Stars Open Playoffs With 4-0 Win Over Wild

Jason Spezza was skating up the right side in his first playoff game with the Dallas Stars when he faked a slap shot.

After skating a few more feet, he flicked his wrist and sent the puck into the upper right corner of the net.

Spezza had that nifty goal and an assist in his return to the postseason, helping the Stars to a 4-0 win over the Minnesota Wild in their first-round opener Thursday night.

"The Spezza play was a special one," coach Lindy Ruff said.

It was Spezza's first time in the playoffs since 2013 with Ottawa.

"I've scored a few there. I just kind of take what's open," said Spezza, in his second season with the Stars. "I had good looks."

Photos: Stars Top Wild in Game 1

Stars captain Jamie Benn had a late empty-net goal and two assists while Kari Lehtonen, with the least postseason experience among their two regular goalies, stopped 22 shots for his second career playoff shutout.

The Wild, who entered the playoffs after losing their last five regular-season games, and are down 1-0 in the best-of-seven series against the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference.

"Three of the goals we had the puck. We've got to manage the puck a whole lot better," Wild interim coach John Torchetti said. "We've got to do a better job."

Spezza's goal made it 2-0 in the second period. He added an assist with 5:44 left when his shot rebounded off goalie Devan Dubnyk and was knocked in by Patrick Eaves in the closing seconds of a power play.

Dallas Stars Ice Girls, 2015-2016

Less than 2 minutes later, after the Wild briefly pulled Dubnyk off the ice to have an extra skater, Benn had an unassisted goal.

The Stars were without All-Star center Tyler Seguin, who practiced this week for the first time since missing the last 10 regular-season games because of a cut left Achilles tendon. Ruff said Seguin likely would play Saturday night.

Minnesota was without forwards Zach Parise and Thomas Vanek, who didn't travel to Dallas for Games 1 and 2. Parise, their top goal-scorer, is questionable for the series.

Lehtonen was in net over fellow Finnish goalie Antti Niemi, who has 35 wins in 62 playoff games, including a Stanley Cup title with the Chicago Blackhawks in 2010. Both won 25 games in the regular season for the Stars.

This was Lehtonen's ninth playoff game. His previous postseason game had been two years ago in the same building when he allowed Anaheim to score twice late in the third period before the Ducks won the first-round Game 6 clincher less than 3 minutes into overtime.

"It's great confidence for us to have our goaltender play the way he played. We've said all year we've got two great goaltenders," said Spezza, who played his 57th playoff game.

"Kari played phenomenal tonight. I think the shutout shows he was calm and collected back there."

Ruff refused to say who would be in net for Game 2, which is Saturday night in Dallas.

"I haven't gotten that far. This game that I had all my interest in just ended," Lehtonen said. "I'm happy to get things going well in the first game."

Rookie center Radek Faksa had a goal in his playoff debut. He scored on a pass from Ales Hemsky, playing his first postseason game since going to the Stanley Cup Finals with Edmonton 10 years ago.

Hemsky later had a breakaway, but Dubnyk came well in front of the net with a diving play to poke the puck away with his stick.

"Right-handed shot coming down that angle, he's coming with a ton of speed and only our guy's behind him," said Dubnyk, who had 28 saves. "Those are scenarios that allow you to make a read there. You can't do it every time, but if you time it right, it's a difficult play for the forward and I was happy it worked."

The Stars were originally in Minnesota as the North Stars before moving to Dallas in 1993 and winning the Stanley Cup six years later.

Notes: It was Dubnyk's fifth straight postseason loss after the Wild got swept by Chicago in the second round last year. ... Dallas had a 14-1 advantage on shots until the final seconds of the first period. ...  The Stars hadn't won a Game 1 at home since a first-round win over Edmonton in 2001. This was only their fifth playoff series opener at home since then. ... Dallas is 9-2 without Seguin this season. ... Minnesota was 0-for-2 on power plays after going 0-for-16 its last six regular-season games. ... The Stars during the regular season set an NHL record with 24 empty-netters and led the league with 265 goals overall.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
Contact Us