BUFFALO — Tyler Seguin capped a three-goal, first-period outburst, and the Dallas Stars hung on to deliver coach Lindy Ruff a 4-3 win in his homecoming against the Buffalo Sabres on Monday night.
Jamie Benn, Alex Goligoski and Vernon Fiddler also scored in a game the Stars nearly squandered a 4-1 lead against the NHL’s worst team. Eric Cole added two assists in Ruff’s first game against his former team after his 16-year tenure in Buffalo ended with him being fired on Feb. 20.
Matt Moulson nearly spoiled Ruff’s return by scoring two goals in his Sabres debut, a day after being acquired in a trade the sent Thomas Vanek to the New York Islanders. Steve Ott also scored for Buffalo (2-11-1), which matched its worst start through 14 games.
The Stars ended a four-game road losing skid and won for the first time in eight regular-season trips to Buffalo. Not including playoffs, Dallas had gone 0-5-2 at Buffalo since a 4-2 win on Oct. 7, 1997, which happened to be Ruff’s first home game as Sabres coach.
Benn’s goal 10:55 into the second period put the Stars up 4-1 and stood up as the game-winner. Seguin started the play by checking Ville Leino off the puck at the left circle. After a give-and-go with Cole, Seguin fed a pass through the crease to Benn who beat goalie Ryan Miller at the right post.
Ott scored a power-play goal 1:59 later, and Moulson cut the Stars lead to 4-3 with 2:43 left in the second period, when he collected a loose puck in front and lifted a shot over goalie Kari Lehtonen.
Lehtonen preserved the win by stopping the final 10 shots he faced, and 22 overall to improve to 4-0-1 in his past five starts. Lehtonen had to be sharp twice in the early moments of the third period, when he got his right pad out both times to turn away defenseman Christian Ehrhoff’s slapshots from the right circle.
The Sabres dropped to 0-7-1 at home, their longest home winless skid to open a season. The eight-game home drought is also the team’s second-longest single-season skid, and four short of the franchise-low set in 1990-91.
The all-too-familiar “Fire Darcy!” chants, directed toward general manager Darcy Regier, were briefly quieted by Ott’s power-play goal in the second period.
Defensive breakdowns contributed to the Sabres digging themselves a first-period hole.
Sabres forward Drew Stafford allowed Fiddler to drive untouched to the front of the net and then convert his own rebound to open the scoring.
Cole checked defenseman Tyler Myers off the puck to set up Seguin’s goal that put Dallas up 3-1 with 2:08 left in the first period.
Otherwise, the night belonged to Ruff, the Sabres winningest coach, who took over in Dallas in June to replace Glen Gulutzan.
A cheer went up when Ruff first stepped on the bench before the opening faceoff. Ruff then received a loud and lengthy standing ovation during the first break, when the Sabres showed highlights of Ruff as a player and coach.
Ruff couldn’t resist in glancing up the board, at times smiling and at another point biting his lip. Players from both teams joined in banging their sticks on the boards. Several fans brought Ruff jerseys and hand-drawn signs, among which read, “We love you Lindy,” and “Welcome home.”
As the camera panned to Ruff behind the bench, the coach acknowledged the crowd with a quick wave.
That was a distinct change for Ruff from the last time he was behind a bench in Buffalo. Ruff and the Sabres were booed off the ice following a 2-1 loss to Winnipeg on Feb. 19. Ruff hadn’t set foot into the arena since holding a farewell news conference three days later.
NOTES: Ott took over as the Sabres full-time captain after splitting duties with Vanek, who served as captain during Sabres home games. ... Before the game, Ruff joked he’s found numerous good restaurants in Dallas, but has yet to try any chicken wings. He cracked he’s given those up to stay in shape. ... Stars LW Ryan Garbutt served the third of a five-game suspension for charging Anaheim Ducks forward Dustin Penner on Oct. 20. ... Moulson had a long day, noting he was up before 4:30 a.m. to catch his flight to Buffalo. Moulson and Vanek not only switched teams they traded jerseys, with both wearing No. 26.