After decisively ending the Montreal Canadiens’ winning streak, the Vancouver Canucks now try to cool off one of the Western Conference’s hottest teams.
The Canucks enter American Airlines Center for Thursday night’s matchup with the Dallas Stars off easily their most impressive effort of the young season, a 5-1 victory over a Canadiens team that had won its first nine games. Rookie Jared McCann delivered his first two-goal effort and Ryan Miller made 25 saves to help Vancouver (4-2-3) halt a four-game losing streak.
"It was good to see that we could beat a top team," Canucks coach Willie Desjardins said. "I think all our guys had confidence, but it was still nice to find a way and hold a lead going into the third."
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The win was the Canucks’ first in six games at Rogers Arena. They’re 3-0-0 on the road, where they’ll play nine of their next 11 beginning with a test from a high-powered Stars squad that’s won six of seven and owned this series of late.
Dallas (7-2-0) bounced back strongly from Saturday’s 6-2 home loss to Florida by rallying for a 4-3 decision over slumping Anaheim on Tuesday. The Stars overcame an early 3-0 deficit by dominating the final two periods, with Antoine Roussel’s goal with 1:28 remaining completing the comeback.
"You are going to face a lot of adversity throughout a year, and we faced some (Tuesday)," captain Jamie Benn said. "When you come out with a win with such a great team game, it feels good."
Benn added to his league-leading points total with three assists. The reigning Art Ross Trophy recipient has six goals and six assists over a six-game stretch while linemate Tyler Seguin has 11 points during that span.
Dallas’ potent attack will be challenged by a Vancouver defense that’s yielding 2.0 goals per game with Miller in net for all nine contests.
Miller is 0-4-1 with a 4.35 goals-against average in his last five starts against the Stars, however, and surrendered five goals on 13 shots before being pulled early in the second period of his lone encounter with them last season, a 6-3 loss at American Airlines Center on Oct. 21, 2014.
That result is one of seven consecutive Stars’ victories in the series. The Canucks have been outscored 29-10 during the streak and have dropped four straight in Dallas since a 4-3 decision on Feb. 21, 2013.
The Stars also come in healthier, with defenseman Jason Demers ready to return from a two-game suspension for elbowing Pittsburgh’s Nick Bonino on Oct. 22 and defenseman Dan Hamhuis (lower body) and forward Brandon Prust (ankle) unavailable for Vancouver’s two-game trip.
Dallas has shared goaltending duties between Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi, who made 17 saves against Anaheim. Lehtonen owns a 1.42 GAA in winning seven straight starts against Vancouver but allowed three goals on 11 shots in 21 minutes during the Florida loss.
Either will face a resurgent Canucks’ power play that’s 4 for 9 over the last three games after going 1 for 20 over the first six. Vancouver also fields one of the league’s top penalty kills at 88.0 percent (22 of 25).