another thing aside, I didn’t think we played a very intelligent game. I think it was reflected in their first two goals. I thought they were off bad changes,” said Jets coach Claude Noel. “Obviously, the five minute major was costly. One of our keys to game was controlling that line of Benn and Seguin, we weren’t able to do that. They executed and were just firing bullets at us.”

The Stars struck first, getting a goal from Seguin 7:14 into the game. Sergei Gonchar hit Seguin with a pass at the Winnipeg blue line and Seguin skated to the slot and beat Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec with a snap shot.

The Jets tied it three minutes later when Mark Scheifele put a shot on net and Matt Halischuk scored on the rebound at the 10:12 mark.

Nichushkin put the Stars back on top at the 14:24 mark, blowing by the Winnipeg defense and then making a slick move at the net to slip the puck by Pavelec to put the Stars up 2-1 heading into the first intermission.

The Stars went on their second power play of the game at the 4:27 mark of the second, but the Jets had the better chances, forcing Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen to make saves on two point blank chances by James Wright.

The Stars’ penalty kill came up big midway through the second, killing off both ends of a 55 second five-on-three. But the Jets went on another power play a couple minutes later and they cashed into tie the game at 2-2. A pass deflected off the stick of Goligoski right onto the tape of Blake Wheeler, who scored from the slot at 12:58 of the second.

The Stars grabbed the lead again 48 seconds later when Gonchar put a shot on net and Jamie Benn scored on the rebound to put the Stars up 3-2. The goal ended an eleven-goal scoring drought for Benn, who made a gesture of throwing a monkey off his back after he scored.

“I felt like I got a monkey off my back when he got that,” said Seguin. “It was nice to see. Sometimes things aren’t going in, but he made some nice shots and stepped up tonight.”

The Jets answered 67 seconds after that to tie the game again. After Stars defenseman Jamie Oleksiak turned over the puck behind the Dallas net, Bryan Little set up Wheeler, who outwaited Lehtonen and scored from the right circle.

The Stars then got that five-minute power play late in the second when Peluso boarded Goligoski, who was cut on the head and headed to the locker room for repairs. He would return for the third period.

“I thought the Peluso hit was a joke, for a guy that plays that amount of time and runs a guy like Goligoski from behind. What’s he play, three or four minutes a game? Go run one of our bigger guys,” said Stars coach Lindy Ruff. “Those are the hits you want to get rid of. Let’s be serious, the hit was stupid, it’s something we want to get rid of and there is really no place for it.”

The Stars scored twice in a 1:03 span on the lengthy power play to take a 5-3 lead. Seguin set up Benn, who scored from the right circle with 2:14 left in the period. Then Gonchar set up Seguin, who scored from the left circle with 1:11 remaining.

“We’ve had so many chances, but we haven’t been getting bounces,” Seguin said. “You look at our practice yesterday, it was power play and penalty kill, it has been our focus.”

Al Montoya took over in goal for the Jets in the third period, and he became the victim of Sceviour’s first NHL goal at the 2:48 mark. Sceviour broke in on net and scored off a backhand shot to put the Stars up 6-3.

Jets forward Olli Jokinen scored off a rebound with 1:41 remaining to make it a 6-4 game. The Jets pulled Montoya after the Jokinen goal, but couldn’t get any closer.

“I thought we had some great opportunities and we kept playing,” Ruff said. “It was disappointing to get scored against there late but we played hard all night.”

The Stars next game is Monday, when they play at Colorado in the first of a home-and-home series against the Avalanche.

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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