Anyone who missed Dallas' big win over Detroit on Thursday, the first part was replayed Saturday night in Columbus.
For almost 40 minutes, the Stars' season-high fourth straight win was nearly a carbon-copy of their third consecutive victory earned against the Red Wings. Just like they did in Detroit, the Stars utilized a quick start, weathered a second-period storm, then pulled away for a convincing 7-3 win over the Blue Jackets at Nationwide Arena.
The Stars scored three times in the game's first 11 minutes, practically squandered it by allowing Columbus to score twice in a four-minute span that bridged the first and second periods, then broke free with a two-goal spurt late in the second stanza that helped lift them to their fifth win in the last six games.
"We are playing good hockey and are getting down to business here," said rookie James Neal, who scored twice and added an assist for his fourth multi-point game of the year. "It feels good. Every night is a huge game and these are two big points."
The victory gives Dallas 53 points, which puts them in the middle of a seven-team pileup that includes the Blue Jackets for the final four playoff spots in the Western Conference.
The Stars have games in hand with all but one of those clubs.
In the three games following the All-Star break, the Stars have now outscored their opponents by a 13-5 margin, playing nearly flawless hockey in the process.
"We like the way we are playing and it's a result oriented business," said goalie Marty Turco, who turned aside 35 Columbus shots. "We are banding together and playing well lately, and we are going to have to continue this. They are a tough team to play against, but we were in control for the most part, and that's the way we like it."
Against a team that came in having won 10 of their last 12 at home, Dallas jumped out of the gate early, forcing the Blue Jackets to chase the game from the onset while playing without their top goalie, rookie Steve Mason, who was yanked by coach Ken Hitchcock after Brian Sutherby's goal gave the Stars a 3-0 advantage midway through the first period.
The 20-year-old Mason came in with the lowest goals-against average in the league, and had picked up his league-leading seventh shutout the night before against Ottawa.
After closing the gap to 3-2 on Fedor Tyutin's power-play goal just a minute into the second period, the Blue Jackets began taking the play away from Dallas. But Turco stood strong in the nets, withstanding the strong Columbus push in his 19th straight start.
Loui Eriksson had a goal and assist, and Steve Ott, Trevor Daley and Andrew Hutchinson also scored for the Stars, who've now earned at least a point in 14 of their last 18 games.
Mike Modano collected a pair of assists on Neal's goals.
"(Neal's) had a few down games, but tonight was his best game in a couple weeks," coach Dave Tippett said. "That's what we need from him every night. He can be a dominant player if he brings this consistently."
"It was nice to get on the board after not scoring for a while," Neal added. "I've played with Mo all season, and you can't ask for a better guy to play with."
Jared Boll cut Dallas' lead to 5-3 with a goal 4 1/2 minutes into the third period, but Daley countered with his sixth of the season 2:36 later to up the edge to 6-3.
Hutchinson capped the scoring with 1:58 left in regulation, potting a shot from the right circle for his first of the year and 11th of his career.
"We scored some timely goals tonight, and that's just big opportunistic goals we weren't getting earlier in the season," Ott said.
Kristian Huselius had a goal and assist for the Blue Jackets, who had their two-game winning streak snapped. Mason allowed three goals on eight shots before being lifted for backup Wade Dubielewicz.
Dubielewicz finished with 19 stops, playing for the first time since being claimed off waivers on Jan. 17 from New York Islanders.
After surviving a strong Columbus surge that saw the Blue Jackets outshoot the Stars by a 12-4 margin in the first 13 minutes of the second, Neal calmed things down and gave Dallas a 4-2 edge with his second of the game and 15th of the season with 6:31 left. Neal jammed home Modano's rebound from in tight for a pivotal tally.
"That goal to get us to 4 was huge," Tippett said. "It gave us some cushion and we were able to keep pushing it the other way. That dictated the game."
"Nealer's goal was very timely," he said. "That was a big goal. He has to use his body to his advantage and be strong on pucks, go to the net and be a power forward."
The Stars regained their three-goal lead, 5-2, when Ott scored his eighth of the year with just over a minute left in the middle frame. Dubielewicz batted Jere Lehtinen's shot away with his blocker, but Ott collected the juicy rebound in the slot before swatting it in.
Neal gave Dallas the early advantage six minutes into the game. After receiving a pass from Modano, Matt Niskanen wristed a shot from the right point that ricocheted off Columbus defenseman Ole-Kristian Tollefsen's skate and right to Neal in the slot. Neal drifted to the left before depositing the puck into an open net after Mason had already committed on Niskanen's attempt.
Eriksson made it 2-0 with his team-leading 24th of the season at 8:22. On a 2-on-1 with Brad Richards with both teams down a skater, Eriksson attempted to slide the puck to Richards from the right circle, but Blue Jackets defenseman Marc Methot rejected the pass with his stick. But the puck fortuitously popped right back to Eriksson, who shoveled it past Mason.
The Stars confidently pushed their lead to 3-0 on Sutherby's fourth of the year 2:21 later. Eleven seconds after Columbus forward Manny Malhotra hit the post, Sutherby chased Mason after stuffing home a rebound of Eriksson's shot that went off the end boards and right to Sutherby, who was standing along the crease.
Huselius cut the lead to 3-1 with 2:28 left in the first period, notching his 14th of the year. After defenseman Jan Hejda dumped the puck into the right corner, Huselius picked up the loose puck after a strange bounce in the right circle, made a quick move to his backhand, and elevated the puck over Turco.
"We created our bounces tonight," Turco said. "Our PK really came through, and we need to keep improving as we go."
The Stars return home to play the Calgary Flames on Tuesday at 7:30 (FSN). The Flames have won three straight heading into their game Monday night at Colorado, and sit atop the Northwest Division with 64 points.
The game marks the beginning of a stretch in which the Stars will play five of six at American Airlines Center, where they've accumulated a 12-6-4 mark.
--It was the third straight game that Dallas scored the first two goals of the game.
--Modano has six points in his last five games.
--There have been 30 goals scored in the three games played between these two teams already this season.
--Ott has scored in three straight games, and has six points in his last four games.
--The Stars were able to kill off all but one of Columbus' four power-play opportunities.
--Dallas was 0-for-3 with the man advantage.
--There were no less than seven posts hit in the first two periods combined.
--Toby Petersen's assist on Daley's goal was his first point in 14 games dating back to Dec. 27.
--Dallas improved to 16-2-4 in its last 22 meetings with Columbus.
--Turco is 13-1-2 lifetime against the Blue Jackets.
--The Stars moved to 11-12-3 on the road.
Wrist shot -