Stars open homestand with 5-2 win over Avalanche

What a difference a week can make in the NHL. Last Saturday the Dallas Stars were reeling after an 8-1 loss to the Chicago Blackhawks at American Airlines Center. This Saturday they beat the Colorado Avalanche, giving themselves three wins in their last four games and pushing them into eighth place in the Western Conference.

“It’s crunch time and we know what we’ve got to do,” said Stars center Cody Eakin, who was one of five Dallas players to score Saturday. “It’s a matter of finding our stride. There’s no time to take off now. We’ve got momentum, we’ve got to take it and we’re got to bear down for the games remaining.”

The Stars, opening a key five-game homestand, came out strong Saturday night, scoring 34 seconds into the game and then again midway through the first. By the 24:37 mark of the game they had a 4-0 lead.

“I think we were focused, we were really mad about what happened last time (at Colorado Wednesday),” said Stars center Derek Roy, who scored the Stars’ first goal and assisted on the second. “We were up a couple goals and ended up blowing the game with work ethic. We didn’t work as hard as we could and that cost us the game. Tonight was our time to come out at home and establish a good forecheck, establish a good work ethic. We did that the first shift, moved forward and did it for pretty much 60 minutes.”

On the game’s first shift, Roy stole the puck in the defensive zone to start a rush and then finished it by beating Avalanche goaltender Semyon Varlamov with a shot from the slot.

“It’s good to get that first goal and I thought it engaged our guys because I thought (Colorado) came out with a purpose in the first to be physical and hard on us,” said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan. “I thought that set them back somewhat. Then we get the power play goal, it stung them again.”

The Stars made it 2-0 midway through the first, taking advantage of their first power play of the game. Jordie Benn scored his first NHL goal, backhanding the rebound of a Roy shot past Varlamov at the 9:57 mark.

“You just want to contribute,” said Benn. “You dream about getting a goal in the NHL, that’s one and hopefully there are many more to come.”

The Stars extended the lead to 4-0 with a pair of goals early in the second period. Eric Nystrom banged home the rebound of a Jamie Benn shot just 58 seconds into the period. It was the first of three assists on the night for Jamie Benn.

Less than four minutes later, Eakin jumped off the bench on a line change, got to a puck that slipped off the stick up Jamie Benn and beat Varlamov with a wrist shot from the slot. That ended the night for Varlamov, who gave up four goals on 15 shots and was replaced by Jean-Sebastien Giguere.

Colorado scored a power play late in the second and then tallied early in the third to cut the Stars’ lead to 4-2, but Jaromir Jagr scored on a wrap-around at 6:44 of the third period to put the Stars up 5-2.

Colorado saw its road winless streak hit nine games (0-6-3).

“I have no idea,” Colorado forward Matt Duchene said of the team’s road woes. “It’s tough to put a finger on it. We approach them the same way that we approach a home game. I don’t know why we’re struggling so much on the road. If there was a secret I could let you guys in on I don’t think we’d be struggling as bad as we are right now. It’s disappointing.”

For the Stars, who have struggled at home recently, it was their second straight win at American Airlines Center.

“I think it was probably one of our most complete games that we played,” Eakin said. “We’ve been trying to work on 60 minutes. There were times they came on strong but we stuck with it. Like I said, I think it was one of our most complete games.”

Notes

*The Stars have outscored their opponents 7-0 in the first period over the last four games.

*Jaromir Jagr has eight goals over the last eleven games.

*Jagr notched an assist on Saturday night for the 999th assist of his NHL career.

*Jamie Benn matched a career-high with three assists in Saturday’s game.

*Kari Lehtonen stopped 33 of 35 shots in the game.

*The Stars were 1-4 on the power play in Saturday’s game and 3-4 on the penalty kill.

*Reilly Smith was the lone healthy scratch for Dallas.

*Saturday’s attendance was 17,311.

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