DALLAS -- The Dallas Stars have struggled to win at American Airlines Center for most of the season. But on Thursday against the Pittsburgh Penguins, captain Jamie Benn delivered a goal and an assist and Kari Lehtonen made 31 saves to help the Stars to a 2-1 win.
Benn had the primary assist on rookie Brett Ritchie's goal at 2:14 of the second period, then scored what proved to be the eventual game-winner at 3:37, firing his own rebound past Penguins goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury.
"We played a fast game," Benn said. "We had all four lines going. I think the key was limiting your turnovers against them because they are so dangerous, and we really wanted to work their [defense]. I thought we did a good job of that for 60 minutes."
Pittsburgh (39-22-10) cut the deficit to one goal at 13:26 of the middle period when Kris Letang scored a power-play goal. The Penguins outshot the Stars 15-4 in the third period but were unable to get another puck past Lehtonen and lost their fourth in a row, all in regulation. They have scored two goals in the four losses.
"I really liked our game 10 days ago. Now our game has slipped away a little bit as far as trying to get a little more offense into our game," Penguins coach Mike Johnston said. "We've got to start to score. I thought we competed harder for half the game but it's got to be the full game."
Dallas, now 14-14-8 at home, had the better of play in a scoreless first period, then wasted little time taking the lead in the second. Ritchie was credited with his sixth goal of the season when his attempted pass to Shawn Horcoff deflected off the stick of Penguins forward Beau Bennett and went past Fleury.
Dallas (33-28-10) doubled its lead 1:13 later when Benn scored his 24th of the season, ending an 11-game goal drought. Tyler Seguin sent a pass from the right circle to Benn, whose initial wrist shot was denied by Fleury. But Benn gathered the carom off Fleury's right pad and slipped the puck inside the far post.
"When you get an early lead like that it's huge for us," Stars defenseman Jason Demers said. "Usually in the past we've given up some stuff in the third period, but [Kari Lehtonen] really held the door shut."
Pittsburgh got one back when Letang ended a 15-game goal drought with his power-play goal, beating Lehtonen through his five-hole with a wrist shot from the left point for his 11th of the season. The goal came eight seconds after Stars center Jason Spezza was sent off for tripping.
Letang spoke for everyone in the Penguins room when he said the best way for them to end their offensive woes is to get some secondary scoring.
"We have two big scorers [Evgeni Malkin and Patric Hornqvist] out of the lineup. That doesn't help. We have to get some secondary scoring from other lines," Letang said. "It can't be the same guys all the time. I think it's all a question of momentum. We didn't build momentum right at the start and we kind of put ourselves behind the eight ball."
Lehtonen delivered one of his biggest saves at 13:56 of the third period when he denied a snap shot by Christian Ehrhoff from the right point during a 4-on-4 situation, then covered the rebound before Chris Kunitz could get to it.
"I thought he was good," Ruff said of Lehtonen. "He made the key saves when we needed [them], and that's what we needed tonight."
Fleury finished with 25 saves.
Withstanding the Penguins' barrage in the final 20 minutes was a big source of pride for the Stars.
"We were just eliminating their chances and keeping them to the outside," Ritchie said. "They have a couple of pretty high-end players that can score on that team so it wasn't an easy task. I thought [Kari Lehtonen] made a couple of big saves when we needed him there and the rest of the team absorbed the pressure and kept it up."
"I think we had a lot of lines playing against him tonight," Benn said of Crosby. "He's so skilled and his linemates are pretty good too. I thought we just did a pretty good job of maintaining and not giving him Grade-A opportunities."
Pittsburgh concludes its three-game road trip on Saturday at the Arizona Coyotes. Dallas continues its four-game homestand Saturday against the Chicago Blackhawks.
"Nobody likes to lose," Crosby said. "I think we have to realize that we need to give ourselves better chances to win games. Right now, regardless of goals or whatever, we just got to give ourselves a chance with the way we work and execute and see what happens from there."