DALLAS – The Buffalo Sabres kept making regular visits to the penalty box but were still within a goal after 47 minutes Saturday night. Pretty good when you consider they were last in the league on the road in penalty killing.
There was no way, however, to keep the high-powered Dallas Stars at bay. They finally broke through on a goal by captain Jamie Benn with Tyler Ennis in the box for hooking and went on to a 3-0 win over Buffalo in American Airlines Center. Benn banged home a Jason Spezza rebound at 7:11 of the third period on the Stars’ fifth power-play chance of the night and added insurance less than two minutes later.
That pushed his season total to 14 and at least temporarily took over the NHL lead from Chicago’s Patrick Kane. The South Buffalo native, who played later Saturday at Vancouver, has 13.
Antoine Roussel, playing on his 26th birthday, opened the scoring for Dallas at 6:22 of the first period, on a shot that went off Rasmus Ristolainen’s stick and over Chad Johnson’s glove.
Team streaks: The Stars have won five straight and improved to an NHL-best 17-4. The Sabres fell to 0-2-2 in their last four and are 8-10-2. Buffalo fell to 1-2-2 against the Western Conference.
Two-man troubles: The Sabres failed at a pair of two-man advantages in Thursday’s loss at St. Louis and worked hard on those situations at Saturday’s morning skate. It didn’t pay off. Buffalo opened the second period with a 5-on-3 for 51 seconds after Dallas defenseman Jyrki Jokipakka was nailed for delay of game with three seconds left in the first period. The Sabres didn’t generate much. Ristolainen had the only shot attempt and it was blocked.
“That’s been killing us the last few games,” said Jack Eichel. “Two 5-on-3s in St. Louis, one tonight. No goals on any of them. You can get momentum off of those and we didn’t.”
Teen-age troubles: Eichel endured his fifth straight game without a goal and was robbed at the doorstep in the second period by Antti Niemi off a neat Evander Kane feed. Eichel’s backhand got past a Niemi pokecheck but the Dallas goalie got the puck with his left pad. Eichel, also stopped in alone early in the third period, remains at six goals on the season and has been blanked in Buffalo’s five games against Western Conference clubs.
“We had a few chances but we turned too many pucks over,” Eichel said. “You can’t feed a team like that with transition. We were in the box a lot. Just not good enough.”
“I think Jack probably looks at the opportunities that he did have to score tonight and thinks he needs to put one in the back of the net,” said coach Dan Bylsma. “He put himself in a situation where he probably thinks he could have two or three goals tonight.”
Landlord troubles: It’s eight games without a goal and counting for Matt Moulson, who failed to convert a pair of huge chances in the first period and is stuck on four goals. Just 17 seconds into the game, a Brian Gionta steal in the Dallas zone gave Moulson a shot on the doorstep but he hit the post to the left of Niemi. The Dallas goaltender made another save on Moulson from in tight with four minutes left in the period.
In the net: Johnson stopped 29 of 32 shots. He had a shutout streak of 198 minutes, 13 seconds in 5-on-5 play broken by the Roussel goal. Niemi made 22 saves for his second shutout.
In the house: The crowd of 18,532 was Dallas’ fourth sellout of the year in 10 home games.
More on the Web: Go to the [BN] Hockey blog at Buffalonews.com for more from the locker room, including a deeper look at the Sabres’ offensive woes that resulted in their first shutout loss of the season.
Up Next: A rematch with the St. Louis Blues at 7 Monday night in First Niagara Center.