Jamie Benn and the Dallas Stars were ready for some time off after a tough start to the new year. They go into the All-Star break coming off a needed victory.
Benn and Jason Spezza scored 80 seconds apart early in the second period, and the Stars held on for a 2-1 victory Monday night over the Calgary Flames, who came up empty on three consecutive power-play chances in the second period and two more after that stretch.
"It was a grind, but we got the job done. Things were going pretty good there until probably about halfway through the second, and a couple turnovers and three straight penalties and gave them momentum," Benn said. "Antti [Niemi] made some big saves."
The Stars won for only the third time in 11 games this month, closing out a 3-6-2 stretch after leading the Western Conference for much of the season.
"To go into the break with a win is a good thing, you can go in with a positive mindset. Then when we come out, we know that we've got work to do," coach Lindy Ruff said. "If I had to pick a time to struggle, I would struggle now versus having us struggle near the end" of the season.
Dallas had allowed goals on five of its 11 previous penalty kills going into the game. But Calgary was 0-for-5 on the power play, including the final 9.4 seconds of the game when Flames goalie Karri Ramo was on the bench, giving them six skaters on the ice.
Niemi stopped two point-blank shots, among his 23 saves for the game, and the Stars survived a flurry of activity in front of the net on the first power play.
"We kind of woke up too late to play," said Ramo, who had 28 saves. "Against a team like that, you have to start pushing right away."
Benn's 28th goal of the season came 2:43 into the second, with a little backhanded flip just off the right post. The goal was set up by Valeri Nichushkin's pass, after he had skated behind the net to retrieve his own pass off the boards.
Then Spezza was off the left post behind Ramo after the goalie had skated up for another shot that was wide. The puck ended up on Spezza's stick on the left side of the net with a wide open gap for his 17th goal and a 2-0 lead.
"I don't think we're satisfied with how things went after we had a two-goal lead, but we've had enough losses this month where we probably deserved a better fate and didn't get it," Spezza said. "Sometimes you've just got to hunker down and get saves from your goalie, and that's what we did."
Calgary, 2-5-1 in its last eight games, got its only goal early in the third period when Jiri Hudler passed from behind the net to Joe Colborne. It was the seventh goal of the season for Colborne, who has goals in two straight after getting two in his previous 28 games.
"We can feel good about the effort," coach Bob Hartley. "But it's always the final result that matters and especially in our situation we need to get back up winning and climbing in the standings."