Stars aim for strong start to four-game trek vs. Rangers

NEW YORK -- The Dallas Stars recently put together five straight wins and were feeling good about their performances.

A week later, Dallas is seeking answers in the form of wins as it starts a four-game East Coast road trip Monday night against the New York Rangers.

Dallas (16-13-1) scored 23 goals during a five-game stretch from Nov. 24-Dec. 3. It was part of a 7-1-0 run that saw the Stars score 32 times overall but they followed it up with three straight losses to Nashville, St. Louis and Vegas.

The Stars are on their second three-game losing streak of the season. They also lost three straight when they scored a combined five goals Nov. 13-16 at Carolina, Florida and Tampa Bay.

On Saturday, the Stars were handed a 5-3 loss to the Vegas Golden Knights. Dallas never led but tied the game twice before giving up two goals in a span of 2:25 during the second period.

"There's a sense of urgency through the team when you lose a couple of games," Dallas center Jason Spezza said. "You have to stop your losing streak as quick as you can in this league. We're not unaware of that, so that's why we had some urgency in our game tonight, but not enough finish and didn't keep enough out.

"We can't give them enough chances to get four goals either. So, there's things we have to work on to be a better team heading out on a tough road trip."

To be a better team, the Stars are hoping their power play gets going along with some of their key scorers. Dallas is scoreless in its last 16 opportunities with the man advantage, and 2-for-42 in the last 13 games.

Spezza scored in Saturday's loss and has four of his five goals since Nov. 18. Captain Jaime Benn also scored Saturday but only has two goals in his last 11 contests.

"You've got to lead the way if you're going to be the captain," Benn said. "I'm not doing it right now and I don't know who the team is supposed to follow if I'm not doing it."

Tyler Seguin leads the team with 14 goals, but three were against Calgary on Nov. 24 and two were in a 7-2 win over Colorado on Dec. 3. He has taken 18 shots on goal in the last three games with nothing to show for it against three of the West's top teams.

"It's humbling looking in the mirror," Seguin said. "If I look at myself the last few games going against the big dogs, I wasn't big enough. So I've got to be a lot better."

The Stars will hope to find their game in an easy road trip in terms of travel. After facing the Rangers, they will visit the New York Islanders on Wednesday, the New Jersey Devils two days later and Philadelphia Flyers Saturday.

Then they will return to Dallas to play nine of 10 games at home and by the end of the trip, the Stars will be hoping not to be discussing regrouping.

While Dallas is faltering of late, the Rangers (16-11-2) are 7-2-0 in their last nine games after getting a 5-2 win over the Devils on Saturday night.

Saturday's game capped four straight against Metropolitan Division opponents and was deemed significantly more important after a disappointing 4-2 loss at Washington on Friday.

"This is what we needed," goaltender Henrik Lundqvist said after allowing two goals or fewer for the eighth time in 12 games. "That's the good part about this league, when you lose a game you don't a lot of time to walk around and think about it. You just regroup and focus on the next one. I kind of like this; you get a challenge right away. We played really well. I felt like this was one of our better games as of late."

The Rangers also are 10-1-0 in their last 11 home games since Oct. 26. It is the first time they posted 10 wins in a span of 11 home games within one season since going 12-1-0 in a span of 13 home games from Oct. 20-Dec. 15, 1982.

New York's 98 goals rank third in the Eastern Conference behind Tampa Bay and Toronto. Saturday was the 18th time in the last 23 games the Rangers scored at least three goals and 15th time in that span they tallied at least four times.

Mats Zuccarello leads the Rangers with 24 points (seven goals, 17 assists) and scored twice Saturday. In his last nine games, Zuccarello has four goals and nine assists.

Despite everything going right Saturday and their performances at home recently, the Rangers are still outside of the playoff picture thanks to their underwhelming 2-6-2 start. In the tight division race, five points separate first and sixth-place where the Rangers reside despite going nearly a month without consecutive defeats.

"Everybody knew we were playing four divisional games, so that part was important," Rangers coach Alain Vigneault said. "Now we have to recover. We've played two back-to-backs here and now we're playing (at home against Dallas) on Monday. We need to get some rest and focus on that."

The Rangers are 7-3-1 in the last 11 meetings with Dallas. Lundqvist made 27 saves in a 2-0 win at Dallas on Dec. 15, 2016, but Benn scored and had two assists in a 7-6 win in New York on Jan. 17.

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