Stars hold off high-powered Caps in Saturday thriller

Dallas Stars left wing Jamie Benn (14) and center Tyler Seguin (91) congratulate each other at the end of the third period of an NHL hockey game against the Washington Capitals on Saturday, Jan. 17, 2015, in Dallas. The Stars won 5-4.

LM Otero/AP

DALLAS—The Dallas Stars almost gave away yet another game at American Airlines Center, blowing a 3-0 lead against the Washington Capitals on Sasturday night. But in the end, the Stars, thanks largely to third-period goals from Antoine Roussel and captain Jamie Benn some 16 seconds apart, hung on for a 5-4 victory, finishing their three-game homestand at 2-1-0.

"The response was great (after we lost the lead)," Stars head coach Lindy Ruff said. "I liked our battle but we just did some things we don’t need to do.  We probably had six or eight plays that left our zone and led to either icing or turnovers where either you get possession and get to play or you get caught in your own end with no timeout and you hunker down.  We lost coverage on the one goal and then we hung on."

Erik Cole, Jason Spezza and Tyler Seguin each had a goal and an assist while rookie defenseman Jyrki Jokipakka added two assists mere hours after being recalled from AHL Texas on Saturday morning.

Dallas (20-17-7), who is now 10-8-2 at the AAC, broke the 3-3 tie in the third period with goals from Roussel, his 11th of the season, and from Benn, his 13th, this after Caps leading scorer Alex Ovechkin had tied the game 21 seconds into the third period with his 25th goal of the season on a breakaway.

Besides getting solid contributions from Benn, Cole, Jokipakka, Seguin and Spezza and rebounding from a tough 2-1 loss to the Winnipeg Jets on Thursday night, the Stars also got a nice bounce-back performance from No. 1 goaltender Kari Lehtonen, who made 28 saves in his first start since being pulled in the second period of Tuesday’s 5-4 win against the Ottawa Senators.

"I thought he made some big saves at crucial times for us," Ruff said. "Maybe there was one he could have had, but he made some good saves at critical times.  At the same time it was good to see the team score some goals and help him out."

The Stars built a 2-0 lead after one period thanks to a power-play goal from Seguin, his league-leading 27th goal of the season, early in the game and Cole scoring his 11th by redirecting a shot from distance by Jokipakka later in the opening period.

That lead grew to three goals early in the second when Spezza scored his eighth of the season. However, Washington answered with two goals, one from Eric Fehr and another from Andre Burakovsky, to trail 3-2 after 40 minutes.

Ovechkin’s goal early in the third tied the game at three, a score that held for about three minutes, until Roussel and Benn broke the game open with their huge goals, with Benn’s goal being the eventual game-winner in front of a sellout crowd on Victory Avenue.

Washington cut it to 5-4 when Nicklas Backstrom scored his 14th of the season with 3:26 left in regulation but even after pulling backup goaltender Justin Peters, who was making his first start since Nov. 29, the visitors couldn’t find an equalizer and lost their second straight game for the first time since early December.

After hosting a Capitals team who was on the second night of a back-to-back, the Stars will experience a similar feeling on Sunday night with their second visit to United Center to face the Chicago Blackhawks in as many weeks.

Dallas fell 5-4 to the Hawks in overtime at the Madhouse on Madison back on Jan. 4 and for them to avoid a similar fate this time around, one Stars regular knows the formula is simple.

"Play the way we did the last time there-we came out a little slow but played really well," Cole said. "Had a tough goal go in that allowed them to win the game in overtime, but really controlled the third period in a game where we got the lead — and played a real smart period there. I thought we got 50 minutes of good hockey. We know that on a back-to-back we have to be smarter with the puck than we were tonight."

After facing their Central Division rivals, the Stars will return home to prepare for a Tuesday visit from the Boston Bruins, Dallas’ final game before the NHL All-Star break, which runs through Jan. 26.

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