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Stars win second straight, defeat Maple Leafs

The SportsXchange

DALLAS -- Earlier in the week, Dallas Stars head coach Lindy Ruff talked about how quickly the pendulum can swing from losing to winning in today's NHL. And with a 7-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs on Thursday at American Airlines Center, Dallas has now won two straight after starting January 1-8-1.

"We got a couple of bounces finally go our way and a couple of redirections that went in. That opened up the floodgates," Ruff said. "We didn't give them a lot of zone time."

Dallas, who also beat the Minnesota Wild 4-0 on Tuesday night in the start of a five-game homestand, ended Toronto's six-game winning streak.

After leading 2-1 after one period, Dallas (23-20-8) erupted for four goals in the second to lead by four goals after 40 minutes of play.

"I just think we didn't have anything going," Toronto head coach Randy Carlyle said. "We turned the puck over. We didn't make strong plays. We looked like we were a step behind the Dallas hockey club tonight. They skated and we didn't."

Stars center and captain Jamie Benn led the way offensively with four points (goal, three assists).

Dallas also received three points from rookie right winger Valeri Nichushkin (goal, two assists) and two-point nights from four other players. Goaltender Kari Lehtonen made 24 saves to earn his 19th win of the season.

Dallas struck first 7:09 into the game when Benn beat Toronto goalie Jonathan Bernier top shelf with a wrister from the high slot. Benn's shot careened off the crossbar before landing in the back of the net.

"Something we wanted to do in this game was build off last game. It's two pretty good games in a row, pretty good in all three zones and we eliminated our turnovers," Benn said.

That lead lasted just 30 seconds as Toronto answered when left wing Nikolai Kulemin beat a screened Lehtonen with a wrister from near the blue line for his seventh of the season at 7:39.

Dallas retook the lead for good at 15:47 of the first when center Cody Eakin beat Bernier five-hole for his 12th of the season. After a pass from defenseman Alex Goligoski from the Stars zone, Eakin got on the rush and his initial shot was deflected by Toronto defenseman Jake Gardiner. Eakin collected the carom and finished through Bernier's wickets from the right circle to make it 2-1.

The Stars' onslaught continued in the second with Dallas taking a two-goal lead at 6:36 when Nichushkin deflected in a blast by Benn from near the Toronto blue line, a goal that ended Bernier's night.

James Reimer quickly entered the game for Bernier, who stopped 10 of 13 shots before exiting.

However, not even the goaltender change could slow Dallas as center Shawn Horcoff scored with the Stars on the power play at 8:33 to make it 4-1. Horcoff's goal, his sixth, came off a wrister from the left circle that beat Reimer five-hole.

Dallas then added another in the second when center Rich Peverley scored his sixth, a shorthanded goal, with a wrister from the right circle over Reimer's blocker at 11:37. Stars defenseman Trevor Daley then added his third of the season, blasting a one-timer from the right circle off the far post and into the visiting net during a 4-on-4 at 15:23.

Nichushkin added a second goal at 2:43 of the third when he scored his 11th off a rebound.

Toronto almost added a second goal at 7:39 of the third when left winger Joffrey Lupul appeared to slip in a rebound. However, the goal was waved off after it was ruled the whistle had blown play dead before the puck crossed the line.

Eakin left the game in the third period with an upper-body injury and did not return.

"I think he's going to be OK. We'll see tomorrow. I watched the hit. It looked like the primary contact was to the head, but it wasn't an elbow," Ruff said.

Reimer stopped 11 shots for Toronto (27-21-5).

NOTES: Maple Leafs D Mark Fraser and D Paul Ranger were scratched. ... Stars D Kevin Connauton and C Dustin Jeffrey, who cleared waivers earlier in the day, were scratched. Jeffrey, who has appeared in 22 games for the Stars since being claimed off waivers by Pittsburgh, will likely be assigned to AHL Texas on Friday. ... Representatives from four NHL teams were in the press box on Thursday night. ... The first-period goal by Stars C and captain Jamie Benn was the 100th goal of his career, making him the first player in Dallas history to reach 100 before age 25. ... Toronto G Jonathan Bernier allowed three goals on 13 shots in 27 minutes before being pulled with 6:36 gone in the second period, his shortest start of the season. ... Announced attendance was 13,678.
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