Stars ride strong start to 4-2 victory

Coming off some lackluster efforts, the Dallas Stars showed some jump early Thursday night in Columbus and it was key in a 4-2 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Stars scored two goals in the first 4:21 of the game and added a third by the 21 minute mark, building a 3-0 lead over the Blue Jackets.

“It was a big start tonight. Those two goals were huge,” said Stars center Jamie Benn, who scored the Stars’ first goal and then sealed the victory with a late empty net goal. “Getting some momentum on the road for our team is big. We definitely want that in the first period.”

The win was the fourth in the last six games for the Stars and temporarily moved them into eighth place in the West. But they dropped to ninth when Phoenix beat Calgary in overtime a short time later to take over the eighth spot.

Despite the strong start, the Stars still had some issues in the game. Columbus scored two power play goals in the second period to make a game of it right to the end.

“Our second period wasn’t very good. We know that,” said Benn. “It was because of bad penalties and turnovers that they got their chances. We need to clean that up.”

Stars goalie Kari Lehtonen helped clean up a lot of the messes, stopping 26 of 28 shots to earn his 20th win of the season.

“I thought he was real good,” Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said of Lehtonen. “I thought he cleaned a lot of our stuff up, and most of our stuff was self-inflicted again a little bit. It’s less than before but still some of the same symptoms. We’re going to move forward in that direction for sure. We’re going to cut those things out.”

But early in the game the Stars were buzzing. They were all over the Blue Jackets from the opening faceoff and it paid dividends on the scoreboard.

Benn got to a rebound of a Stephane Robidas shot and scored from the slot to give the Stars a 1-0 lead 1:35 into the game.

Alex Goligoski crashed the net and scored off the rebound after a Tomas Vincour bounced off face of Blue Jackets defenseman Marc Methot at the 4:21 mark to make it a 2-0 game.

“When you’re in the situation we’ve been in, where you haven’t scored too many lately, to score two right away is a good confidence boost for the group,” said Stars coach Glen Gulutzan.

The Stars padded the lead to 3-0 at the 1:05 mark of the third when Robidas scored just as a Dallas power play was expiring.

After that, though, things got a little dicey for the Stars. They gave the Blue Jackets three consecutive power plays later in the second and Vinny Prospal and Rick Nash scored power play goals to make it a one-goal game.

“There was no reason for us to let them back in the game,” said Stars defenseman Stephane Robidas. “We should have just kept the game simple. That was our success in the first, we kept our game simple. We put the puck deep and put pressure on them. (In the second period), we turned the puck over and took some penalties because guys were tired. It’s tough when you play in your own zone. It’s just not the right way to play.”

The Stars shut the door for most of the third period, but the Blue Jackets got some quality chances after pulling goalie Curtis Sanford for the extra attacker. Benn sealed the win, scoring into an empty net from his own blue line with less than a second remaining.

“We were more consistent,” Gulutzan said of his team’s performance. “We turned the puck over a little too much. There were a couple things we learned about ourselves in the second period and the way we need to play, but our third period we came out pretty strong and held the lead pretty good.”

Notes: Sheldon Souray questionable for Friday

*Stars coach Glen Gulutzan said Sheldon Souray took a puck off the foot in Thursday’s game and was questionable for Friday.

*Gulutzan said Richard Bachman would start Friday’s game in Buffalo.

*With Alex Goligoski and Stephane Robidas scoring goals Thursday, the Stars have six goals from defensemen over their last seven games.

*Mark Fistric, Jake Dowell and Adam Pardy were healthy scratches for the Stars.

*Blue Jackets defenseman Marc Methot left the game early in the first period after getting hit in the face with a shot off the stick of Stars forward Tomas Vincour. He suffered a broken jaw. The Blue Jackets also lost forward Jared Boll to a broken foot during the game.