By Will Martin
As rotten as the Dallas Stars style of hockey looked when 2014 began for January the last two games have been as close to perfect as one could ask for.
On Tuesday night Kari Lehtonen was lights out in getting his 24th career shutout in a 4-0 victory. Two points for Alex Goligoski. Jordie Benn with a penalty goal.
Coach Lindy Ruff wanted to see energy and emotion from his team win or lose.
With the red hot Maple Leafs from Toronto in town this night you could understand if there was a level of concern as the eastern Conference team was riding a six game winning streak, an overall record of 27-20-5, a red hot scorer with Phil Kessel (26 goals and 52 points) and a three game winning streak against Western Conference teams.
Dallas losers of seven straight to Eastern Conference teams and an overall record of 6-10-1.
Throw all those numbers out the window!
Dallas exploded for seven goals as no less than six players had points in this matchup. In improving their record to 23-20-8 Jamie Benn got the fun started at 7:09 with his 100th career goal and 18 of the season. Tyler Seguin and Valeri Nichushkin each got assists (25th and 14th) for an early 1-0 lead.
Toronto answered right back 30 seconds later when Nikola Kulemin tipped in a goal-his 7th-to knot things up at one apiece. Carl Gunnarsson and Nazem Kadri with assists (7th and 20th). It would be about eight minutes later when Cody Eakin would light the lamp at 15:47 for a wristed goal-his 12th-and an assist for Alex Goligoski (18).
Cody Eakin, Valeri Nichushkin, Jamie Benn, Sergei Gonchar, Tyler Seguin, and Alex Goligoski each had a minimum two point game via assists and/or goal.
A night of milestones as Jamie Benn reached the 100 goal mark in his career. Kari Lehtonen got to career win #200. Erik Cole was playing in his 800th career game. The Stars getting their second straight win of the 2014 calendar with the Penguins next on the docket.
Four second period goals for Dallas in varietal manner. A shorty, a power play goal, one even strength, also one in 4-on-4 mode. Valeri Nuchushkin scored his second goal of the night and 11th of the season with 2:43 in the third for a 7-1 lead and a convincing final score. Two games outscoring the opposition 11-1!
‘We didn’t expect it to go this way but we got the W,’ said Lindy Ruff as he addressed the media postgame. ‘Finally got a couple of bounces, a couple of redirections that hadn’t been going our way prior. Now the pucks are finally going in.’
Jamie Benn with his three point night was content with the overall team result.
‘I think we have our confidence back,’ said Benn. ‘We just have to play winning hockey. We just want to play one game at a time and focus on our next opponent on Saturday and get the two points.’
Cody Eakin left the game in the third period with an upper body injury (believed to be the head) and his status for the remainder of this homestand remains unknown.
Rich Peverley provided an important reminder of why sometimes they struggle at times during the regular season.
‘When things are going bad teams tend to do the wrong things at the wrong time. Tonight, we kept building, we kept trying to score and that’s what you have to do to win. You can’t sit back and you have to keep pushing to try to get that next goal.”
That being said the homestand continues for the Stars Saturday night for the Pittsburgh Penguins and the return of Brenden Morrow, James Neal, Jussi Jokinen, and of course Sid the Kid. Should be a good one amidst a packed house!
Let’s make it to three!