The Dallas Stars, coming off a slow start in Columbus on Tuesday, came out clicking Thursday night, scoring three goals in the first 12 minutes of the game on their way to a 6-1 rout of the Vancouver Canucks at American Airlines Center.
“That was a big message before tonight’s game, our starts,” said Stars center Tyler Seguin. “First game after the trade deadline, both sides had some acquisitions, we wanted to come out hard and I thought we did.”
The Stars’ top line, led by Seguin’s three goals and two assists, keyed the offensive attack. Jamie Benn had one goal and two assists and Rich Peverley chipped in with two assists. Benn scored 2:57 into the game and then Seguin tallied two more in the next 9:02 to stake the Stars to an early 3-0 lead.
“Our execution was good. Our puck movement was crisp,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said of the team’s strong start. “We got inside the zone and made some nice plays.”
“[Getting a big lead] always helps,” said Lehtonen, “especially when the guys are playing that well.”
The win kept the Stars (30-23-10) in the final playoff spot in the Western Conference. They maintained a one point lead over Phoenix, and increased their lead to three points over Winnipeg and to four points over the Canucks.
“It’s a huge two points for us,” said Seguin.
The Canucks, who lost their seventh straight road game, fell to 1-10-1 in their last 12 games overall. They’ve scored just 16 goals during that stretch and just nine goals in their last nine games.
“For a team that has struggled as we have to get down so quickly, it’s tough,” said Canucks coach John Tortorella. “It’s hard on us right now to try to overcome that right away without even getting in the game, it happened so early. Are they fragile? Sure, but we got to figure it out. No one else is going to figure it out for us. We have to try to find a way to get some sort of consistency in our game for some good things to happen for us.”
The good things happened for the Stars Thursday night, and they happened early. Seguin got a point blank chance off the rush and Jamie Benn banged home the rebound 2:57 into the game to put the Stars up 1-0. Less than three minutes later the Stars went on the game’s first power play and cashed in just before it expired to take a 2-0 lead as Seguin broke in on net and beat Canucks goaltender Eddie Lack from the slot at the 7:26 mark. Seguin struck again at 11:59 of the first, whipping a shot on net from the right boards that eluded Lack to put the Stars up 3-0.
“I was hoping for Peverley’s stick or Benn’s stick,” Seguin said. “Just whipped it on net and sometimes you get those lucky bounces.”
The Stars went on a five-minute power play late in the first when Canucks forward Zack Kassian was given a major penalty for boarding Stars defenseman Brenden Dillon, and the Stars cashed in on the power play at 2:20 of the second period to make it a 4-0 game. Ray Whitney set up Alex Goligoski, who scored from the right circle to push his goal scoring streak to three games.
“It's just being in the right spot at the right time,” said Goligoski. “Whitney on the power play made a couple of plays to me.”
Dillon headed to the locker room after the Kassian hit, but returned and finished the game.
“I was relieved to get him back,” Ruff said “It was definitely a shot from behind. Those are tough hits and the best retribution is make the other team play on the power play. He didn’t come from a long way but Dillon was in a bad position when he got hit.”
The Stars made it 5-0 at the 12:08 mark of the second when Goligoski set up Ryan Garbutt on a two-on-one rush, and Garbutt scored from the bottom of the left circle.
The Canucks finally got on the board late in the second when Lehtonen couldn’t hand a puck behind the goal, it bounced out in front and Zac Dalpe put it into an empty net to make it a 5-1 game with 1:45 left in the period.
The Canucks pulled Lack, who allowed five goals on 17 shots, and put in Jacob Markstrom, who was acquired from Florida Tuesday in the Roberto Luongo deal.
Seguin scored his third goal of the night, beating Markstrom to the short side from close range to give the Stars a 6-1 lead at 12:53 of the third period.
"His late one, for the hat trick, you wonder how it goes in, but it went in,” said Ruff. “Fidds (Vernon Fiddler) said on the bench, 'Those never go in for me.' It is funny how sometimes goal scorers find ways to put them in the holes.”
And Seguin and the Stars found the back of the net early and often Thursday night as they ran their record to 9-3-2 over the last 14 games and continued their push for a playoff spot.
“I really liked the way our team played. I thought they were ready to play and played hard,” said Ruff. “Even late they were blocking shots and trying to give Kari that little extra help. There was a lot of good tonight. If we play the way we’re playing we’ll get results.”
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