The Dallas Stars made it two wins in a row, and they did it in impressive fashion. The Stars snapped Toronto’s six-game winning streak, blowing away the Maple Leafs, 7-1, at American Airlines Center Thursday night.
“What we wanted to do is build off the last game,” said Stars captain Jamie Benn. “That’s two pretty good games in a row we’ve played. We were pretty good in all three zones, limited our turnovers and we were pretty successful when we do that.”
The Stars shut down the Maple Leafs, who came into the game having scored 21 goals over their last five games, and matched a season-high for goals scored in a game with seven. The Stars scored in several ways Thursday night, tallying five-on-five, on the power play, shorthanded and with the teams playing four-on-four.
“You take the puck to the net and good things happen,” said Stars defenseman Trevor Daley, who was among the goal scorers. “That was the theme of the night – get pucks to the net.”
Said Stars coach Lindy Ruff, “We got a couple bounces finally go our way and a couple redirections that hadn’t been going in for a period of time, and finally the floodgates opened up a little bit.”
The top line had a big night. Jamie Benn had four points (one goal, three assists), Valeri Nichushkin picked up three points (two goals one assist) and Tyler Seguin had two assists. Cody Eakin, Shawn Horcoff, Rich Peverley and Daley also scored. Kari Lehtonen stopped 24 of 25 shots for his 200th career win.
The win, the second straight for the Stars following a 1-8-1 slide, helped them keep pace in the Western Conference playoff race. They remained seven points behind eighth-place Minnesota, which won 2-1 in Chicago Thursday night.
“If we want to have any chance we’ve got to string some [wins] together” Peverley said. “These are big games for us.”
There was one negative for the Stars. Center Cody Eakin left the game early in the third period after getting hit in the head by Leafs forward Colton Orr.
“I think he is going to be OK initially,” Ruff said. “We’ll see tomorrow.”
Not much went right in the game for the Maple Leafs, who saw a six-game winning streak come to an end.
“Unexpected, disappointing, frustrated, all those things,” said Toronto coach Randy Carlyle. “We didn’t really have anything going for a good part of the hockey game. When we started I thought we had a forecheck going and we were able to turn some pucks over and then all of a sudden, it was open season on turnovers and circling.”
The Stars opened the scoring 7:08 into the game. After the Stars’ top line forced a couple of turnovers in the Toronto zone, Jamie Benn scored off a snap shot from the slot to put Dallas up 1-0.
But the Maple Leafs answered 30 seconds later when Nikolai Kulemin deflected a Carl Gunnarsson point shot past Lehtonen to tie the game at 1-1.
Toronto got the game’s first power play 13:35 into the game, generated nothing and just 12 seconds after it expired Eakin scored off the rush to give Dallas a 2-1 lead at the 15:47 mark.
The Stars made it 3-1 6:36 into the second when Nichushkin tipped a Jamie Benn point shot past Maple Leafs goaltender Jonathan Bernier, who was pulled after allowing three goals on 13 shots. James Reimer took over in net for Toronto and the move didn’t stop the bleeding for the Maple Leafs
The Stars quickly scored a couple of special teams goals to put the game out of reach. Reimer hadn’t been in the net for two minutes when Horcoff scored off the rush with the Stars on the power play to make it 4-1 at the 8:33 mark of the second. Peverley scored shorthanded at the 11:37 mark to make it 5-1.
“Our power play has been going pretty well lately and our penalty kill has done a nice job,” said Ruff. “There was a big kill tonight and then they could have got some life off of, but instead we got the short-hander and then scored one right after one of their power plays.”
Trevor Daley scored from the point with the teams playing four-on-four to make it 6-1 at 15:23 of the second.
The Stars added another one in the third when Nichushkin knocked the home the rebound of a Tyler Seguin shot to round out the scoring in the game and make it a 7-1 final score and two solid wins in a row.
“We’ve found our confidence back again,” said Benn. “We know how we have to play to win hockey games. I think we’ve seen that the last two games.”
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