DALLAS – After starting the month of January at 1-8-1, the Dallas Stars were talking about turning things around after a 4-1 loss at Nashville on Monday night. Well, in the two games since, they have done exactly that, outscoring the Minnesota Wild and Toronto Maple Leafs 11-1 in a span of two days to start a two-game winning streak.
Thursday’s 7-1 win over the Leafs was particularly impressive because Toronto headed into the game sporting a six-game winning streak.
"We got a couple of bounces finally got our way and a couple of redirections that went in," Stars head coach Lindy Ruff said. "That opened up the floodgates."
Dallas, who led 2-1 after one period and 6-1 after two, got a four-point night (one goal, three assists) from captain Jamie Benn and a three-point showing from rookie winger Valeri Nichushkin (two goals, one assist).
Kari Lehtonen made 24 saves to earn his 19th win of the season.
Benn opened the night’s scoring with his 18th of the season 7:09 into the game. But when the Leafs answered 30 seconds later when Nikolai Kulemin beat a screened Lehtonen from long range, one had to wonder if an ill wind might be blowing for the home team.
However, once Cody Eakin put one through the wickets of Toronto goaltender Jonathan Bernier, who was chased from the game early in the second period after allowing three goals on just 13 shots, with just over four minutes remaining before the first intermission, the game took on a completely different tone.
And in the middle frame, the Stars’ offense absolutely erupted, lighting the lamp four times in the period off goals from Nichushkin, Shawn Horcoff on the power play, a shorthanded tally from Rich Peverley and Trevor Daley’s second goal of January to make it a five-goal game with one period to play.
Nichushkin then added a second early in the third to ice this show of offensive firepower at 7-1.
"We kept trying to score," Peverley said. "That’s what you have to do. You don’t want to let up."
Dallas will host the Pittsburgh Penguins and a pair of ex-Stars in James Neal and Matt Niskanen on Saturday night.
And even though the Pens currently lead the Eastern Conference with 72 points, there isn’t any reason to think that with Dallas now back to playing their brand of hockey, complete with pace and fewer turnovers, that they can’t hold their own against Dan Bylsma’s club in game three of the Stars’ current run of five straight at American Airlines Center.
"I think we just found our confidence back again," Benn said. "We know how we have to play to win hockey games, and I think you’ve seen it the last two games here."